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International www.audiomediainternational.com

May/June 2018

RAK STUDIOS

Inside Mickie Most’s legendary music hub

INTERVIEW

The Eccentronic Research Council producer Dean Honer

FEATURE

The advancements in studio monitor driver technology

REVIEWS

SSL Matrix2 Delta, Focusrite Red 16Line and more...


CONTENTS

INTERVIEWS

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21 Dean Honer AMI visits the producer at his Bowling Green Studio in Sheffield

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54 Fiona Cruickshank The Air Studios engineer on her favourite gear and how she got into the pro audio industry

FEATURES

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25 RAK Behind the scenes at the world-renowned north London studio complex 31 Monitor Drivers Stephen Bennett reports on the latest advancements in studio monitor driver technology

END USER FOCUS 39 Monitors

REVIEWS

44 SSL Matrix2 Delta

May/June 2018

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WELCOME

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WALKING ON AIR

CONTENT Editor: Murray Stassen mstassen@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6035 Staff Writer: Tara Lepore tlepore@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6021 Content Director: James McKeown jmckeown@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6015 Designer: Tom Carpenter tcarpenter@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6041 Digital Director: Diane Oliver doliver@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6019 Production Executive: Warren Kelly wkelly@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6046 ADVERTISING SALES Head of Advertising & Brand Partnerships: Ryan O’Donnell rodonnell@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6047 Senior Account Manager: Rian Zoll-Khan rzoll-khan@nbmedia.com, +44 (0)207 354 6048 SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to www.audiomediainternational.com/page/faqs or email subs@audiomediainternational.com ARCHIVES Digital editions of the magazine are available to view on ISSUU.com. Recent back issues of the printed edition may be available please contact lwilkie@nbmedia.com for more information. REPRINTS/PERMISSIONS 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.

s luck would have it, the biggest stories always break right before you go to press. Just as AMI was putting the final touches to this issue it was revealed that AIR Studios had been put on the market by its owner Richard Boote. Founded by The Beatles producer George Martin back in the ’60s, the company has formed a key part of the London studio sector over the last few decades, acting as the location for the recording of many legendary works of musical art. Boote isn’t wrong when he says that “the sale of AIR Studios is a significant moment in the history of the music industry”, but a couple of important questions remain: who will buy it and what will become of this storied facility? Speaking of AIR, turn to page 54 for this month’s Pro Spotlight, where AIR Studios-based mix and recording

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engineer Fiona Cruikshank tells us about her career. And while AIR starts looking for a suitable new owner, there’s another north London studio that has told AMI in this month’s Studio Profile that it never plans on being sold. Read our interview with RAK’s studio managerTrisha Wegg, general manager Andy Leese and technical manager Kevin Seal on pages 25-29, as they take us behind the scenes of this St. John’s Wood institution. This month’s issue of Audio Media International is a monitoring special and we’ve got a lot of monitoring related content for you. First up, on pages 31-33, Stephen Bennett delves into the world of studio monitor driver technology to find out about the latest developments in this field. Following that, on pages 35 and 37 is a Tech Talk piece, in which we ask two audio professionals if it’s better to mix and master audio on monitors or headphones. Plus, this wouldn’t be a monitor special without an End User Focus about studio monitors, which you can find on pages 39-41 and in which we highlight products from six different manufacturers and some notable professionals that use them in the studio. Elsewhere in the magazine, Jack Needham meets underwater recording enthusiasts on pages 17-19, while Daniel Dylan Wray visits The Bowling Green Studio in Sheffield, which is run by producer Dean Honer, who you might know from one of his bands such as The Moonlandingz or the Eccentronic Research Council. We’ve also got all the usual gear reviews and opinion pieces from the likes of mastering engineer Katie Tavini and Mike Thorne of Rimshot Studios. Enjoy the issue!

Murray Stassen Editor Audio Media International

Experts in the issue

Managing Director: Mark Burton Financial Controller: Ranjit Dhadwal Events and Marketing Director: Caroline Hicks Head of Operations: Stuart Moody HR Director: Lianne Davey Audience Development: Lucy Wilkie Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA ISSN number: 2057-5165 © Copyright 2018 NewBay is a member of the Periodical Publishers Association

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Katie Tavini is a UK-based mastering engineer who has been a regular speaker at Red Bull Studios’ #NormalNotNovelty sessions since its launch last year.

Douglas Quin is an educator, sound designer and composer whose works have featured in Werner Hertzog’s documentary Encounters At The End Of The World.

Aki Mäkivirta joined Genelec in 1995 after working for the likes of Nokia and others. He has been Genelec’s director of research and development since 2012.


Natural expression More options, more versatility, more power. The compact, portable wooden-enclosure XPRS Series offers a plug-and-play system ideal for live sound, mobile DJ’s and ďŹ xed installation.

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NEWS

John Broomhall

‘THIS IS AN EXCITING, VIBRANT TIME FOR AUDIO IN GAMES’ “Game audio has come a very long way,” says Develop:Brighton’s Audio Track curator and host, John Broomhall evelop:Brighton’s Audio Track curator and host John Broomhall has told Audio Media International that ”this is an exciting, vibrant time for audio in games,” ahead of the event on 12 July. Broomhall is the co-founder and host of Game Music Connect and the composer for games such as Transport Tycoon and X-COM/UFO. Develop:Brighton brings together the European game development community for three days to learn from each other, share experiences, keep up-to-date, do business and network with over 2,000 other game industry professionals. Featuring leading thinkers and best-in-class practitioners, Develop:Brighton comprises dozens of conference sessions via a series of themed ‘tracks’ including the ever popular one-day audio track, which offers anyone interested in the music, sound, dialogue and audio technology of video games the opportunity to experience an engaging and informative day of presentations in a collegiate atmosphere. “Game audio has come a very long way on a fantastic journey,” said Audio Track curator and host John Broomhall. “This is an exciting, vibrant time for audio in games. With better tools and bigger budgets, better

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practice and bigger visions, this generation of audio designers can carve out new creative territory and even re-write the rulebook. "Why shouldn’t sound and music in games and VR experiences go beyond anything that’s been done to date in movies or interactive media generally?" Each year, the Audio Track of Develop:Brighton attracts top-tier talent and this year is no exception with the likes of Formosa Interactive’s creative director and supervising sound designer, Shannon Potter, who’s worked on titles like Uncharted and The Last Of Us, and Bastian Seelbach, audio lead for highly acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn. There's also Philip Eriksson, DICE’s sound designer on Star Wars and Andrew Quinn from Rocksteady Studios, creators of the Batman video games, plus several other highly-respected speakers. “The pioneering creativity our speakers demonstrate is very inspiring,” continued Broomhall. “Game audio standards are high and expectations even higher as technology is increasingly harnessed to provide a platform for the power of creative ideas to differentiate our productions. So of course we talk tech - but also very much about approach, methodology, creativity and inspirational sound

design. You’d have to go a long way to find such a gathering of senior game audio developers discussing the state-of-the-art at this level. “Plus there’s the community vibe – game audio is genuinely a community of the like-minded – one which is well-connected online - for instance, via the VGM list where day-to-day you see professionals interacting to generously help each other out with advice, experience and problem-solving. That said, the nature of what we do means many people work in twos or threes or even in isolation so when that online community actually comes together face-to-face at Develop: Brighton, something sparks. "It’s great to meet the people you know online and hang out in person, share experiences and compare notes on our common challenges." The audio day is closed off with the now customary Open Mic session where everyone can join the conversation. "You get this strong sense that here is a body of people with shared interests and passion for what they do," added Broomhall. Visit www.developconference.com for further details. Early Bird rates end 6 June and AMI readers can obtain an extra 10% off with this code: QGAFBO May/June 2018

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NEWS

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SUITE DEAL: INSIDE WHITE MARK’S LATEST POST HOUSE STUDIO BUILD ost Production house Suite TV recently commissioned studio specialists White Mark to design and build a room for its Newman Street, Soho-based facility. The studio is on the top floor of the building and features exposed roof beams, with the interior design the result of a collaboration with Nichola McCann of Cann Creative. Suite’s work includes TV shows such as BBC3’s People Just Do Nothing, and ITV2’s Celebrity Juice with a number of rooms located within the busy building. “We spent a lot of time with them looking for a space within the building where we could achieve isolation from their other operations,” said White Mark managing director David Bell, speaking to AMI. “We also needed sufficient size of space to allow a decent monitoring environment, air conditioning and visual [sight lines] to the screen.” At the centre of the room, used by head of audio and senior dubbing mixer Simon Wright, is a Euphonics

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MC5 Pro console with sound reinforcement in a 5.1 configuration with switchable rear speakers for mixing or client position. The front speakers are Genelec 1237As with a Genelec 7370 sub. Surrounds are Genelec 8340s. “I wanted Genelecs, but I had no idea about what size they needed to be for this room,” said Wright. “That was when White Mark stepped in and said, ‘Right, for this size room you need that’. They were very helpful from that point of view. “It’s been a very smooth process from start to finish really and it gave my bosses confidence throughout,” he continued. “Having been in front of the desk for 15 years mixing, I thought, I need someone to come in and do it properly, sort out the builders and sort out everything else.” White Mark’s David Bell said that they weren’t initially keen on building the studio in this specific room due to its “unusual shape”, but ended up using the shape to their advantage, with the room allowing large amounts of natural light in. ”What I think has happened is the unusual shape has

Simon Wright

given it far more character than it otherwise would have had in a trusty shoebox shaped rectangle,” added Bell. “The allowing of daylight into it makes it a very nice environment,” he concluded. “The thing that we are most pleased with is that, as ever, it performs to the technical levels that we aim at. But it’s unusual and I think that’s very nice.”


NEWS

ROYAL RUMBLE: LONDON'S RGS HAILS IMPROVED AUDIO QUALITY AFTER APG INSTALL The venue's sound reinforcement was specified by Surrey's Plus 4 Audio he Royal Geographical Society’s business development manager Luciano Figueira has told Audio Media International that the venue hire side of the organisation’s business “couldn’t exist” without the highend equipment specified and installed by Surreybased Plus 4 Audio. “Having equipment like this makes the team a lot more confident and comfortable to come here with a client and say, This is what we have. We have the top of the range microphones, we have speakers that will reach every single person in this room,” said Figueira. “It sounds obvious and a bit of a cliché to say this, but you’ll be surprised how many venues you go to and still don’t have that. It just makes you feel very confident. In terms of selling points, it ticks a lot of big boxes. From my point of view, we couldn’t have a business without this equipment. It was a huge investment and a huge job.” The installation in the Royal Geographical Society’s 750-capacity lecture theatre saw the specification of a large haul of APG’s scalable Uniline Compact range as well as APG amplifiers. In total four UC115B subs were installed along with 14 DX5 coaxial bass reflex speakers,

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all powered by the company’s DA:50 and DA:15 DSP amplifiers for monitoring and installation. Furthermore, 16 UC206N units were specified for narrow coverage while two UC206W speakers were chosen for their wider dispersion. The whole system is controlled by a DiGiCo SD9 console and two 32:16 D Racks. The RGS also boosted its wireless capabilities by investing in 10 of Sennheiser’s 2000 series radio mics and a Tascam SS-CDR200 solid-state recorder. “There was an old Tascam analogue recording desk up there," Plus 4 Audio MD Stewart Chaney told AMI. “We literally ripped the whole place out and replaced everything. There’s a new desk, new radio mics, new processing, a whole new video system, new cabling. Founded in 1830, the Royal Geographical Society hosts regular workshops as well as talks and lectures by esteemed geographers, scientists and explorers. Due to the nature of events that take place at the venue, speech intelligibility and even dispersion of sound were a key part of Plus 4 Audio's brief. “I think it’s different here in that a lot of the presenters aren’t always professional presenters so their output is quite low and that was part of the specification that they needed a system that could cope with that," concluded Chaney.

Luciano Figueira

Stewart Chaney

www.plus4audio.co.uk www.apg.audio

May/June 2018

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NEWS

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WAM’s new live room with custom acoustic design

WOMEN’S AUDIO MISSION (WAM) EXPANDS WITH SECOND STUDIO The world’s only professional recording studio built and run by women is poised to become a studio complex omen’s Audio Mission (WAM) is unveiling a new, second studio in May 2018 in San Francisco. WAM trains over 1,500 women and girls a year in the recording arts and music production. Now, through their expanded studio complex, WAM will be able to serve more aspiring recording engineers and music producers each year with classes and sessions occurring simultaneously. Jolene Stoffle and Shane Myrbeck, of the multinational engineering firm, Arup, known for designing many famous cultural institutions around the world, including the Sydney Opera House, the Centre Pompidou, and SFMOMA, provided pro bono

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acoustic design services for WAM’s new studio. The new live room features a custom acoustic design with two zones – a controlled live end and a dead end – to allow for maximum flexibility, as well as an isolation booth that provides sight lines to the new control room. WAM’s clients range from classical quartets like Kronos Quartet and St. Lawrence String Quartet to indie artists like tUnE-yArDs to audiobooks and voice-overs for National Geographic. The need for a dynamic room at WAM’s studio complex is critical to accommodate their diverse clientele. “Over the past 40 years the Kronos Quartet has recorded in many of the finest studios in the country, and I can unequivocally state that it is always a

pleasure to record at Women’s Audio Mission,” said David Harrington, artistic director, founder, and violinist, Kronos Quartet. “Not only do we leave knowing that we will sound as good as we can, but that we have also played a part in ensuring that a new generation of San Francisco women have the opportunity to become the best music producers, recording engineers, and artists possible.” Officially opening in June 2018, WAM has already welcomed clients into the new studio for inaugural recording sessions. Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs recorded an interview with WAM executive director and founder Terri Winston in the space for her C.L.A.W. show on Red Bull Radio. WAM staff engineer


NEWS

Veronica Simonetti recorded an audio book with Dan Pfeiffer, former White House communications director/senior aide to President Obama and cohost of Pod Save America, for his new book, Yes We (Still) Can, available for preorder through Hachette Book Group. WAM’s new studio has also already attracted industry support: Hear Technologies donated another Hear Back headphone system that allows both control rooms to provide multiple headphone feeds and Focusrite donated a Red 4Pre allowing for the networking of WAM’s Avid HDX Pro Tools system and Ableton Live Workstation. Mogami provided multipair cable and Tascam outfitted the new studio with headphones, microphones and a TM-AR1 Acoustic Control Filter. The new studio will allow WAM to expand their current artist residency programmes, which offer free or low-cost recording and mixing services, promotion, and performance opportunities to underserved independent women artists. In 20172018, WAM’s residency programmes have included artists such as award-winning vocal/string quartet

Real Vocal String Quartet and Mexican American singer/songwriter Diana Gameros, whose album Arrullo recorded at WAM was featured on NPR Alt. Latino’s Top 10 Latin Albums of 2017.

“We’re thrilled about this expansion” “Working with Kelley Coyne, my engineer, and Terri Winston, WAM’s founder, and all of the talented staff who assisted on our sessions and performances was a beautiful experience that surpassed my expectations,” said Gameros after completing her residency at WAM. WAM is in the middle of an artist residency programme for local women hip-hop artists, featuring emerging emcees Chhoti Maa, Rocky Rivera, and Versoul, who will each finish full-length albums at WAM’s studio and perform at WAM’s free quarterly showcase, Local Sirens: Women in Music Performance Series. Later this year, WAM

will launch a new residency programme for LGBTQ women of colour and has selected two local artists to complete albums at their studio. The additional studio will also provide the opportunity for WAM students to practice hands-on skills they have learned through WAM’s programs and gain career-advancing studio experience. WAM provides professional credits and paid work to over 50 young women a year. The organisation has placed over 650 women in paid positions at companies like Dolby Laboratories, Pixar, Electronic Arts and Skywalker Sound. “We’re thrilled about this expansion,” said Winston, founder and executive director of WAM. “We’ve had to turn away potential clients because our studio is constantly overbooked. Our new studio will enable us to hold multiple sessions at a time, provide work opportunities for women in our programmes, train more women and girls each year, and serve more independent artists.” To learn more about Women’s Audio Mission and their new studio, visit: www.womensaudiomission.org May/June 2018

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OPINION

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SOUND JOBS, SOUND MINDS Mastering engineer Katie Tavini tells AMI how important it is for audio professionals to focus on their physical and mental health by finding hobbies outside of the industry…

“We all need hobbies outside of audio to be able to fully appreciate our incredible jobs”

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OPINION KATIE TAVINI

hen Audio Media International asked me to write another opinion piece, I was completely stuck. I have so many opinions (maybe too many), but a lot of them would probably send a few readers to sleep. After some deliberation and coming up with nothing, I decided to take to Twitter (as always) to ask my audio buddies what topics they’d like to see more of. There were some great suggestions ranging from best studio snack (thanks Romesh Dodangoda) to “the proliferation and injustices of patriarchal nepotism inherent in the system” (Drew Bang). Both of these topics I could discuss at length, but I still wasn’t feeling the vibe. Many other engineers also gave cracking topics, which maybe I’ll touch on one day, but I needed something that I could relate to right now. I told (AMI editor) Murray Stassen that I would be away for a week or so and that I’d have a topic ready for him when I returned. As I frantically ploughed through a pile of mastering work that had to be wrapped up before my holiday, I felt myself burning out. Writing an article was the last thing on my mind and after a very hectic start to the year, I just wanted to have a break and forget everything. And it was when I was sat on a snow covered mountain that it struck me - we all need hobbies outside of audio to be able to full appreciate our incredible jobs. I was on a snowboarding holiday in France with about 60 other amazing people, and the brilliant thing is that no one asked what I do for a job, or even cared. It was bliss to be able to have a conversation that at no point touched on the subject of audio. It was amazing to be able to chat without weighing up the group for potential collaborations or work opportunities. In my experience, working in pro audio for almost a decade, a lot of engineers work incredibly long hours in very intense environments. It gets to a point where you realise that all your friends are either engineers or musicians, and you notice that even when on a break in the studio you’re still discussing audio in some way. Then, after a long day, you get yourself down to a networking event

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(because you’re freelance and the work never stops) where you don’t even realise that you’re having the same conversation with each person you meet and you’re just on autopilot. I mean, I even start my day by listening to audio podcasts on the way to the studio! It’s a huge privilege to do something you’re so passionate about as a career, but I really believe that in order to appreciate it fully you must take time away from audio. I don’t just mean going and making a brew and checking Facebook, I mean actually having a proper break and doing something completely unrelated, a couple of times a week. The subject of mental health in the music industry is huge right now, and it should be for the audio industry too. Self care is something that seems so unnecessary when you’re working the dream job, trying to find more clients, saving up for new gear, replying to enquiries, living your best life on Instagram and generally trying to be a total boss. However, as someone who’s seen what being over worked can do to a person’s mental health, I think it’s so important to take the time and look after your physical and mental self. As engineers, a large part of our jobs (for mastering at least) is sitting on our bums, listening and analysing. Exercise is pretty much the opposite of sitting down and using your ears, and the internet tells me that it has a whole load of health benefits including stress reduction, boosting energy levels, helping sleep, and reducing risk of depression. Who’d have thought? Thanks internet! So if you’re working long, stressful hours and you need to make some time for yourself, it seems like exercise is the logical answer, which is what lead me to take up snowboarding in the first place (jump back to the top of this piece, I was sat at the top of a mountain and it gave me some proper #inspo). But it wasn’t until this year that I realised, having a break from audio is so incredibly important. Go and cook a meal with friends, read a book or meditate. Just make sure you do something. Do you remember when you were a student, and you were so stressed but decided to have a night off anyway, and then the next day your essay seemed to write itself? That’s what I’m talking about!

Katie Tavini is a mastering engineer who has been a regular speaker at Red Bull Studios’ #NormalNotNovelty sessions since its launch last year.

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OPINION

FEELS LIKE HOME

Engineer and Rimshot Studios’ owner Mike Thorne explains his process for achieving great performances in the studio...

musicians is always helpful. Being super cautious about making any patching changes whilst musicians are wearing headphones is another – 100dB feedback can be a real vibe killer.

MIKE THORNE

Organisation helps the vibe Everyone’s tastes are different. The perfect vibe might be a darkened bunker with stuff strewn everywhere … or it might be daylight, fresh air and some basic organisation. There’s no right or wrong, but having an organised studio means one less thing to get in the way of creativity. Need a mic cable, re-amp box or PSU for a guitar pedal? Make sure that it’s on a shelf, labelled and ready to go. It’s easier to make a creative mess from a clean start – that’s one of the reasons why chefs and artists clean up before starting work. Plus, it’s a good excuse for the various amounts of OCD that most studio folks seem to have. ne of the great things about the democratisation of the music industry and the recording process in particular, is the ability for an artist to make records at home, free from the pressure, time and budget constraints that hiring a commercial studio inevitably brings with it. There are many stories about producers and artists “chasing the demo”, because the home-recorded performances felt better than the studio version. For all the advantages recording at home can offer, there are times when working in a commercial studio is the most direct way of getting the job done – tracking a live rhythm section, recording strings or a piano or simply to ensure there is a deadline. During those times I find these methods and mind-sets work when trying to put artists at ease in the studio. I often go some way to recreate (or better) the freedom of recording at home.

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Be prepared so you can be present Aim to have 90% of the setup done before the artist walks in the studio. It’s a great feeling when they arrive and I can take the time to chat, make them a coffee and ease them into the session, knowing that the basics are all in place and ready to go. Plans may change, but at least we have a basis to start working from. For a tracking session, this would include things like setting up the room with gobos, making sure there are good sightlines between the musicians; ensuring that mics are on stands and patched in; headphone stations are tested and in position; water, paper, pencils and music stands are at each musician’s station; outboard is patched in and the console is routed with basic gain levels set for

each instrument; Pro Tools session template is set up, or the tape machine aligned if it’s an analogue session. Sure, this means some extra work for me, but I build this into the budget so that I can offer the service I want and give my best. The pay-off for the musicians? Less time hanging about, which ultimately drains energy and creativity, so it’s win-win.

“For all the advantages of working at home, there are times when working in a commercial studio is the most direct way of getting the job done” Walk in their shoes You don’t have to be a musician, but it helps to have an understanding of what a musician is going through when they record. Appreciating that having the trumpeter do repeated takes of a top C may knacker their chops is helpful, before asking. Knowing basic music theory so you talk the same language as the

Be like a duck When something does go wrong ( there’s a 100% chance that it will and probably sooner than later), it’s often more important how you deal with it, than the fact it happened. Trying to keep cool on the outside, whilst paddling fast inside, is a good way of keeping the vibe in the room relaxed. Having a few options in your back pocket can help a lot Some things that have saved me in the past include keeping a recent clone of the studio Mac’s hard drive and having a spare headphone amp and monitors.

(Do) Sweat the small stuff It’s the little things that help build credibility with an artist. For me, it’s things like freshly brewed coffee and homemade bread and soup, through to caring about the artist’s day or asking about their favourite music. As well as genuinely caring about this stuff, it all builds credibility with the artist, to the point where they feel safe and comfortable enough to experiment, without feeling selfconscious. When the artist feels like they are in their own home and that you and the studio are their safety net, they will freely try out ideas without fear of being judged. This is when the magic happens and everything combines to help elicit a great performance. Don’t think for a second that it isn’t noticed and appreciated by the artist. The fact that you cared enough to go the extra distance is a simple way to stand out in a business where studios are often competing with free. Mike Thorne is a producer engineer and owner of Rimshot Studios.

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FEATURE: LOCATION SOUND

MAKING WAVES:

UNDERWATER RECORDING

Jana Winderen

Sound travels five times faster underwater than it does in the air and the sea is a hidden cacophony of sound that’s being explored by field recordists and experimental musicians alike. Here, Jack Needham meets some of the people using hydrophone microphones to record the hidden audio of the earth’s oceans... ll of us hold a perceived notion of what water sounds like. We hear the thick bubbling of waves lap against the shore or the gargled white noise as you dive into a swimming pool and generate our perceptions from there. Even in the groundbreaking TV series Blue Planet II we’re offered an up close view of what the ocean depths look like, yet much of what they sound like is replaced with anthemic orchestral scores. But the ocean is a cacophony of sound far beyond anything Hans Zimmer conjures up, rich with an infinite amount of undiscovered aural textures. “There’s a wonderful and rich sound environment underwater,” says Jana Winderen, whose underwater experiments have seen her place frozen underwater microphones - known as hydrophones - in water to record itself melting to lowering a microphone 90 metres below the surface to listen to life found underneath a glacier. “It’s always exciting, and it’s getting into people’s minds more now which is fantastic.” In the ‘60s Katy Payne and her husband Roger were the first to discover that whale noises were composed songs that change and develop over time. Their work helped spark an aesthetic interest in underwater

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sound and built a burgeoning amateur interest in the musicalities of oceanic noise. “These sounds are of our world, but they’re also not of our world, and therein lies the fascination,” thinks sound designer and composer Douglas Quin, whose sound works have featured in Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World. His 1998 release A ‘ ntarctica’ is formed of recordings excavated from across, and underneath, Earth’s most southern point, recordings that still resonate today. “We have this innate sense of wanting to connect, and sound operates differently than the other senses. It’s a different part of the brain, and it touches us in a slightly different way.” For A ‘ ntarctica’ Quin experimented with multichannel microphone arrays, drilling through over two metres of ice to lower three hydrophones into the ocean at various depths, 100 metres apart from each other. This created a vertical column of sound that, when back in the studio, can be manipulated and tuned to a 5.1 surround sound environment or a 360-degree space for exhibitions. On the LP, the call of a weddell seal resembles a synthesiser pulse, a deep sea lullaby that’s as blissful as it was sometimes troublesome to capture. “I could hear the seals below, and the next moment I

had fallen asleep in my tent and the heat of my face froze my beard to the ice,” laughs Quin. “Patience is the name of the game with any type of field recording, but it’s also about having the luxury of time and space to wait for your moment. The right time of day, season and weather, a perfect storm without the storm.” Conditions were ideal for Quin when recording on the South Pole. Life underneath the ice affords a perfectly still sea state, drastically reducing distortion and interference. In more active terrain waves, currents and choppy waters make capturing a clear sound near impossible, something filmmaker Mark Lyken contended with for his The Terrestrial Sea project. For ‘The Terrestrial Sea’, Lyken spent time recording on the Cromarty Firth, coastal waters found in the north of Scotland and home to competing landscapes as bottlenose dolphins and grey seals swim among cargo vessels. “Nothing prepares you for the size of an oil rig until you’re a couple of metres away from it in a boat,” says Lyken. “And they’re not silent. You’d be hard pushed to imagine there’s still life in the water with that going on, but it’s a rich, sonic environment, and when those things are happening sonically why would you try to augment that?” May/June 2018

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FEATURE: LOCATION SOUND Lyken spends his time in Dumfries and Galloway, operating his label Soft Error while nestled among the Scottish woodland. Soft Error leans toward the more experimental side of electronica, whether it’s the rumbling of broken waves on Phil Maguire’s ‘brak’ or, on Dirch Blewn’s ‘Care Work’, computer music composed by a robot called Leonard. It’s not a sound we more commonly associate with Scottish ambient. “One of the problems with making electronic music in Scotland is that as soon as you do anything, you sound like Boards Of Canada,” he laughs, yet his work on The Terrestrial Sea marked a change for the former synthesiser obsessive. “That experience opened up an entire universe of sound across many different possibilities that weren’t synthesised. That was the real difference, going from making sounds to capturing sound, or in a live situation, creating collages by layering untransformed sounds. I still go through phases of using synths, but the real world is way more interesting.” Like any musical craft field recording has its various techniques. Some place a microphone in the water and capture those fleeting excerpts of sound. “I don’t record from start to finish and log things along the way. It’s great if you do that, but I just don’t have the attention span for it,” says Lyken. Others, like Winderen, actively scope out those tiny sounds that awaken after five hours sat on a frozen lake. “We’re really impatient in the environment we’re in,” she says. “It’s hard to sit and look at nothing, but if you’re impatient you can’t listen. You can put out a hydrophone, leave it there and be excited about what you hear when you listen back, but if I hear a fish I search for it. It’s an active way of listening.” Sound travels around five times faster through water than it does air. For some perspective, a whale will hear the rumble of a passing cargo ship for 24 hours, or in the moist, humid air of a rainforest, sound waves retain their shape for longer. In that, says Quin, landscapes have their own unique sound features. “You can hear a valley before you see it through the trees,” thinks Quin. “If you’re tuned in enough, and this comes with experience, you begin to develop the faculty for reading a landscape in anticipation of how it may sound unique.” “10,000 year old ice will sound different to one year old ice,” adds Winderen. “If you put the hydrophones inside of the ice itself, the pressure, how the ice melts, how the oxygen is released, it will all sound different.” To the Japanese producer Yosi Horikawa this vastness

of underwater sound becomes something to manipulate. “I use the sound of water in my music in many different of ways,” explains Horikawa. “When the water beats against a rock or hands touch the water, the sound changes every time, and I use it like the musical instruments. It can become percussion or a damp scenery, but it’s not only the actual sound of water that appeals to me. Everyone recognises the sound of water so I try to connect these sounds with someone’s memory. These sounds could be someone’s story, becoming a more complex experience that’s greater than music.” Sound artist and composer Kaffe Matthews shares in Horikawa’s belief in communal listening. Together with FoAM_Kernow and marine biologist Dr. Kirsty Kemp, she co-built the sonic kayak, a boat that uses the sea as an instrument. Hydrophones suspended into water from the kayak transport the sounds from below through speakers mounted on the boat itself, and as the water temperature fluctuates, this raises and lowers the pitch of the instrument, allowing listeners to detect and record ocean micro-climates as they float over its surface.

“If you put hydrophones inside ice - the pressure, how the ice melts, how the oxygen is released - it all sounds different” “The act of being on the water yet being able to have an experience of what’s beneath the surface is incredible,” explains Matthews. “We use them to gather data yet at the same time we get a weird, beautiful or interesting sonic experience you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s a doorway into different things for different people.” In 2012 Matthews premiered her audio installation ‘You might come out of the water every time singing’. Using data taken from the swimming patterns of six hammerhead sharks, mapped to a 3D space of latitude, longitude, and depth, she connected the movements of each shark to a tri-oscillator system, creating an 18 oscillator synthesiser Douglas Quin

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that ebbs and flows with the shark’s movements. First appearing within an immersive audio installation, over time, this set of parameters became an instrument adapted from a gutted MIDI controller converted to OSC. “The shark data is stored inside the computer, and when I kick the system off, the sharks will start to fly through the system of oscillators,” explains Matthews of the instrument. “I’ve played with it a lot so I know what they’re going to do but not exactly when. It’s always creating a new set of ingredients. Essentially I duet with the sharks when I do a gig.” Travel back just 10 years and underwater recording was an endeavour reserved for those who could afford the expensive equipment. For A ‘ ntarctica’ Quin’s hydrophones cost over $5,000 each, something your casual weekend recordist can’t afford, but nor do you need a set up of Quin’s standard to dangle a hydrophone from Brighton Pier. Starter level hydrophones like the Aquarian Audio H2a Hydrophone can be picked up for a few hundred pounds. For beginners looking to scour the depths of their local pond, even a waterproof case for your iPhone would suffice. “I’m conscious of two things,” says Lyken, whose background as a graffiti artist and a electronic musician has influenced a more DIY approach to his work. “Firstly, I don’t have the money to buy high end mics, and secondly, I’d hate to suggest that you need to use really expensive equipment in order to create something. That’s not the case. It doesn’t need to be a privileged pursuit, if you have a laptop you have all you need to edit sound.” Of course, the more people that take up the endeavour the more harmful it is to the environment you’re trying to record. Formerly disconnected refuges are now an AirBnB away, and while mostly well intentioned, amateur recordists may not be aware of the ethical rules that are vital in keeping field recording sustainable. “The whole point is to share this world with as many people as possible, but too many tourists would destroy the environment,” says Winderen. In that, her work documenting the deep blue finds greater importance now more than ever, remaining committed to navigating those challenges in the pursuit of discovery. “Once, people were not so aware of underwater noise, but thankfully people are realising we have this huge sound environment underwater and recording is a way to bring attention to these sensitive ecosystems through sound,” she says. “It’s an unusual sense for us to think about the underwater world but every time you record it you get a surprise. That’s what keeps me doing this.” Jana Winderen’s location recording gear


FEATURE: LOCATION SOUND Reccomended gear to record underwater sound: SONOSAX SX-AD8+ 8-CHANNEL MICROPHONE PREAMP When discovering faint sounds you need a decent pre-amp to power them in the studio, and while the price tag may be eye-watering, the quality is worth it.

AQUARIAN AUDIO H2A HYDROPHONE Perhaps the most popular and easily afforded hydrophone on the market comes from Aquarian. Low self-noise, high sensitivity and yours for under £200. What’s not to love?

Jana Winderen

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DIGITAL 6000

No intermodulation. More channels. More power for your business.

Others dodge problems. We prefer to solve them. Of course, you can work your way around intermodulation and do some software magic — but that is no real solution in the already congested and limited frequency spectrum. By design, Digital 6000 has no intermodulation artifacts. Our superior RF technology results in more channels and more flexibility for any production and any stage — with no trade-off in transmission power or quality. Smarter, leaner, more efficient — this is the built-in principle from user interface up to spectrum efficiency. Redundant Dante™ sockets and the command function are just two components of the recent update. More about the next step towards the future of audio: www.sennheiser.com/digital-6000


PRODUCER PROFILE

DEAN OF SHEFFIELD Daniel Dylan Wray visits The Eccentronic Research Council and Moonlandingz producer Dean Honer at his Bowling Green Studio in Sheffield to find out about some of his favourite audio gear and how he started working in music professionally... May/June 2018

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PRODUCER PROFILE

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Dean Honer’s Bowling Green studio in Sheffield

he music of Sheffield is often associated with a familiar cast of names: the 1970s pioneers such as Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League, the electronic output of Warp records, the infectious pop of Pulp and the indie-rock of Arctic Monkeys. Yet stomp through those surface level names and you’ll find a wealth of innovative, obscure and distinct artists bubbling away in the underground, many of whom have been doing so for decades. One Sheffield man, the artist and producer Dean Honer, is something of a connector between these two artistic worlds of mainstream gleam and underground oddness. Honer most recently has spent the last two years touring with his band The Moonlandingz (which itself is an offshoot of another one of his bands, the Eccentronic Research Council) but beyond that, he has had a significant hand in shaping the musical output of Sheffield for decades. Usually from his studio, The Bowling Green Studio (named so because it looks over a bowling green), he has produced the likes of The Human League, Add N to (x) and Roisin Murphy, worked with countless Sheffield names from Jarvis Cocker to Tony Christie, remixed Moby, mastered countless tracks and albums and even appeared as a credited producer on Britney Spears’ debut album. Alongside all of that he’s a part of the long-standing wonky electronic outfit,

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I Monster, and was part of the All Seeing I, with both groups seeing huge success in the late 1990s, with Honer’s work appearing on TV shows, films, adverts and landing him on Top of the Pops.

“I have used Cubase since the days of when it was a MIDI only sequencer on the Atari ST” Honer already has a new post-Moonlandingz band on the go with Adrian Flanagan in the International Teachers of Pop. Their debut gig was a sold out one in a cave supporting Jarvis Cocker, and the output is a brilliant blend of contagious pop and pulsing electronics; Flanagan calls it a sort of “acid ABBA”. Sitting in his studio, surrounded by synths, Honer talks me through his life in music as both an artist and producer. “I left school at 16 and got a job at the post office,” he recalls. “I then used what money I had to buy a synthesiser”.

This started a life-long love affair with the instrument and electronic music. Honer soon found himself moving to Sheffield. “Coming from a very small town in Essex, Sheffield was very exotic and cosmopolitan to me,” he reflects. “The city seemed really exciting at the time. You could sign on and still survive and make music.” It was whilst playing in a band called This Machine Kills that Honer began to develop a taste and skill for work beyond simply playing instruments. “That was the first time I started doing multi-track recording. That was when I started taking over the recording sessions and programming the drum machines. That was my area, that got me excited about what you could do with tape.” Growing up, Honer hadn’t initially paid too much attention to what the role of a producer was. However one person who did pique his interest, was the German producer Conny Plank (as featured in the March 2018 edition of Audio Media International). “I remember the credits on DAF albums, it said: “recorded at Conny’s” and that was slightly mysterious. Then I noticed the name showing up on Ultravox and Killing Joke albums. In the early days I didn’t really think about things in terms of production. With bands like Kraftwerk and Yello, I’d just be like, ‘how did they fucking do that?’ I just imagined they had teams of people building this really expensive stuff, and to some degree that was true.”


PRODUCER PROFILE Honer’s abilities developed and he opened Neptune studio in 1990 with Duncan Wheat. As the decade went on, Honer soon found himself in two signed bands (I Monster and the All Seeing I) as well as producing an Add N to (x) record for Mute, the label that had provided much of his early eye-opening musical experiences via groups like the Normal and Fad Gadget. “There were record companies coming up to Sheffield all the time and you’d play one label against the other,” he recalls with a laugh. “That was the big thing, seeing who you could get the nicest dinner from.” The All Seeing I (also consisting of DJ Parrot and Jason Buckle) signed with London Records and had a hit with “Beat Goes On” in 1998, which led to a flood of work. “We were doing a lot of remixes and we were turning things down, we even turned down a Madonna remix. We were like, ‘oh we don’t need to do this, do we?’ That was really stupid.” The song was so popular that it was selected to be covered by a then unknown singer, Britney Spears, on her debut album. Honer and co produced the track. “Nobody had heard of her, it was before Hit Me Baby (One More Time) came out. We didn’t think anything of it but our manager at the time suggested we do it, that it could be really interesting. If you listen to the debut album you can tell its us because you’ve got all this big sounding pop music and then...” he stops and starts laughing, “our track comes on.” In 2001, after being evicted from Neptune, Honer set up the Bowling Green Studio and has been here ever since. “After that I thought I’m not interested in having a big studio, I’m more interested in the electronic side of things, I don’t need a big live room for drums and shit. If I need to do drums and guitar I’ll just go round to Ross’” The Ross he refers to is Ross Orton, another Sheffield producer who has worked with everyone from the Arctic Monkeys to M.I.A. Despite being on the road a great deal of late, Honer is happiest surrounded by bleeps and beats in his studio. “I’m not that bothered about touring, with the Moonlandingz I just got stuck in and did it.” The Moonlandingz record was also recorded in this room with finishing touches done in upstate New York at Sean Lennon’s studio. A place filled with “mad instruments,” as Honer recalls. There’s a fundamental compulsion from Honer to keep doing new things and pushing forward. “I don’t like sitting about not doing anything, I need to be working,” he says. “I probably take on too much stuff. A record label probably isn’t going to be too happy if they come to me and say can you produce this band and all I can offer them is one day a month and it’s probably going to take three years to finish.” he says, laughing. But this balancing act clearly works for Honer, whose schedule is as busy as it is eclectic. “I do a lot of things,” he says clicking through files on his computer to show me. “I have about 10 other projects on the go, I do mastering, I’m developing a new artist, I’m starting a new I Monster album....” The list goes on. Some indie bands are even sending him stuff to lay down his synth wizardry over the top. “They all want a bit now,” he says with a chuckle. “We got thrown in the basement a bit after the Arctic Monkeys and now they all want a bit of fucking synth.”

Dean Honer

Dean Honer’s Bowling Green Studio in Sheffield boasts a variety of interesting equipment, but here are four of his favourite pieces of gear: LOUDER THAN LIFT OFF - SILVER BULLET “A unique piece of equipment: It’s basically a pair of very high quality Neve and API style preamps with a lovely sounding simple EQ section that adds analogue “mojo” and depth. I track nearly everything through it, vocals and instruments. Plus it gets used for mix down and mastering duties. The inputs can be selected as either Neve or API or cascaded, Neve into API or API into Neve. This allows for a selection of saturation styles depending on how hard you drive the inputs. I have it set up as a hardware insert in Cubase.” STEINBERG CUBASE “I have used Cubase since the days of when it was a MIDI only sequencer called Pro 24 on the Atari ST computer. My Atari was synced to a Fostex R8 quarter inch 8 track tape machine using MIDI Time Code, for the audio recording. I progressed through all the versions of Cubase over the years moving from the Fostex to synced ADAT machines and large samplers to capture audio and then onto Cubase Audio, which finally allowed me to record audio directly into the computer.”

GLENSOUND MX6 - 6 CHANNEL MIXING CONSOLE “This is a great little ex-BBC broadcast console. I tend to use it for tracking rather than mixing. It has great EQ on each channel and doesn’t sound quite as hi-fi as the Silver Bullet. I like running synths and drum machines through it, the channels distort in a really musical way. It has loads of gain on each channel; I like recording dynamic mics like the Shure SM7 or the Unidyne III on guitar amps through its mic preamps.” WEM COPICATS “I record a lot of analogue synths at my place. I have a great selection of plug-ins on my computer, cool versions of classic delays such as the UAD GalaxySpace Echo clone and the excellent Sountdoys Echo Boy, which is my go to software delay. But there is something special about playing and recording through a real tape delay. I have two Copicats - a modified early valve model and the later transistor model. They sound very different from each other. With the valve model I can switch out the original signal and just have the tape sound, which can be overdriven into incredible saturation. It’s a really cool effect, instant Joe Meek 1950s sounds.”

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STUDIO PROFILE

RAK STUDIOS

Behind the scenes at one of the world’s most iconic recording studios

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STUDIO PROFILE

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The Studio 1 live room which has space for up to 35 musicians

ounded in 1976 by iconic producer Mickie Most - eight years after he founded RAK Records, RAK Publishing and RAK Music Management - RAK Studios not only occupies a nice address in North London’s St John’s Wood, but also an important position in the UK music industry’s past, present and future. While RAK Records brought music by the likes of Hot Chocolate and Suzie Quatro into the world, RAK Studios has facilitated the recording of projects by an extensive list of legendary artists - from the Cure’s Love Cats to Radiohead’s The Bends. Other notable artists to have recorded there include David Bowie, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Scott Walker and many, many others. In terms of contemporary acts, everyone from Adele and Arctic Monkeys, to Liam Gallagher, Savages and Royal Blood have worked there, with the studio’s comfortable residential facilities (the RAK Suite and RAK Townhouse) making a late night (or early morning) in the studio entirely possible and thoroughly enjoyable. Plan B (Ben Drew) was even allowed to live there with his cat while he was recording his album Ill Manors. The complex, which is famed for its vast list of well-maintained vintage equipment, exists in an old Victorian schoolhouse and features four studios, two of which (Studio 1 and Studio 2) contain API desks, with the other two, Studio 3 and Studio 4 (a ‘boutique’ mixing room) boasting a vintage Neve VRP Legend console and an SSL 4056 desk respectively.

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In recent years, the studio has expanded its revenue streams by opening up the space to be used in film and photo shoots, in addition to the likes of songwriter camps, seeing even more diversification among its client base with a range of top artists across many genres working there. “The nice thing here is that when all the rooms are full, you get a lot of cross fertilisation of people that maybe naturally wouldn’t even talk to each other,” explains long-time studio manager Trisha Wegg. “Their paths may not naturally cross, but they do here.”

“The RAK mantra is: make sure everyone is having an amazing time and goes, I want to go back there” AMI was given a tour of this expansive music hub that’s steeped in pop history and overflowing with impressive audio gear and saw first hand why RAK was named Studio Of The Year at the MPG Awards in 2014, 2015 and 2017. We also caught up with studio manager Trisha

Wegg, general manager Andy Leese and technical manager Kevin Seal to find out how RAK is adapting to changes in the wider music business, their views on the state of the London studio sector and the task of maintaining the studio’s list of high-end audio gear. RAK has a very diverse client base - how is the studio evolving alongside changes in the wider music business? Trisha Wegg: We keep an eye on the market. We obviously have a contact base with the record companies and management companies, so they’re the ones that come to us with artists and producers. Over the last 15-20 years the urban world has come through and established itself as an [important] part of the overall scene. Naturally they’re coming here because they actually get signed by the majors, who have then got the budget to put them into a facility like this. It’s just evolving as music evolves and we cater and go along with it. Andy Leese: The diversity of things we have taking place in this studio is about opening up what we can do. With all the big spaces we have, like Studio 1, we regularly have film shoots, photo shoots, album launches, showcases, live events in there, and that opens up the doors to a wider audience other than just recording session work. We’re encouraging all of those activities to happen in here, and that in itself is putting in a more diverse range of clients.


STUDIO PROFILE The control room of Studio 1 featuring a vintage API mixing console

How well is the studio market in London doing from your perspective? Trisha Wegg: I speak to the other studios pretty often and we’re all really honest with each other. I think that five years ago we were all in a fairly big pickle. The ship has sort of steadied and just by default, by studios closing, there’s enough work to keep most people happy. It’s tough, because it’s a business that requires constant investment, whether it’s in people, equipment, or utilities. But most people are getting on with it and things are not as grim about things as they were a few years ago. We’ve probably seen the biggest closures happen and the ones that are left are going to go on and survive.

Studio 3’s extensive outboard collection

RAK founder Mickie Most’s original office

How challenging is the maintenance of all the old equipment here? Kevin Seal: The maintenance is not too bad, in fact it’s very simple. Most of the API desks have very little in them. Switches are still available, unlike the Neve, for which the switches have now been discontinued, but we’ve got good stocks of those. So they’re very easy to look after. The electronics blocks are still made by API for their new desks. So they’re quite good. I’ve just been going through and changing all the capacitors on the Neve and I am nearly finished with that. The rest of it, because it came out of Abbey Road, has been very well looked after. I’ve got all the maintenance records for it from them, which is very handy. So we know what’s been done to what and to which channel and things like that. May/June 2018

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STUDIO PROFILE

The Studio 2 control room, with a view of the live room dowstairs. The studio features an API console

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The SSL [4056] is a very simple desk because it’s from back in the ‘60s or ‘70s as well. So it’s very straightforward to do [maintenance] on that. But again, switches are a bit of a problem on it and it’s always in need of either a good clean or changing if they can. The tape machines have been really reliable. They are Studers and the parts for those are not made anymore and I don’t know what parts are available for them when it comes around to needing things. The heads you can still get from different places. It’s more the motors and things like that, although most of them have replaceable bearings and bits and pieces, or you can probably get it rebuilt at some engineering place. Pro Tools is changing so often that, before they break down, we usually change to a new one. Once it’s going, it’s going and you don’t have to do much with it. Providing it is up to date, then it’s ok. The assistant engineers will look after the software side, because it changes so regularly that I don’t have the time to keep on top of it all. The outboard, again, most of it is quite old so is easy to look after. Anything newly manufactured would have to go back to the manufacturer, because I just don’t have the technology to change components on it.

“RAK is a family business and it’s not going anywhere”

The Studio 2 live room

RAK’s vast collection of in-house instruments are always included in the studio’s rates

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Does most of RAK’s investment go towards equipment and maintenance and are you looking to make any significant upgrades in the near future? Trisha Wegg: Microphones are on-going as well as the odd compressor. With the desks, we’re happy with what we’ve got. There’s no reason to change them at any stage soon, hopefully. For us, that’s what attracts people, the sort of classic desks and the vintage sound and the fact that you’ve also got your Pro Tools and other modern technologies, so you’ve got an amalgamation of both. Andy Leese: There’s a major investment in instruments as well. Mickie [Most] had a 1959 Strat, which has been reconditioned recently. We’ve got an amazing Gibson J200, which everyone picks up and says, This is the best acoustic guitar I’ve ever played. We bought a new bass and we bought a couple of drum kits and that’s all in-house stuff. Most other studios charge for that. We tend not to, because it’s just another reason to come here and walk in naked and walk out with a record. If artists are coming here and spending money, you want to


STUDIO PROFILE make sure they’re really, really having a good time. The RAK mantra is, make sure everyone has a really amazing time and walks away going, I’ve got to go back there. Rick Rubin talks about it in the documentary Sound City; that there’s a big difference between being in a bedroom and a studio environment like this. Of course, you can make music in very small rooms with very small amounts of equipment, but I think there’s an experience factor in a studio like this and it’s a whole different thing. It’s inspiring and it’s aspirational.

it and you have to keep pushing on and forward. You have to look to get involved in as many areas as you can in order to find the next set of clients, because record labels are changing. There are some very ambitious plans that we’re just looking into it at the moment for way down the line. We’d like to do a building extension at the back, which would increase the size of two of the live rooms and also possibly create some production rooms, which is very much the domain of the modern writer these days. Production is also becoming key to the artist development process.

What are RAK’s plans for the future beyond trying to continue the legacy of the studio? Andy Leese: That’s certainly what we’ve been doing, especially in the last four or five years. The industry has changed so much that you have to keep up with

Has selling this property and studio business ever been something that’s been proposed, or seriously entertained? Andy Leese: They’ve poked the subject with a stick, let’s put it that way.

Studio 3’s control room with the 60-channel Neve VRP Legend console

RAK’s ‘boutique’ mixing room, Studio 4

Trisha Wegg: They have tried. When Mickie passed away, within a week I had about three people contact me saying, Are you up for sale? The answer is no. Occassionally they will cast a speculative offer our way, but the answer is always the same. Andy Leese: We’ve had a couple of publishing companies sniffing around, looking to buy the whole place lock, stock and barrel. It was a couple of new enterprise companies. It’s a very appealing thing [to want to acquire]. If you buy this whole place, a lot of the publishing catalogue is life of copyright, so you get a whole catalogue for keeps and you get this amazing property. The building alone must be worth goodness knows what, so you would be buying into an awful lot. But RAK is a family business and it’s not going anywhere.

The Studio 3 live room

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FEATURE: MONITOR DRIVERS

DESIGNATED DRIVERS

Munro Daytona M4+

While audio-related technologies have come along in leaps and bounds over the last century or so, no amount of digital processing can - so far - remove the need for the audio to be converted into the vibration of air molecules so that it can be heard by listeners. Stephen Bennett reports on the latest developments in studio monitor driver technology… he design of these electromechanical devices (drivers) often raises great passions in those that undertake research and development in this area and among the engineers and musicians who ultimately use them for their work. This means that you’ll often find quite a range of opinions and engineering philosophies from the companies working in the field. Andy Munro has worked in pro-audio and electroacoustics for 45 years, starting with Shure and then independently since 1980. He was co-founder of Dynaudio Acoustics in 1990 and is currently owner of Munro Acoustics and Form & Funktion. If you’ve ever worked in a commercial studio or post facility, it’s likely that you’ve been in a Munro-designed room. Munro believes that the key elements of any driver are linearity, efficiency and distortion

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control. “They are mutually conflicting parameters, so something has to give,” he says. “The best HiFi speakers produce 90dB for 1 watt at 1 metre while the best horn loaded compression drivers can produce 110dB. Each has its place, but the vast majority of critical monitoring is done on nearfields using direct radiating domes and horns that have not changed that much over the last decade or two.” Munro believes that the biggest advance has actually been in amplifier technology that has allowed more power to be placed in smaller boxes with less heat. “Horns are basically band-pass filters and acoustic transformers so they need equalisation and phase correction to work,” he says. “The use of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) has enabled manufacturers to do this cheaply and efficiently. However, most people still prefer the traditional driver designs and

we continue to partner with Dynaudio as our preferred manufacturer with monitors such as the Daytona M4+.” In the past, many manufacturers of studio monitors would fit tried and trusted drivers in custom-designed enclosures. For example, in the 1970s, the BBC’s LS3/5 nearfield monitors featured KEF drive units that were also commonly in domestic loudspeakers, but that approach is now changing. “Like many loudspeaker system designers, we used to take off-the-shelf drivers, have them modified in some way for our needs and then they effectively became ‘ours’ for incorporation into our products,” says Andrew Goldberg, product manager of Studio Monitor Systems at Georg Neumann GmbH. “These days, we do all our driver design in-house using models we developed ourselves. The effort to undertake a design in-house is significant, and the parts cost are similar May/June 2018

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FEATURE: MONITOR DRIVERS to ‘bought-in’ products, the drivers’ performance then is optimal for our monitors - which is obviously good for the customer.” Neumann models the magnetic circuit and the surround, cone and ‘spider’, allowing the company to try out thousands of design iterations until an optional result is achieved - before making any physical prototypes. “While there is more work in design, there is less work (if any) to do in making any physical adjustments later,” says Goldberg. “This leads to better confidence in the feasibility of our project time plans and budgets - and the benefit for the enduser is a better monitor.” Aki Mäkivirta, director of research and development at Genelec says that the company has been using stiff diaphragms in transducers, typically made of metal for mid and high-frequency transducers and of pulp and plastic for woofers. “The motivation for using stiff diaphragms has a direct link to Genelec’s aim to systematically control directivity in our designs,” he explains. “It is technically possible to design an acoustical radiating system with well controlled directivity across the useful frequencies when the transducer creating the sound is systematically behaving in a predictable way across its intended range of operation.” Mäkivirta says that stiff diaphragms also contribute to small variation of the frequency responses across products, enabling the company to pretty much guarantee that any two random Genelec monitors of the same type will work perfectly as a stereo pair. “We are avoiding the softer dome and cone materials that can bring diaphragm resonances in the useful passband, making the directivity slightly unpredictable, increasing the unit-to-unit variation and reducing repeatability of production,” he says. “Stiff diaphragms also enable high resolution designs that deliver ultrasonic frequencies in the tweeters when combined with a wide band signal processing system.” Goldberg says that monitor drivers are only one part of a complete system. “Almost everything in a loudspeaker system interacts with something else. It is very rare to be able to change something without it affecting another part of the design. Having made the best driver we can, we still have to put it into a cabinet and apply some filtering to shape the response. All these components must work together as one once the product is assembled. Many driver designers are not using modelling to improve results, but those that are constantly try to improve their models so they more accurately reflect what will happen when the drivers are placed in a monitor in a real space.” Goldberg adds that passive or active analogue filtering or DSP processing can also be used to achieve the required results. “Genelec equalises the transducers individually,“ says Mäkivirta. “This further removes any remaining unit-to-unit variations and enables new ways of optimising the overall electro-acoustic design, supports creation of very low distortion 32

May/June 2018

linear systems and creates an electro-acoustic transduction that has flat frequency response and a precisely consistent input-to-output latency. When we combine this with the control of acoustic directivity, our approach to designing products enables us to build rather ideal transducers and overall electroacoustic transduction systems.” Munro’s designs comprise of custom-built systems for either film mixing in dubbing theatres or large music control rooms. “They are three or four way active systems with multiple drivers and that gives a very clean and controlled sound at high sound levels,” he says. “We combine monitoring and

www.audiomediainternational.com

it is early days on this front,” he says. “One of the recent highlights in our work has been the creation of several novel coaxial transducers for The Ones, Genelec’s new line of acoustically coaxial compact three-way monitors,” says Mäkivirta. “The main shortcomings in traditional coaxial transducer designs have been the intermodulation due to the difference in midrange and tweeter displacement, the gap between the MF and HF transducers necessary to allow cone/dome movement and the acoustical discontinuities when blending the transducer to the enclosure, causing diffraction.” Mäkivirta says that the motivation to

“There are potentially great strides to be made in improving linearity of the drivers using signal processing” room acoustics to give a seamless soundscape - they are basically giant HiFi systems. Recent installations include the new Abbey Road Atmos theatre which is the first to use a hybrid switchable horn/soft-dome facility to allow critical listening of both film and purely music soundtracks.” Goldman says that Neumann are seeing improvements in both the the modelling and the materials used in classic dynamic drivers. “There are potentially great strides to be made in improving linearity of the drivers using signal processing - but

solve these problems remained the focus of an exciting long-term research activity that was started in 2007. “We kicked off a research project that took three years to complete and resulted in the 8260 monitor which features a coaxial design that has a smooth acoustically optimised surface with no discontinuities or gaps, acoustically blending to the front cover directivity waveguide.” Mäkivirta says that this creates resolution and stereo imaging that a “Japanese professional user said makes it effectively ‘a microscope of sound’.” The latest phase of the

Genelec ‘The Ones’ schematics


FEATURE: MONITOR DRIVERS

Aki Mäkivirta, director of research and development at Genelec

company’s research work has now led to the 8351, 8341 and 8331 products which Genelec describes as ‘the world’s most compact three-way monitors’. “For these, a dual air gap magnet motor system was created and the tweeter and midrange are sharing this motor,” says Mäkivirta. “We continue to have a coaxial design with acoustically continuous, optimised midrange transducer surface blending to the waveguide. The physically small yet powerful magnet motor and the coaxial concept have enabled Genelec to create the most compact coaxial three-way on the market without sacrificing the sonic accuracy and capacity.” Munro says that new materials and methods are coming out of science laboratories and that the ‘holy-grail’ of driver design would be a more efficient interface between drivers and air. “More than 90% of amplifier power is converted into heat instead of sound,” he says. “Horns are part of the solution, but uneven directivity and non-linearity need to be addressed if they are to be among the best sounding speakers.” Munro uses Dynaudio drivers almost exclusively in his installations. “They are renowned for their sonic accuracy and reliability under high usage,” he says. “Ultra-lightweight hexagonal aluminium wire voice coils allow longer excursion and a bigger cooling area for linearity and power. By fitting eight drivers into a single box, we create a sound that fills the room but with virtually no distortion, lobbing or

clipping. As each system is built to order and built into the fabric of the control room, we also eliminate diffraction or reflection induced interference at the mixing position. Munro says that their systems are used in top studios all over the world, which he believes speaks volumes about the quality of the design.

A cursory glance at the designs of a range of monitors from different companies clearly demonstrates that there are widely different philosophies at work in the field. With more powerful processing and more sophisticated modelling becoming available, engineers should be able to come closer to what they believe to be their own personal

“Creating a reliably working design requires much more than just the selection for the materials” “As all of those working with transducers know, that creating a reliably working design requires much more than just the selection of the materials for the components,” says Mäkivirta. “The final transducer is a well-balanced combination of materials, electro-acoustic design principles and a large amount of prototyping and testing to verify that the design targets can reliably and repeatably be turned into manufacturable devices. The use of DSP gives us an extra level of control on top of the traditional approach of creating very reliable designs. We never use DSP to correct for bad transducer design, but only to enhance the overall system performance. The transducer quality creates the core performance potential of any loudspeaker design.”

‘holy grail’ of driver design. However, there still seems to be room in the marketplace for those building monitors with a mixture of personal expertise and a careful selection of components. Whether the current research into solid-state transducers - for example those using Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) or Graphene-based technologies - can ever deliver in the way that current drivers can is debatable, but until then, it seems that there is still life left in the old cone-flappers yet. www.munro.co.uk www.genelec.com www.neumann.com www.dynaudio.com

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TECH TALK

MONITORS VS. HEADPHONES: It’s a debate as old as, well, headphones and monitors. Is one better than the other to mix or master with? Should both be used at different stages of the process to ensure that all bases are covered? Here, two audio professionals and friends of AMI, Wes Maebe and Nuno Fernandes weigh up the pros and cons of listening to sound professionally through cans on their heads or speaker boxes on their desks... Wes Maebe: The topic of working on monitor speakers versus headphones triggered a memory of a situation that made me giggle. I was asked to master a project and on the day it was set to take place, I was told by the producer that the band had decided to give the job to one of their college mates. When I asked for a reason this is what I got as a response:” Well, he’s going to do it for free and he’s going to use his Skullcandy headphones!” I just burst out laughing. However, this remains a valid question. Should we use monitors or headphones? My immediate reaction to this question is that we should immediately dispense with the notion that one thing is good and the other is bad. As with the eternal digital versus analogue debate, I feel there are pros and cons to both sides and they should work in harmony. For those of us who are lucky enough to spend our time working in beautiful recording studios, mix and mastering rooms, we tend to get a bit spoiled with finely tuned monitor systems that cost several thousands of pounds. Having said that, these setups are, mostly, tweaked to operate in conjunction with the room acoustics which in turn have also been perfected for the studio environment. We work in these rooms for 10 plus hours every day and the material being recorded, mixed or mastered is constantly under the microscope until the moment of delivery. I hear people say that you don’t need this amount

of perfection because no one will ever listen to the music that way. Correct, however, this is where the art and passion is captured and blended together and if we don’t take great care making sure that everything is exactly how we as engineers, producers and more importantly, the artists want it, the end result will not be worth releasing. It draws parallels with the sample rate discussion and my opinion is that if you put mediocrity in, the most you’ll get at the end of the process is, you guessed it, mediocrity. I am a big fan of great monitors that allow you to put out the best possible result. But that does not mean there’s nothing to say for working on headphones. You may find yourself in a less than ideal working environment and the headphones will eliminate bad room acoustics right of the bat. And of course, there’s a lot to be said for checking your work on various systems and make sure everything translates across the board. Even when you’re working on a beautiful monitor system, it pays to double check what it sounds like on a nice pair of headphones and a set of less than satisfactory earbuds as a big chunk of the music consuming demographic will end up listening to the end product that way. Of course there’s the added benefit of popping on the cans to block out the chatter generated by hangers -on in the control room when you’re trying to work! When you work in the same studio all the time, you

Wes Maebe

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TECH TALK get to know the room. You learn how to compensate for its quirks and possibly its shortcomings. Most of us tend to work in multiple rooms and you don’t always have the time to fully familiarise yourself with the idiosyncrasies of every studio in the world. It’s always a good idea to take some music with you that you know very well and have a listen to the room and its speaker system. You can take it a step further and take the monitors you work with and know intrinsically. Having your own speakers with you brings a little more familiarity to the workflow and similarly, headphones you know well will provide a good reference. My personal preference is to get acquainted with the resident rig and supplement those with pair of PSI-A17Ms, my Ultimate Ear Capitol in-ears and a pair of Grado Labs SR325e. The most recent addition to the workflow just ties it all together for me. Inserting the Soundways Reveal plugin on the master mix bus bridges the gap between monitors and headphones. The ability to check the high end, the LF information and dynamics through a variety of listening curves makes total sense. It’s a little like having NS-10s, Auratones, a car stereo and an iPhone to reference on in one neat package. As producers and engineers we are responsible for the quality and integrity of the music our artists entrust us with. Whether you work on speakers, headphones or make use of both, the results have to speak for themselves. Ultimately it all depends on the quality of the headphones and the monitors. Don’t go by what is considered “right or wrong”, use your ears.

Nuno Fernandes Our job as mix engineers is to make sure the song we work on connects emotionally with the widest audience

Nuno Fernandes

possible. That means that we have to make sure that our work translates in the most number of listening environments and systems possible as we have no control over how and where the song will be listened to. The amount of speakers, earbuds, and headphones out there is enormous and not all of them will have the highest fidelity. That being said, it is of the utmost importance that we can trust the information our ears are receiving… So, should we trust monitors or headphones? Or maybe both?

“Don’t go by what is considered right or wrong. Use your ears” There is nothing quite like listening to a great song, mixed really well, loud on an amazing pair of speakers in a great room, with the stereo spread and beautiful phantom image, the sound picture painted before you with depth and width. It is quite the experience. Unfortunately, not all rooms are great and acoustically treated. Not all speakers are created equal and some are more transparent than others. Speaker placement is not always ideal. Sometimes you have rear ported speakers and not enough room to place them away from a wall, or your room is not symmetrical, or you cannot put any diffraction or absorption in the room. There is software out there that might help you solve some issues in your monitoring environment. I have used Sonarworks Reference 4 with quite a bit of success in my room, but that is no substitute for a great sounding room. Some monitors have internal DSP and a measurement

microphone to calibrate themselves to your room. The truth is, your environment can create a very unbalanced picture and lead you to unbalanced mixes, no matter how many references you use. You can’t fix or correct what you can’t hear properly. In the fast pace of today’s world it is important to be able to work wherever you are. A last minute mix adjustment while you’re on tour in some hotel room? At the airport waiting for your next flight? With all the portable equipment available these days you are expected to be able to work anywhere. The only thing you can monitor on and avoid having to control your environment? Headphones. They are great tools and there are some great sounding headphones out there. If you have something that is balanced, you can make informed decisions. Be careful of trendy headphones that are hyped in certain frequency ranges, they will fool you. Still I feel they all suffer from this “super stereo” effect, where, to my ears, everything is coming from left or right, with no true spread. The nice width and sound field presented by speakers is missing. Also, that nice chest thumping low end when you monitor slightly loud is gone (although Ollo Audio has a solution for that with their Body Sound Experience Pillow). There are plugins, such as Waves NX, that offer you a virtual mix room and correct a little of that “super-stereo” effect I described earlier. That might help you to get a better sound field. The rise of binaural, ambisonics, and VR creates a big opportunity for mixing in headphones. Maybe some of that technology can, in the future, be used to recreate famous mixing rooms. The possibilities are quite interesting to maybe spot check your mix in different listening environments quickly. Another interesting tool to correct headphones is, once again, Sonarworks Reference 4, where you can use an average correction for several popular headphone models or, if you want something really accurate, send in your trusty pair of headphone in to be measured and you’ll get a custom correction profile made for your specific headphones. Both options for monitoring have their advantages and downfalls, and as much as we like to divide things into two opposite fields, the truth is most things are a huge grey area with no right and wrong answers. Each person is different and will have different tastes and preferences for their monitoring. There are no simple answers. Take the time to get to know your tools, understand how your speakers and headphones work at loud volumes and when played softly. In the end you need something you know inside out, have listened to for hours, and intimately trust. Always use references to check if you are straying away from the desired result. Always check the final mix in a couple different systems. And always, always, protect your ears, as these are the only parts in your monitoring chain that are not repairable or replaceable. Only listen at loud volumes for short periods of time, and if the client insists in monitoring too loud, don’t be ashamed to put some earplugs on or leaving the room to grab a cup of tea. May/June 2018

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END USER FOCUS MONITORS

SPEAKERS CORNER With so many different studio monitor options on the market, chooosing the right ones can be a daunting task. In this end user focus, we feature the products of six companies and hear from top professionals about the product they like to use and why...

Dynaudio LYD 48

Key Features Goldie: “My Dynaudios sit 120cm apart at the perfect angle. And I sit in that perfect place and I listen. It’s the perfect place to be”

According to Dynaudio, the LYD range of monitors was designed to be used without needing a manual because, getting “started in your engineering or producing career…is daunting enough without needing to decipher another complicated set of switches and dials”. Good point. There are four speakers in the range: LYD 5 (with a 5” woofer), LYD 7 (7” woofer), LYD 8 (8” woofer) and LYD

„ Four different units in the range „ All feature lightweight aluminium voice-coils „ 24-bit/96kHz signal path

48 (a three-way fully active speaker with a 4” midrange driver and an 8” woofer). They all use the same lightweight aluminium voice-coils as the company’s high-end hi-fi speakers, paired with Class-D amplification as well as a 24-bit/96kHz signal path with advanced DSP. Artist and producer Goldie uses the monitors in his studio in Thailand.

Unity Audio Rock M KII

Key Features „ 50KHz folded ribbon tweeter „ 180mm woofer „ 0.2mm aluminum foil

David Wrench: “The low mid is excellent and that’s an area where I find a lot of smaller speakers tend to struggle”

Unity Audio’s Rock MKII is described as “a small and stylish speaker”, designed for a wide range of applications including tracking, mixing and critical mastering. It is equally at home sat atop a large-format mixing console, in a home studio or a mastering facility. The Rock is equipped with two 180-watt Class D amplifiers and the Tim de Paravicini

huge Rocks fan and bought my first pair a while ago,” he says. “They’re different to any of my existing monitors. I usually use three different sets of monitor in order to get a good contrast. The Rocks low mid is excellent and that’s an area where I find a lot of smaller speakers tend to struggle.”

designed input/crossover. The Rock uses a 50KHz folded ribbon tweeter and the 180mm woofer features a 0.2mm aluminium foil. The combination of drivers delivers a frequency response of 37Hz-38kHz +/- 3dbB and provides a microscopic view of any programme system, incorporated to eliminate cabinet flexing. David Wrench has two Rock MKII’s in his studio. “I’m a

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END USER FOCUS

www.audiomediainternational.com

MONITORS

PMC IB2S XBD-A

Key Features „ 34mm soft-dome tweeter „ Hand-built 75mm fabric-dome mid range driver „ ±8dB input level trims

Gareth Johnson: “Tracking with them is really exciting” PMC’s IB2S XBD-A loudspeakers offer all the benefits of the company’s large ATL reference active monitors but in a more compact form. The three-way IB2S-A master cabinet is paired with a single-driver XBD bass cabinet that adds an extra 3 dB of low frequency headroom to create the IB2S XBD-A system. These Class-D powered cabinets are DSP-controlled and incorporate PMC’s ATL (Advanced Transmission Line) bass-loading technology. The bass units in both cabinets are identical and feature 10-inch carbon-

fibre/Nomex piston drivers. Producer, mix engineer and multi-instrumentalist composer Gareth Johnson uses the speakers in his studio at Metropolis Studios, London. “When I was designing this place, I wanted the largest monitors PMC made that would work in here,” he says. “That’s why I got the IB2 Actives with the XBD bass unit. Tracking with them is really exciting and they’re brilliant for checking that you’ve got the bottom end right.”

Focal SM9

Key Features „ Pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter, specially developed for the SM9 „ The “W” cone „ Low distortion class AB power stages for low (400W), mid (100W) and high frequency (100W) channels.

Steve Aoki: “I wanted to make sure both studios had Focal because I’m very confident with the sound, I really can trust the speakers”

According to Focal, the idea for the SM9 was to “create the most sonically transparent monitoring system ever built”. The SM9 offers two monitoring speakers in one cabinet: a two-way monitor (Beryllium tweeter, 6.5” ‘W’ woofer, which offers a

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frequency response from 90Hz to 40kHz and a three-way monitor featuring a Beryllium tweeter, 6.5” ‘W’ woofer, 8” ‘W’ subwoofer and an 11” passive radiator. This monitor offers a frequency response from 30Hz to 40kHz.

DJ and producer Steve Aoki uses the speakers in both of his studios: “I wanted to make sure both studios had Focal because I’m very confident with the sound, I really can trust the speakers,” he says.


END USER FOCUS MONITORS

Genelec ‘The Ones’ 8331

Key Features „ Woofer 72 W + Midrange 36 W + Tweeter 36 W „ 2x Oval Woofers 5 1/8 x 2 5/8 inch + Coaxial Midrange/ weeter MDC 3 ½ / 3/4 inch + DCW „ ± 1.5 dB (58 Hz - 20 kHz)

Andy Barlow: “The definition is second to none” Billed as “the world’s smallest three-way studio monitors”, the smallest in ‘The Ones’ range allow for longer, fatigue-free working hours than traditional loudspeakers, because according to the company, unnatural imaging - a main contributor to listener fatigue - is minimised. Genelec refers to them as being in “an elite league of their own”. Dispersion is controlled over an unusually wide frequency range thanks to the large integrated

perfect with little in the way of acoustic treatment, but with GLM weaving its magic, the 8331s fill the room in an amazing way. Also, for such a small speaker with no sub, the bottom end is physics defying. The top end is refined and smooth, and the stereo sweet spot seems much bigger than any other speaker I’ve used.”

waveguide (DCW) with hidden dual woofers; and orientation may be either horizontal or vertical. The monitors integrate with the Genelec GLM calibration software, allowing the listener to compensate for detrimental room influence and delay, regardless of whether they work in mono, stereo or immersive formats. “The definition is second to none,” says Andy Barlow who produced U2’s Songs Of Experience. “The room is far from

Adam Audio S3H

Key Features „ 7” bass drivers „ 4” hybrid dome/cone mid-range driver „ 300 W Class D amplifier

Opher Yisraeli: “I’d been researching various three-way speakers for months and tested a number of models. What I found was that the Adams performed equal to or better than monitors that cost almost twice as much” The S3H builds on the successes of Adam Audio’s most popular studio monitors, the S3A and S3X-H, and, like its predecessors, sets new standards in terms of technical innovation and design. Adam Audio’s newly developed DCH, a 4” hybrid dome/

cone mid-range driver, is powered by a 300 W Class D amplifier and handles audio above 250 Hz and below 3 kHz, its hybrid design offering the sonic advantages of both cone and soft-dome drivers in a single, one-piece unit. Frequencies above 3 kHz are routed to the innovative

combination of the S-ART treble driver (each handmade at ADAM Audio’s Berlin factory), the new precision HPS waveguide, and a 50 W Class A/B amplifier.

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PRODUCT FOCUS

www.audiomediainternational.com

IEMS

PLAY IT BY EAR Whether you’re based in the studio or in a live environment that requires high-end monitoring and reliable external noise cancellation, a trusty pair of in-ears can make the biggest difference when uncomprising clarity is key to your workflow...

Audio-Technica ATH-E70 According to Audio-Technica, its flagship E70 in-ear monitor headphones bring the sonic signature of the company’s M-Series headphone to an in-ear design. Designed for use by audio professionals and musicians in the studio, on stage or in the DJ booth, the E70s are compatible with Audio-Technica’s popular M3 in-ear monitor wireless systems – offering a comprehensive in-ear monitoring solution. The E70 features three balanced armature drivers to provide accurate and extended response across the entire frequency range, with a specially designed housing to provide maximum isolation.

Key Features „ Frequency Response: 20 – 19,000 Hz „ Impedance: 39 Ohms „ Detachable 1.6 m (5.2’) cable with A2DC connectors RRP: £347 ($477)

Flares PRO Flare Audio, the Brighton-based company founded by inventor Davies Roberts only launched its Flares PRO earphones last year, and it has not only won awards since then, but also high profile fans including classical pianist James Rhodes and David Bowie producer Tony Visconti who called them “the best earphones ever”. The product can be switched between wireless and a 3.5mm jack cable and the earpieces are made from Grade 5 titanium. According to Flare, for the design of the earphones the company used “the science of how we hear and the subsequent development of three completely new technologies”. The company also claims that its mission is to “minimise all types of distortion” from its audio designs.

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Key Features „ Dual Jet sound balancing technology „ Anti-Resonance technology „ Acoustic Lens technology „ Bluetooth v4.1 with APT-X connectivity „ Balanced Class A-B outputs and MMCX connections RRP: £349 ($480)


PRODUCT FOCUS IEMS

Shure SE846 Shure says that the SE846’s Quad High Definition MicroDrivers were “built for touring musicians, yet suitably nuanced for even the most discerning of audiophiles”. The manufacturer says that the SE846 earphones are particularly suited for live performance monitoring and deliver “extended high-end clarity” and “exceptional low-end performance”. Evolved from personal monitor technology road-tested by pro musicians and fine-tuned by Shure engineers, the SE846 features a patented design that includes a “groundbreaking” low-pass filter. The earphones also offer effective sound isolation - up to 37 dB of ambient noise.

Key Features „ Frequency Range: 15 Hz – 20 kHz „ Sensitivity: 114 dB SPL/mW „ Impedance: 9 Ω RRP: £829 ($1,142)

Sennheiser G4 IEM Specifically for stage use, this wireless G4 IEM series monitoring system from Sennheiser has receivesd similar enhancements to user-friendliness as the 500 series including a contrast-rich black and white OLED display, a convenient jog wheel, automatic dimming, blue Sync LED, red warning LED and an Escape button for quick and easy navigation. The RF output power has been increased to 50 mW and the bodypacks come with protection from humidity and moisture – which are ideal for stage work. Individual units of the G4 are available, as are a single and a Twin IEM Set.

Key Features „ Transmission range: up to 100 meters / 330 feet „ Half-rack stereo transmitter in an all-metal housing „ Up to 16 compatible channels RRP: £419 ($577)

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

2

SSL MATRIX

Solid State Logic is well known for large-scale studio and live mixing consoles, but they also produce a range of desks suitable for less capacious spaces. Stephen Bennett travelled to SSL in Oxford to sit behind the Matrix2 Delta for AMI...

CONSOLES

hen SSL introduced the original Matrix, many engineers were confused - a smaller format mixing desk with no equalisation or compression built in? In fact, what the company were anticipating was the rise in popularity of the artisan stand-alone preamplifier and audio processor. If you want to insert SSL processors into your Matrix signal path you can, but you also have the choice of adding a few channels of Neve or API as well if you wish, which opens up the best of all sonic worlds. The Matrix2 Delta (from now on, just the ‘Matrix’) features the same 16 channel, 40 input ‘SuperAnalogue’ line mixer and 16 fader DAW controller as its predecessor, but SSL has upgraded the desk to make it even more useful for today’s production workflow. The ‘Matrix’ part of the name comes from the desk’s ability to route the sends and returns to sixteen outboard processor units via the channel strip’s insert points. This allows you to quickly insert various combinations of outboard hardware into any of your console channels - this can be done via the supplied Matrix remote software or directly on the console itself. Using the software, you can set up presets that define the chained hardware via drag and drop, making it easy to create and store setups for different purposes and for many applications, this could replace the traditional patchbay. The Matrix also features a stereo auxiliary send, four post/pre mono sends per channel and four stereo returns with full mix bus routing. Each channel strip features a switchable input and up to 32 signals can be available for mixdown. Additionally, there’s a phase reversal and insert button, a gain trim control, routing

W

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facilities and solo and mute buttons on each channel. The Matrix has a pair of 12-segment LED ladder meters for individual channels and busses - one for the DAW control and one for the analogue section, while two clear VU meters can display the mix, monitor or record signals. The Matrix remote software can also be used to save Projects - these are user-configured set ups of the console - but a range of soft keys allow the user to define the routings from the Matrix itself. Audio signal connectivity for the Matrix is via d-sub (Tascam DB25) sockets on the rear panel. These include the channel inputs, outputs, DAW returns and your external hardware device sends and returns. The Matrix has as a fully functional monitoring section, featuring SSL’s ‘SuperCue’ zero latency system, along with connectors for mix, monitor and cue on the rear of the console. Separate main and ‘artist’ monitoring complete with EQ - can be configured here and there’s a handy talkback microphone with gain knob. There’s

a D9 socket on the rear panel available if you want to use SSL’s own ‘Total Recall’ X-Rack system alongside the console. There’s also a USB connection and two programmable foot switch jacks. The 5.1 Surround option is now fitted as standard and is accessed by rear panel d-sub connectors. Optical interfacing is via AES/EBU XLRs or Toslink, while connection to the computer and DAW is via Ethernet. SSL use ipMIDI to implement this connectivity and, once it’s set up correctly, the desk can act as a DAW controller. The Delta part of the name of the console refers to the implementation of SSL’s Delta console automation system that’s used across its range of consoles. This is a single channel or sixteen channel plug-in that, once inserted in the DAW, can read and write automation from the desk itself, so you can integrate analogue control into your DAW - you’ll need to use an iLok 2 for authorisation of this software. You can also configure the Matrix


PRODUCT REVIEW

DELTA

Key Features „ 16 analogue line channels with two inputs per channel „ iJack front panel Monitor input „ Stereo or 5.1 External Monitor inputs RRP: £15,000 ($20,585) www.solidstatelogic.com

to act in HUI or Mackie Control (MCU) modes and the console has the usual transport controls and scrub wheel along with most of the features you’d expect from a well-specified DAW controller - and you can also configure your own MIDI controllers. In MCU mode the Matrix basically acts as a Mackie control and extender combo, with digital scribble strips and displays of plug-in and other parameters. Soft keys can be assigned to useful key commands via the USB connection and DAW profiles can be programmed into four ‘layers’, making it easy to switch between programs. You can, of course, use the Matrix just as an analogue mixing console - albeit with the ability to use digital ‘scribble strips’, but being able to switch between that and full DAW control is extremely useful. Most of the vPots have ‘Total Recall’ LEDs that indicate when you’ve reached a saved position and there’s a SD card slot for saving Matrix configurations.

The first noticeable physical change in the latest Matrix is the colour and feel of the parts of the desk you’re going to be resting your hands on - it’s now a nice rubbery soft touch. This may not seem important, but it’s likely that an engineer is going to clock hundreds of hours at the console, so user comfort is essential - and the compact nature of the desk, at just 946x724x218 millimetres, means that all controls are in easy reach. The Matrix can be dropped into a mixer stand, so it should fit into even the smallest environments alongside the chunky external power supply. The Matrix has retained the useful iJack socket for plugging in your phone or MP3 player alongside a stereo headphone jack. The motorised channel faders are what you would expect from a SSL console, featuring the company’s high-resolution Digitally Controlled Attenuator system, rather than VCAs. The Matrix feels like a ‘proper’ SSL desk and the sonic signature should be familiar to those who use the Duality, AWS, and Sigma consoles.

The Matrix 2 Delta has had some significant upgrades from the previous model and the only way that it could be more useful for this reviewer is if it had multi-channel bi-directional audio interface built in. But perhaps that would detract from the console’s essential analogue nature? In any case, if you want to have the SSL ‘sound’ in a small format console, with flexible expandability, DAW control and 32 input summing and mixing, the Matrix could be your ideal solution.

The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. He splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the University of East Anglia.

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Reaching beyond, obtaining new heights, achieving a higher level of listening. This is what drives Audio-Technica in the creation of our transducers and audio solutions. It is a perpetual quest to produce a sound experience that

transcends

expectations and gives listeners the deeper connection to their music.


PRODUCT REVIEW

RTW TM3-PRIMUS

German manufacturer RTW has been producing audio signal monitoring tools for over 50 years. Andy Coules plugged in this self-contained, compact new entry-level unit to test its benefits in the studio... n 2010 RTW’s expertise in the area of monitoring tools culminated in the launch of the TouchMonitor range - a new generation of touch enabled monitors. To give you an idea of the success of the range, virtually all of the major mixing console vendors include OEM versions of their flagship TM7 or TM9 models. Now we have the TM3-Primus, a compact entry level solution based around a 4.3” capacitive touch screen that comes in two flavours, a table top version and a 2U rack mountable version (for this review I was sent the former). The TM3-Primus is completely self-contained (i.e. no separate interface box), the rear panel sports a pair of analogue RCA jack inputs (with level trim pots), SPDIF in/ out, a micro USB socket and a power input. The unit can be powered over USB or via the supplied wall wart, and the USB connection can also supply input in the form of a stereo or surround signal. When you first plug it in and fire it up it asks you what country you’re in, which enables it to automatically set up the appropriate reference levels and loudness parameters, it then asks you for your favoured input domain (i.e. analogue, digital or USB). Various instruments are available, but due to the limited nature of the available screen space (272 x 480 pixels), they’re only available in specific combinations so some experimentation might be required to get the display you want. It can be used either in portrait or landscape modes, to switch you simply swipe the screen (up or left). The display is broken into two halves, the top and bottom if in portrait mode and left and right if in landscape mode. The top/left display can be either a vectorscope (VSC), a loudness chart, a real time analyser (RTA) or a moving coil (MC) whereas the bottom/right display can show a peak programme meter bar graph (PPM) or a moving coil, a loudness bar or a magic loudness range (LRA) as well as a correlator, a numeric display and a keyboard to start/ stop the measurement, reset the loudness or adjust the reference level. The vectorscope is a Lissajous display, which shows the phase relationship between the two channels on a co-ordinated plane (rotated by 45 degrees), there are no adjustable parameters available (by default the automatic gain control is set to fast). The loudness chart displays the progress of TruePeak (TP) values over time as a line or a coloured area under a curve. The range can be switched between one minute, five minutes and one hour, other adjustable parameters include: mode (fill or line), active

I

MONITORING

Key Features „ Comprehensive range of metering options „ Very straight forward and intuitive to use „ Supports all current international loudness scales „ Self contained with various mounting options RRP: £810.00 ($ 1,136.00) www.rtw.com

graph (M, S or I), toggling on or off of the info relative gate, I-sum bar or tolerance marker and adjustment of the lower and upper tolerance areas. The RTA displays the spectral information across the standard 31 filter bands in 1/3 octave steps from 20Hz to 20kHz with an additional high (H) band showing content above 20kHz, adjustable parameters include resolution, peak hold time and reference level. The moving coil emulates PPM, VU or PPM + Loudness meter types, in PPM and VU modes it displays left and right in separate meters whereas in PPM + Loudness mode it combines them in one. The PPM bar graph can be switched between DIN, Nordic, British and TruePeak scales. The correlator displays the phase relationship between left and right on a scale from -1 to +1 (thus depicting mono compatibility). The loudness bar shows the combined total loudness and has two choices of scale, LKFS / LUFS (depending on the loudness standard selected) or LU. The magic LRA displays a graphical representation of the loudness range across an entire programme, which neatly depicts the dynamic range over time. The numerical display combines five of the

measurements featured in the different meters (i.e. M, S, I, LTA and TP) into one panel, all of which can be toggled on or off. All of the current international loudness scales are supported (i.e. EBU R128, ITU BS. 1771, ATSC A/85, ARIB, AGCOM, OP-59 and CALM) and can be switched at any time. All settings are available from the main menu, which is accessed by touching the screen for two seconds. In operation, the Primus is both intuitive and straightforward to use, the quick start guide is enough to get you going and if you know your way around metering you shouldn’t really need to consult the manual. Due to the limited screen size I did find myself switching between different configurations when I needed to focus on frequency, phase or loudness and while switching is relatively quick, it would have been nice to have some kind of preset option. Engineers love data, and accurate metering can be incredibly useful, but despite the ubiquity of multi-screen DAW set-ups, meters will often lose out in the battle for screen space, so having external metering can be a definite asset. I have to confess when I first received the unit I questioned if it was aimed at people like me, but after getting used to having it around I’m really going to miss it when I have to send it back.

The Reviewer Andy Coules is a sound engineer and audio educator who has toured the world with a diverse array of acts in a wide range of genres. May/June 2018

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

FOCUSRITE RED 16LINE Focusrite’s original Red series is much sought after by engineers and so the latest range of high-end interfaces from the company has quite a reputation to live up to, says AMI reviewer Stephen Bennett...

INTERFACES

he Red 16Line features Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, but also acts as a Pro Tools | HD audio interface and talks to Dante audio networks. Two Thunderbolt 3 interfaces are available and the networking side is handled by two Ethernet ports. Two mini DigiLink connectors are available to connect Avid’s environment, where the Red 16Line features appear as four HD I/O boxes in Pro Tools | HD. The Red 16Line interface features sixteen line-level inputs and outputs, which are available via d-sub sockets, while digital interfacing is covered via S/PDIF and two optical ADAT connectors. The Red 16Line has two of Focusrite’s Red Evolution microphone preamplifiers, each supplying 48V phantom power, along with a high-pass filter and a phase-reverse facility. Focusrite has incorporated their ‘Air’ technology which, when enabled, changes the input impedance and frequency response curve of the preamplifier to closely model the company’s

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May/June 2018

original Red and ISA range - all in the analogue domain. The microphone inputs are on the rear panel, alongside the monitor outputs, Word Clock/Loop Sync BNCs and the IEC mains connector. The front panel of the single rack Red 16Line has some quite useful features. The two instrument quarter-inch jack inputs are welcome, but I couldn’t help wishing the microphone inputs were here as well (they are on Focusrite’s Clarett series). Most of the front panel is taken up by a clear display that acts as both meter and information centre for the various input and output selections, controlled by input and output rotary encoders, the latter of which can be set to control monitor and headphone levels. The Red 16Line also has two front panel headphone jacks. It’s a beautifully built unit and the controls work smoothly. The interface uses the Focusrite Control software, which can be used for setting input and output routings, creating monitor setups and adjusting

various other parameters such as sample rate and clock settings. You can control the microphone preamplifiers here as well, choose the meter’s sources and select the type of host connectivity. Network routing requires that you download the Dante control software. The d-sub connectivity makes it very easy to integrate the Red 16Line into a studio environment. Software installation and interface commissioning was quick and simple and the interface was up and running in no time. Focusrite say that the digital converters in the Red 16Line are their best yet and I have no reason to doubt that claim. The analogue line-level interfaces are clean and, for want of a better word, neutral, with bags of low-distortion gain. If you like the sound of Focusrite’s high-end preamplifiers, you’ll certainly appreciate those in the Red 16Line. I’ve noted before that the sonic capabilities of the humble Shure SM57 microphone shines through when paired with high-


PRODUCT REVIEW

“The sound of the interface is clean and ‘weighty’ and capable of performing in exlemplary fashion with a range of microphones”

Key Features quality microphone preamplifiers and this proves to be the case with the Red 16Line. The sound of the interface is clean and ‘weighty’ and capable of performing in exemplary fashion with a range of microphones. The ‘Air’ option provides a nice alternative ‘sound’ to the preamplifiers without impacting on their quality in any way. Focusrite also say that the Red 16Line features their lowest round-trip latency and I had no issues when using the unit when recording guitar and bass through various amplifier plug-ins, even at a 44.1kHz sample rate. The interface is capable of working at up to 192kHz sample rate with 24 bit resolution. Focusrite say that they want to allow engineers to work with the interface inside a DAW without DSP or external pass-through monitoring and I believe that most musicians would be happy to use the Red 16Line at 96kHz without any extra software or hardware. Connecting the interface to a Pro Tools | HDPCIe card worked right away without any problems. The

Pro Tools software ran without a hitch and it’s very welcome to see such a versatile interface being available for users of Avid’s DAW. The nice thing about the Red 16Line is that you can use it as a ‘traditional’ interface. Just plug in a microphone or guitar, press record and go, or as the centre of a high-quality audio network, surround sound system or Pro Tools rig. Focusrite call this flexibility, ‘improvised recording’ and it certainly proved easy to move the interface from one application to another during the review period. I went from a studio-based Pro Tools session to recording drums and bass in an old church using the Red 16Line and a few high-end microphone preamplifiers and I doubt that I’d have gotten better results in studios whose daily rates rival the cost of the interface. This flexibility, along with the superb quality of the pre-amplification, digital conversion and the high number of analogue and digital inputs and outputs makes the Red 16Line an extremely useful studio tool.

„ Gain Range: 0-8dB to 63dB in 1dB steps „ Type: electronically balanced, Zin = 20kΩ „ Signal-to-noise ratio: 119dB ‘A’-Weighted (typical) „ Frequency response : 20Hz - 35kHz ±0.2dB RRP: £2,869.99 ($4,075) www.pro.focusrite.com

The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich, he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the University of East Anglia. May/June 2018

49


PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

PRISM SOUND CALLIA

Alistair McGhee gives this USB Audiophile DAC and preamplifier a run for its money... he latest edition to Prism Sound’s USB range is the Callia stereo DAC - designed to provide Prism Sound quality for playback and monitoring wherever a USB or S/P-DIF/ TOSLINK connection can be found. With the release of the Callia Prism Sound are spanning two markets - both professional and audiophile - anyone really interested in digital playback of the highest quality. Someone at Prism Sound has certainly been paying attention when it comes to packaging and presentation. Unboxing feels like a luxury procedure and the supplied software comes on a premium USB stick. On Windows systems you will need to load the supplied driver while on MacOS no driver is needed, but an optional firmware loader app is recommended if you want to update your firmware. The Callia will be familiar to anyone who has seen a Prism Sound Lyra - gun metal gray - understated presentation in a physically refined package with tasteful blue LEDs. The front panel controls comprise volume, headphone level, input select and an array of said LEDs indicating source, sample rate and format. Round the back you have a USB input supporting a plethora of formats. S/P-DIF on phono and optical on TOSLINK. And analogue outputs, unbalanced on RCA phono connectors and balanced on XLRs. There is a also a set of DIP switches which set DSD maximum level and options for headphone monitoring. Talking of DSD - the Callia supports DSD playback of DoP files up to DSD128 over USB and DSD64 in DoP format over the S/P-DIF inputs. First I tried the Callia against some well respected hifi DACs - the source was a Cyrus streamer, amplification by Nytech and speakers varied from Dali Zensors through models from Dynaudio and Spendor. Very quickly it became obvious that the Callia offered a very high standard of playback, leading the DAC pack. None of the sibilant top end or ‘closed in’ issues that were present in some of the competition were to be heard on the Callia’s watch. Back to the ranch - I’m working on a retro power amp shoot out and I had Naim, Nytech and Quad poweramps at my disposal with speakers from Tannoy and Harbeth. My standard DAC is the tremendously excellent Marenius DAC S2 - usually driven by the equally excellent Marian Seraph AD2 sound card, over AES3. And here I have a nit to pick with the Prism Sound - no AES3 input. However to be fair the Callia’s S/P-DIF input can handle AES3 formats if you have the right adapter and I do and it worked fine. Two aspects of the Callia’s performance struck me as particularly note worthy. Excuse the pun. First the independence and coherence of individual instruments

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May/June 2018

- often described as micro dynamics. With lesser components kick drums tread on the vocals or bass guitars smear the strings - no sign of these problems with the Callia. On the other hand one of the trademarks of quality performances is the musical interplay between instruments and or voices. And top quality equipment retains the subtle nuances of performance including the intention of the musicians. I found the Callia often laid bare not just the sound of the music but also the soul of the performance. In an effort to squeeze the last drop out of the Callia - I tried the headphone outlet. The Callia headphone amp has power to spare, able to drive the 250 Ohm Beyerdynamic DT1990s to levels beyond comfort. I bailed well before we got to 11. The resolving power of the Callia was now fully revealed - layers previously partially obscured brought to the light

- percussion benefiting particularly here and also the acoustic space around instruments - so often shrunk by lesser components - blossomed and bloomed. Tonally the Callia is the image of neutrality - the bottom end is extended and well controlled - the mid range clean and uncoloured and at the top end a complete absence of any unnatural emphasis or hardness. In one sense summing up the Callia is not difficult - it is

a superb piece of equipment that handles a wide range of formats, is beautifully built, a pleasure to operate and has a pedigree second to none.


PRODUCT REVIEW PREAMPLIFIERS

Key Features „ Playback sampling rates from 44.1kHz to 384kHz „ Balanced +14dBu XLR and 2V RCA phono outputs „ Optical and co-axial S/P-DIF inputs „ Low-Z headphone output (adjustable sensitivity) RRP: £2,158.80 ($ 3,014) www.prismsound.com

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.

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PRO SPOTLIGHT

www.audiomediainternational.com

FLOATING

ON AIR

Each month AMI features a pro audio professional from a range of disciplines to find out how they got their start in the industry and what they’ve worked on. This month, the spotlight is on Fiona Cruickshank, an engineer at London’s AIR Studios with mixing credits on film scores from Brave to Black Swan, The Great Gatsby to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here, she tells Tara Lepore about some of her career highlights and her top tips for those starting out in the studio… What do you do? I’m a recording and mix engineer based at AIR Studios in London. I mainly work on scores for film and TV, but I’m lucky to be able to work on a whole variety of projects from jazz to pop, classical to rock and everything in between. How did you get into the industry? As a kid I had piano lessons with a family friend. My piano teacher arranged concerts to showcase students’ work and used to do everything himself including live sound and lights. I remember being really inquisitive about the tech side of things – so much so that he asked if I’d like to help out at his studio and record his band at one of their practices. He had a brilliant set up in a converted garage complete with a wall of modular synths, keyboards, Hammond organ, mics and an Allen & Heath desk. I got totally swept up in it and before long my piano lessons morphed into audio lessons. We covered everything from cables to mastering, recording techniques to speaker setups. He suggested that if I was really serious about doing this as a career that I go for the Tonmeister course in Music and Sound Recording at the University of Surrey. It’s a fantastic course with amazing links in the industry, and crucially – a placement year. I got the placement job at my top choice, AIR Studios in London, had an amazing time and was offered a full-time position when I graduated. Ten years later, here I am! 54

May/June 2018

What are some of your credits? I’ve recently been mixing a lot for composers Ben and Nick Foster on Thunderbirds Are Go and Good Karma Hospital (ITV) and Our Girl (BBC). Last year, films I worked on included Phantom Thread, Paddington 2, Murder on the Orient Express, Darkest Hour and Wonder Woman. What was your favourite project and why? Over the past 10 years there have been so many amazing moments. Watching Stevie Wonder record. Working with my favourite director Wes Anderson on The Grand Budapest Hotel. Assisting on Jane Eyre with Dario Marianelli, and the Che films with Alberto Iglesias – those scores made me cry! I’ve been able to learn from the best engineers and producers in the business and watched many of my favourite composers at work. I’m incredibly lucky! What is your favourite item of audio gear and why? Mix-wise I couldn’t be without my UAD plugins. They do such great emulations of all the gear I’ve grown up with at AIR. I recently bought some ATC SCM25A speakers that are just ridiculous… they’re definitely helping me up my game. My colleagues also tease me for my love of reverb. Altiverb can be useful to add a little space or for certain effects but at the moment I’m tending to favour the Lexicon bundle and Phoenix Verb by Exponential audio for orchestral stuff and Waves H-Reverb and Valhalla for something a bit more characterful.

What industry professional inspired you the most to do what you do? I’m a huge fan of Beck. Probably my all time favourite album is Sea Change – it blew my mind when it came out and it continues to. Since V for Vendetta and Pride & Prejudice, I have been absolutely in love with Dario Marianelli’s music. Realising he works with engineer Nick Wollage and recorded at AIR was a big incentive to go for the placement in the first place. What’s the best bit of advice can you give anyone trying to break into the industry? Work experience is so important. Offer to help out at your local venue or studio, go to gigs, talk to the band after. You could start by offering to record their rehearsals and move on to making their album. Make the most of every musical or studio-based opportunity you get, regardless of what it is. You never know who you could meet, what you can learn, or what you could experience. You might just be making the tea for now but if someone likes having you around, it won’t be long before you’re given more responsibility. So much of this industry is based on relationships with other people, so the more people you know the better. Also, experiment. Don’t be afraid to make a bad recording; that’s the best way to learn. The more mistakes you make, the better. That’s how you improve your skills. Always say yes, even if you don’t quite know if you’re up to the task yet or not. Just be honest and start researching.


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AMI May/June 2018 Digital Edition  
AMI May/June 2018 Digital Edition