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

November 2015

TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL?

We take a look around the University of Westminster’s new recording facilities, which even a high-end commercial studio would be proud of p22

FEATURE

Why mass adoption of networked gear still eludes us p18

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REVIEW

Simon Allen sizes up Soundcraft’s Si Impact p30

INTERVIEW

We quiz Game of Thrones sound man Ronan Hill p42

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MONITORING ESSENTIALS

X8, LIVE MONITOR - L-ACOUSTICS X SERIES In creating the X Series, we brought all of the experience gained in designing the K2 to bear on a new series of reference coaxials. Optimized design, ergonomics, acoustical performance and weight make the X Series the most advanced coaxials on the market. Four distinct enclosures with format, bandwidth, SPL and coverage angles perfectly adapted to short throw rental or install applications, the X Series offers studio monitor sound quality, compact design, consistent tonal balance, no minimum listening distance and exceptional feedback rejection. www.l-acoustics.com

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WELCOME

www.audiomediainternational.com

EDITOR Adam Savage asavage@nbmedia.com

Experts in the issue

MIXED FORTUNES

MANAGING EDITOR Jo Ruddock jruddock@nbmedia.com STAFF WRITER Matt Fellows mfellows@nbmedia.com ADVERTISING MANAGER Ryan O’Donnell rodonnell@nbmedia.com ACCOUNT MANAGER Rian Zoll-Khan rzoll-khan@nbmedia.com HEAD OF DESIGN Jat Garcha jgarcha@nbmedia.com DESIGNER Tom Carpenter tcarpenter@nbmedia.com PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Warren Kelly wkelly@nbmedia.com CONTENT DIRECTOR James McKeown jmckeown@nbmedia.com Press releases to: ukpressreleases@nbmedia.com © NewBay Media 2015. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owners. Audio Media International is published by NewBay Media, 1st Floor, Suncourt House, 18-26 Essex Road, London N1 8LN, England. Editorial tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6002 Sales tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6000

Audio Media International ISSN number: ISSN 2057-5165 (Print) Circulation & Subscription enquiries Tel: +44 (0)1580 883848 email: audiomedia.subscriptions@ccms.com Printed by Pensord Press Ltd 1 Color - 100 White

Front Cover: University of Westminster

David Davies has been writing about professional AV and broadcast for 15 years. He is currently managing editor of Sports Video Group Europe and has been a member of the ISE Daily, IBC Daily and AES Daily teams. Phil Gornell is a touring mix engineer for All Time Low, Bring Me The Horizon and New Found Glory, and an engineer at Steel City Studio in Sheffield. Alex Milne is marketing manager at Boston-based RF Venue, a manufacturer of wireless audio antennas and hardware.

Ofer Shabi is a producer/ composer and managing director of Soho Sonic, a recording studio in London that has served the music industry for over a decade, accommodating musicians, record labels and media companies alike.

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ike I’m sure many other editors do, I’ve kept up a regular routine of checking our web stats at the end of each month to see which of our stories have been getting the most attention industry-wide, and it always throws up some interesting results. At the top of the list there’s almost always a major product launch story, maybe one of our reviews, perhaps some big news in relation to an acquisition or distribution deal, and then there’s often at least one article that we thought would never get much traffic, but went semiviral because it mentioned One Direction or Nicki Minaj in the headline. Last month, though, things were a bit different. Three of our top stories were all about iconic studios being knocked down (Alberts, Sydney), under threat of closure (The Magic Shop, New York) or going up for sale, with no guarantee that they’ll carry on in the same vein (Avatar, also NYC). I always get a bit of a buzz when I see the hits rack up on our site,

but it just doesn’t feel right when you’re sharing news about the continued decline of the high-end recording sector worldwide. It certainly doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the state of play at present when it comes to top-spec studios, but it’s not all doom and gloom right now. Following our website throughout October may have put you in a somber mood at times, but our November print issue is a bit more upbeat. To begin with, we got a first look at the incredible new recording facilities at the University of Westminster that are giving students the opportunity to learn their trade on equipment that wouldn’t look out of place in a top commercial studio. Next, we chatted to Mike Kalajian of Rogue Planet Mastering, who shares with us some of his seemingly limitless enthusiasm for his chosen field of work. There’s also no shortage of optimistic viewpoints in our audio networking feature later on in the issue. Yes, we know it’s not a new topic, but we’ve managed to gather some intriguing opinions about the implementation of the technology both now and in the future, so make sure you don’t miss it. So there we go – although there’s arguably been a bit more negativity trickling through the industry of late, there are also more than a few reasons to be cheerful.

Adam Savage Editor Audio Media International

November 2015

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CONTENTS

28 PRODUCT NEWS 6

DPA debuts d:screet Slim

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PMC hosts biggest launch yet at AES

8

Audio-Technica announces AT-One

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Ozone 7 software unveiled by iZotope

www.audiomediainternational.com

18

FEATURES

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NETWORKING: Kevin Hilton asks why implementation of networking technology is taking so long

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INSTALLATION FOCUS: Adam Savage takes a look at the staggering new studio setup at the University of Westminster

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STUDIO PROFILE: Rogue Planet owner Mike Kalajian indulges his passion for mastering

PEOPLE 10

OPINION Paul Nicholson ponders the future of festival sound

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Soho Sonic’s Ofer Shabi highlights the benefits of remote recording

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Battling the broadcast mix with Phil Gornell

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TECH TALK L-Acoustics’ Florent Bernard takes us through the X Series of coaxial speakers

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INTERVIEW Primetime Emmy award-winning mixer Ronan Hill on his ‘Game of Thrones’ challenges

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ALSO INSIDE 16

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GEO FOCUS: FRANCE This pro-audio market has remained relatively stable as of late, but isn’t without its pitfalls, we discover HOW TO RF Venue’s Alex Milne provides some advice on improving wireless signal-to-noise ratio

REVIEWS 30 34 36 38 40

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Soundcraft Si Impact Genelec 8330A & 7350A Sennheiser AVX AKG D112 MKII McDSP SA-2 Dialog Processor

November 2015

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GET CLOSER TO I N V I S I B L E S O U N D Do you need to couple complete invisibility with amazing sound? The new d:screet™ Slim Omnidirectional Microphone is the perfect choice for your film assignment or for any other situation where you need a completely hidden mic. The d:screet™ Slim is flat and short, ensuring easy mounting and a tiny footprint. When used with the detachable Button-Hole Mount or Concealer, it becomes completely invisible. dpamicrophones.com

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Slim Omnidirectional Microphone • Pristine audio quality • Easy mounting • Completely invisible when used with Button-Hole Mount • Adapts to all pro wireless systems

Made in Denmark

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PRODUCT NEWS

www.audiomediainternational.com

MEYER REVIVES STUDIO MONITOR LINE AMS NEVE BOWS BCM10/2 MK2 Meyer Sound has introduced Amie, the first new studio monitor from the company in more than two decades. Developed to meet the needs of sound design and audio production giant Skywalker Sound, Amie is designed for critical production environments where accurate translation to larger systems is imperative. “Amie brings an incredibly smooth response across the spectrum,” commented Leslie Shatz, Wildfire Post Studios sound designer and re-recording mixer, who worked with a beta version of Amie. ”It is very

accurate for dialogue EQ evaluation in post production and despite its light weight, it can handle as much power as I need even when monitoring very loud sequences. And, most importantly, its translation is spot-on when I listen to my work in larger mix theatres including the Meyer Sound-equipped Wildfire South Stage.” Designed as a linear sound system that reproduces sonic elements with accuracy and consistency, Amie extends the translation capabilities of the Meyer Acheron screen channel line to studio monitoring and features a waveguide design that offers uniform coverage and precision imaging. With a flat frequency and phase response and low distortion, it allows sound professionals to listen for long periods of time without the typical strain and fatigue. Meyer Sound Amie is built for film, broadcast or gaming post-production. www.meyersound.com

AMS Neve used the AES Convention in New York to launch the BCM10/2 MK2, an updated version of the classic BCM10 console that has become a favourite of many users as a sidecar for larger studios. The original was powered by Neve 1073 mic pres and EQ, along with 1272 summing mixers, and the new model offers all the design characteristics,

genuine Neve modules and sound quality of its predecessor, but with additional convenient features for modern day recording, as well as a new 1952 switching unit. The BCM10/2 MK2 Limited Edition is available in 10-, 16-, 24- and 32-channel configurations, with the first deliveries due later this year. www.ams-neve.com

DPA RESPONDS TO NEAR-INVISIBLE MIC DEMAND WITH D:SCREET SLIM DPA Microphones announced its new d:screet Slim Microphone at AES 2015. Developed in response to what the company says is a growing need – especially from the film industry – for a near-invisible bodyworn microphone, d:screet Slim features the firm’s omnidirectional capsule element in a flat head, a slender cable and a new buttonhole mount accessory. Currently in betatest stages with several well-known sound engineers, the new solution is ‘already gaining rave reviews’, according to the manufacturer. The microphone’s button-hole mount, which comes as an enclosed accessory,

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provides a 90º sound input angle, allowing the cable to lay flat against a surface rather than sticking straight out. It is also designed to fit into a space as small as 2mm. The combination of its size and available accessories increases the number of mounting options as it can be placed ‘virtually anywhere’ without being seen. “After speaking with our users and colleagues in the industry, we took a closer look at how microphones were being concealed and developed a completely new and unique way we could address this requirement,” explained Mikkel Nymand, product

manager for DPA Microphones. “The result was a microphone that is more easily hidden under clothes – a big necessity for television and film production. The nice thing about the new design is that it leaves a flatter footprint, but with the same highquality sound for which DPA is known.” The d:screet 4060 capsule with high sensitivity and the 4061 capsule with low sensitivity used on the d:screet Slim are designed to offer exceptional audio quality with low self-noise. As with all DPA microphones, this latest solution is compatible with all major wireless adapters. It is available in four colour

options –Beige, White, Black and Brown. A refinement of DPA’s concealer solution is in the works as an added accessory – one of the many accessory solutions that DPA is currently developing. “Most sound professionals are already familiar with DPA’s d:screet solution,” added Nymand. “The d:screet Slim will now provide them with infinite new possibilities. We’re especially excited to reach audio professionals who have always wanted the DPA sound, but needed an even more unobtrusive solution.” www.dpamicrophones.com

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PRODUCT NEWS

www.audiomediainternational.com

PMC GOES BIG IN NEW YORK NEW LOUDSPEAKERS PMC brought what it’s calling ‘the ultimate in main monitoring’ to the 139th AES Convention, in the shape of a brand new addition to the QB1-A Active Reference Monitor range. Larger than anything the company has manufactured previously, the company describes the QB1-XBD-A as ‘a statement monitor that has no equal in terms of sheer power and resolution.’ To create the QB1-XBD-A, PMC has re-engineered its flagship QB1-A Active main studio monitor launched last year. For this version, the manufacturer has added a further cabinet (the XBD) per channel. This contains four identical piston drivers, each driven by four 1,000W independent Class D power amplifiers, resulting in 8,825W of ‘ultraclean’ power per channel. In keeping with the QB1-A, the QB1-XBD-A features wired RJ45 desktop control, designed to provide user-friendly access to EQ settings via a backlit display and jog wheel, and the ability to store up to four user setup presets. The speakers can be used soffitmounted or free-standing. “We saw that there was a gap at the very high end of the market,” commented Oliver Thomas, R&D project

manager at PMC. “In the main, the current products on the market don’t offer the flexibility of analogue and digital inputs, and suffer from giving listeners an insufficient sense of resolution, compared to what can now be attained with good Class D amp design and DSPaided crossover management.” www.pmc-speakers.com

SOFTUBE BUNDLE FOR FOCUSRITE USERS Swedish software developer Softube has teamed up with Focusrite to offer Scarlett, Saffire and Clarett audio interface owners an exclusive free Time and Tone Bundle. The Bundle is valued at $198 and comprises three of its reverb, delay and distortion plug-ins. TSAR-1R Reverb allows users to add space, depth and width to sound with a single slider, ‘from realistic and three-dimensional rooms to dramatic and dreamlike halls’. Tube Delay is an echo effect that can go from clean to distorted by overdriving its three modelled tube

stages, promising anything from realistic room echoes and rockabillystyle slapbacks to dub reggae echoes. Saturation Knob is a modelled distortion output unit plug-in that adds grit and warmth, used to ‘fatten up basslines, add some harmonics and shimmer to vocals, or destroy drum loops’. Users can turn up the knob to add saturation, and use the three-position switch to alter the distortion character. The trio of plug-ins adds to Focusrite’s Red 2 and Red 3 Plug-in Suite already included with its Scarlett, Saffire and Clarett audio interfaces. For all purchases that were made on or after 1 September 2015, all registered Focusrite Scarlett, Saffire and Clarett customers can claim Softube’s Time and Tone Bundle for free from the firm’s download area. www.focusrite.com

FROM QSC

QSC has added two new models to its AcousticPerformance loudspeaker series – a multipurpose 12in coaxial loudspeaker and a dual 12in subwoofer. The new AP-4122m (pictured) is a 12in two-way coaxial system with 40º and 60º wedge angles, top hand hold, pole cup and M10 fittings for flown or yoked applications. The coaxial design delivers true source point performance with 90º of conical DMT coverage, according to the manufacturer. DMT (Directivity Matched Transition) matches the HF to the natural conical performance of the woofer at the crossover point, promising a smooth power response both on and off axis for better sound in real rooms. The AP-212sw is a dual 12in direct radiating subwoofer designed to complement the full range AcousticPerformance models. It features four hand holds, an optional caster kit for ease of transport, two M20 pole mount plates (top/side), and an input plate with two NL4

connectors in a crossed configuration. This input plate feature allows a single NL4 cable to power both sub and top without the need for a custom turn cable. The AP-212sw matches the width of the AP-5122m and AP-4122m allowing for stacked or pole mounted solutions. When deployed horizontally, the AP-212sw is 15in tall, making it ideal for under riser deployments. Both the AP-4122m and AP-212sw are shipping now. www.qsc.com

A&H ADDS QU CHROME MIXERS Allen & Heath has announced new Chrome editions of its Qu series compact digital mixers to mark the launch of its Qu v1.8 Chrome firmware, which adds new features such as Automatic Mic Mixing, a Spectrogram and additional monitor mixes. The Chrome Edition Qu-16, Qu-24 and Qu-32 mixers all feature the same high contrast metallic finish rotary controls and fader caps as the GLD Chrome series – launched at Prolight + Sound and reviewed in our July/August issue – promising optimal visibility in low lighting scenarios and enhanced tactile control. The new automatic microphone mixer is designed to help the engineer manage the levels of multiple mic inputs, ensuring that each speaker’s contribution is heard, but with priority settings to establish an order of precedence. The new Spectrogram tool provides

a visual means of finding and dealing with problem frequencies, helping to eliminate feedback and tame difficult room acoustics. The update also unlocks more monitor mixes by allowing Stereo Groups to be switched to Mix mode. This takes the maximum number of discrete monitor sends to nine on Qu-24 (four mono, five stereo) and 11 on Qu-32 and Qu-Pac (four mono, seven stereo), making them ideal for compact touring as dedicated monitor consoles. www.allen-heath.com

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PRODUCT NEWS

RADIAL RELEASES HEADLOAD PRODIGY

Radial is now shipping the Headload Prodigy, a combination load box and DI that enables the user to drive a guitar amp at a higher output in order to maximise the tone, yet produce a lower stage volume when needed. Like the original Headload, the Prodigy employs custom-made cement-encrusted resister coils to convert the excessive power from the amplifier to heat, and is able to withstand up to 100W RMS. The balanced JDX output is transformer-

isolated to eliminate hum and buzz caused by ground loops and is equipped with a pin-1 ground lift and polarity reverse. Users simply connect the head to the Headload Prodigy and the desired speaker output to suit. In order to optimise the playing experience for in-ear monitors, a dual band EQ on the front panel is included. To add greater connectivity options, two additional 1/4in outputs are included with one that is post EQ, post JDX; the other pre EQ, pre JDX. Housed in 14-gauge steel, the Headload Prodigy features Radial’s bookend design that creates protective zones around the switches and controls. Internal I-beam construction adds rigidity, protecting the internal PC board from torque, which could lead to solder joints going cold prematurely. www.radialeng.com

AUDIO-TECHNICA ANNOUNCES AT-ONE Audio-Technica has launched an installation-friendly UHF wireless system, the AT-One. Created with simplicity and ease-of-use in mind, the AT-One was designed for installers, performers and presenters seeking a fuss-free wireless set-up. It ships with a carrying case, rack-mount kit and detachable antenna. The AT-One’s frequency plan is divided into two groups, with four available channels in each group split between the Europe-wide license-free frequency range and the LTE duplex gap. Users can choose up to four channels from one group. This arrangement allows installers to run two four-channel AT-One

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systems (using separate groups) in close proximity without the fear of interference, for example. Available in three configurations, AT-One can be purchased with a beltpack or handheld transmitter, or with beltpack and ATR35cW lavalier microphone. The beltpack offers a sturdy and discreetly designed construction, providing 10mW RF output power, damping switch and a battery life of up to 10 hours. The ATW-13F handheld system features the ATW-T3F cardioid condenser handheld transmitter, again with 10mW RF output and up to 10 hours battery life. The ATW-13F’s condenser handheld microphone’s capsule helps prevent the possibility of feedback when used in venues with induction loops installed. Finally, the ATW-11/PF lavalier system comprises the ATW-11F beltpack system with included ATR35cW tie-clip microphone. www.audio-technica.com

www.audiomediainternational.com

YAMAHA, STEINBERG, HARRISON FORM ALLIANCE Yamaha Corporation, along with its wholly owned subsidiary Steinberg Media Technologies, has announced a threecompany strategic alliance with Harrison Audio to develop solutions for ‘substantially improving the workflow in the sound for film industry.’ The aim of the collaboration is to combine the strengths of Harrison’s large-format technologies and expertise with Yamaha’s wide range of postproduction hardware equipment and Steinberg’s array of advanced DAW and software products to provide fully integrated solutions for improving the productivity of the entire immersive film sound workflow. According to Yamaha, the complex nature of today’s immersive sound for film productions requires top-down, seamless compatibility between largeformat mixing theatres, smaller footprint mixing stages and editorial suites. For this reason, ‘smarter and more efficient workflow improvements are needed to provide advanced file compatibility, control compatibility and automation compatibility between each area by streamlining the top-down facility

workflow while keeping the unique requirements of each area intact.’ “We are so excited about this opportunity with Harrison, a highly respected company with a long history in the film industry. Through this strategic alliance we will provide innovative solutions for our valued customers,” commented Hogan Osawa, executive officer of Yamaha Corporation. Steinberg managing director Andreas Stelling (pictured) said: “We are elated to have Harrison with us. Their know-how will complement the fruitful co-operation between Yamaha and Steinberg for a sustainable future in a number of markets.” www.harrisonconsoles.com www.steinberg.net www.yamahaproaudio.com

JBL INTRODUCES EON SUB JBL Professional has lifted the curtain on the JBL EON618S, an 18in, 1,000W powered subwoofer that supports ‘true low-frequency extension’ and wireless control. The EON618S is designed to be simultaneously lightweight and rugged, visually compatible with nearly any setting and capable of delivering sound that is ‘both clear and powerful’. The EON618S weighs in at 78 pounds, and boasts a range of new features and capabilities. Its maximum SPL output is 134dB, with a frequency range of 3Hz-150Hz (-10dB) and a frequency response of 42.5Hz-150Hz (-3dB). DSP parameters, including presets for JBL’s EON600, EON200 and other manufacturers’ full-range loudspeakers, can be controlled via a Bluetooth app for iOS and Android. Selectable crossover presets are available through the EON Connect app. The EON618S is tuned

for optimal performance with the EON610, EON612 and EON615 full-range systems. Aesthetic design enhancements to the EON618S include premium handles, a standard M20 threaded pole cup and a rugged enclosure. Its design maximises cabinet volume while maintaining a highly transportable form factor. www.jblpro.com

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www.audiomediainternational.com

IZOTOPE UNVEILS OZONE 7 SOFTWARE iZotope has released the Ozone 7 suite of mastering tools as part of a new Music Production Bundle, which features five plugins and offers savings of nearly 50%. Operating as a standalone platform or as a plug-in within all major DAWs, Ozone 7 Advanced includes four new Vintage modules: Vintage Compressor, Vintage EQ, Vintage Tape and Vintage Limiter, while the Codec Preview lets users hear how their masters will sound to listeners who stream or buy their music online. Updates for the Advanced and Standard version of Ozone 7 include the Vintage Limiter, which adds sonic characteristics of analogue hardware; new export options for delivering mastered audio to desired MP3/ AAC formats; an IRC IV mode in the Maximiser to increase perceived loudness without pumping or distortion; and an improved dynamic EQ.

“The Ozone 7 update builds on iZotope’s reputation for superior sound quality audio mastering tools. We’re adding more processing capabilities, including an innovative new IRC limiting algorithm that uses spectral shaping to reduce pumping and distortion,” commented iZotope product manager Izzy Maxwell. The Music Production Bundle also includes the Alloy plug-in for adding clarity, punch and life to mixes; Nectar for enhancing and tuning up vocals; Trash for sonic distortion and experimentation; and Insight to visually diagnose what’s going on with a mix. www.izotope.com

PRODUCT NEWS

PRESONUS EXPANDS ERIS RANGE PreSonus has revealed its new Eris E44 and E66 two-way active MTM studio monitors. The E44 and E66 nested Midwoofer-Tweeter-Midwoofer (MTM) configuration incorporates dual Kevlar low/mid drivers (4.5in and 6.5in, respectively) operating in parallel and covering the same frequency range so that they acoustically couple. This works to create a larger woofer to provide a more dynamic output than conventional two-way studio monitors, according to the manufacturer; nesting a 1.25in silk-dome high-frequency driver between the two woofers ‘minimises phase displacement for improved spatial resolution and a wide sweet spot’. By bringing the midrange drivers closer together and raising

the HF driver, the E44 and E66 are designed to perform optimally in both horizontal and vertical orientations. A three-position Acoustic Space switch helps compensate for the boundary bass boost that occurs when the monitor is placed near a wall or corner and High and Mid acoustic tuning controls further help to mitigate room problems. A Low Cutoff filter aids in subwoofer integration, while balanced XLR and 0.25inTRS and unbalanced RCA input connections help to streamline hookup. www.presonus.com

VENUE 2 RECEIVER NEW FROM LECTROSONICS

Lectrosonics has introduced the Venue 2 Digital Hybrid Wireless modular receiver, designed to address the challenges of increasingly congested RF environments. Venue 2 tunes across a wide 220MHz range; houses up to six receiver modules, each covering 75MHz; and employs new IQ dynamic tracking filters that promise exceptional rejection of out-of-band RF energy and enable very tight channel spacing. Up to six VRT2 modules can be installed in the 1RU Venue 2 receiver frame. Each module supports up to 3,072 tunable frequencies across a 75MHz range (three standard Lectrosonics blocks), matching the tuning ranges of SSM, LT and LMb “large bandwidth” transmitters. VRT2 modules incorporate Lectrosonics’ new IQ dynamic tracking filters, which accommodate a wide range of

transmitter RF power levels while also enabling tight channel spacing. The receiver modules can be operated independently, each with switched diversity reception for a total of six audio channels, or operated in pairs for more robust diversity reception with one audio channel per module pair. A high-resolution front panel display allows for detailed programming and monitoring. Using Lectrosonics’ included Wireless Designer software, the Venue 2 can also be programmed, co-ordinated and monitored over Ethernet or USB. Emulation modes allow the Venue 2 to be used with older analogue transmitters from Lectrosonics and several other manufacturers. VRM2 Frame is priced at $3,325 MSRP, while pricing for the VRT2 modules is $950 MSRP. www.lectrosonics.com

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OPINION

www.audiomediainternational.com

THE FUTURE OF FESTIVAL SOUND

Following on from his ‘Festival Sound Fundamentals’ piece in our September issue, Paul Nicholson ponders what the next few years could have in store for this area of the industry.

Wacken Open Air 2015 Picture: Riedel Communications

PAUL NICHOLSON

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saw a clip from one of those competition-based TV cookery shows the other day. Everyone was rushing around, red-faced and becoming almost suicidal over preparing what appeared to be a salad. Two things struck me: first, why not just pop down to the supermarket and save all the bother, and secondly, how chefs and festival sound engineers can become strangely alike. Allow me to explain, and sprinkle a few thoughts on how to prepare the perfect festival dish without ending up looking like a boiled beetroot. It’s obvious that good festival sound is the responsibility of the FOH engineer, or is it? Naturally, the PA system engineer plays an important part, but what about the band? I’ve talked to hundreds of engineers over the years and to my mind the best ones always tell me that they work very closely with the band in order to make everyone’s life easier. So how do they go about this? Starting with the source [sic] it’s crucial to analyse how musicians perform both individually and collectively, then the engineer can decide how to mentor them towards better audio habits. I believe that some experience as a ‘muso’ certainly helps the engineer to appreciate and understand what band members are trying to produce and want they want to hear. Discussing audio from a shared viewpoint goes a long way towards 10

achieving a great mix. You simply have to get inside the music, and I believe it’s true to say that the engineer is a vital part of the creative process and therefore part of the band. So, it’s important to make suggestions, share experiences and bake creative ideas into the musicians’ minds – even drummers. Naturally, you can’t influence the way people play their instruments, but you can address dynamics, tone and balance. For me, everything begins with the band, and keeping things uncomplicated and controlled. Less is definitely more.

Silence is Golden Unsurprisingly, I’m a big fan of the silent stage, and I would implore everyone to simply lose the backline and stage monitors. There are some great simulators and apps on the market and together with IEM technology there’s no better way to improve live sound quality for musicians, engineers and the audience than by taking this leap. I’ll wager that in five years time more than 75% of shows will be using ‘silent’ technology. I lost count decades ago how many times I’ve had to ask bands to turn down their backline so they didn’t deafen the audience, themselves and me. Even with large festivals, loud backline is still an

issue. The PA should be doing all the work of balancing the sound. The tail shouldn’t be wagging the dog. So, if everything is under greater control, where does this leave the engineers? Clearly, the role of the traditional monitor engineer is now under threat. With the introduction of digital desks and personal mixers, musicians can mix their own sound on stage. As a colleague commented the other day, the stage mix is now the band’s problem and I can just concentrate on FOH. Sounds good? Absolutely. If the monitor engineer is an endangered species, then perhaps FOH engineers should take this opportunity to consolidate and simplify their set up. So why use a large footprint console when a small one will do? Most manufacturers provide compact derivatives that you can literally tuck under your arm, walk up to the FOH position with and be up and running in two minutes. Sound quality is not an issue even at this entry level. Just recently, and for the first time, I parked my FOH desk at the side of the stage; set up the monitor mixes then balanced the show from the auditorium with an iPad. It was a very strange experience to begin with – no surfaces other than a small piece of glass

– but it worked beautifully. In fact, several manufacturers have already done away with the console altogether and produced remotely-accessed stage boxes. All this begs the question: will the FOH and system engineers also go the way of the monitor engineer? It’s a possibility. Perhaps bands could mix FOH from stage and/or the audience could mix their own binaural sound directly from an app into their buds or wearable tech. Believe me, it will happen, and sooner than we think. I’ve already seen and heard the technology that could do this and it’s stunning. Just imagine a festival with no noise issues and studio quality VR IEM mixes for everyone. Anyway, back to the cookery analogy. If you can nail everything at a festival, then the FOH engineer won’t look like a boiled beetroot having struggled to get the mix together by the last bar of the set. Then again, perhaps someone could create a TV reality show called ‘Mix This’. It could be fun. Paul Nicholson has been a sound engineer and tour manager for 30 years and runs Salisbury-based Midas ProSound. He also worked at L-Acoustics UK from 1998 to 2008 and continues to specify and use festival systems on a regular basis.

November 2015

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OPINION

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THE BENEFITS OF REMOTE RECORDING Soho Sonic MD Ofer Shabi explains how new technology is allowing audio professionals to collaborate across vast distances much more easily, and how demand for this way of working is rising fast.

OFER SHABI

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ere at Soho Sonic, we’ve long been a successful recording studio in the heart of London. Over the years we have accommodated a number of talented and professional musicians, record labels and media companies. We have also been involved in a number of exciting movie and theatre productions, providing voiceovers, scores and compositions. We’ve noticed over the past few years that the demand for remote recording has become paramount. What was once something that was rarely requested has now become a vital part of our everyday jobs. As experts in this type of recording, we have had plenty of people reach out, asking us to help them with a number of projects. With the advanced technology that we have these days, it’s making it so much easier for producers, engineers and musicians to interact without ever having to meet face-to-face. Recording sessions can now take place without all parties having to be in the same location, meaning that we have access to a whole network of performers without having to set foot out of the recording studio. So what exactly is remote recording and why is it suddenly in high demand? We use remote recording for several different reasons at Soho Sonic. The main area in which it is used is within the media industry. As professional sound engineers 12

and audio producers, we are approached by a number of clients who want help in recording voiceovers. Whether this is for films, advertisements or documentaries, it’s clear that there is a high demand for these services.

Awesome Source Source Connect is technology that allows audio connections to take place between digital audio systems anywhere in the world. It enables direct to-the-timeline recordings to take place in real time, providing high-quality audio using just our internet connection. We use it to collaborate with actors and directors around the world, regardless of their geographical location. For example, when an actor is in London but the director is in LA, we can use Source Connect to record the actor in our studio and send it directly to the producer using DropBox. He can listen in to the recording in real time and make comments or suggest improvements. This is the same for music artists – the Source Connect audio software makes it easy for the producer to dial in and listen to someone being recorded hundreds of miles away. We don’t think that there is anything more valuable than an actor or artist being able to receive live feedback.

Cross-Continental Collaboration Picture our engineers being able to hit the Record button, while an artist in the US hears the backing track through their computer, enabling them to play along. Our engineer is then able to record the performance directly into their DAW. This is something that Soho Sonic has been doing efficiently, thanks to Steinberg’s VST Connect Pro. We are able to connect with any musician in the world, as long as they have a computer and internet connection. It’s revolutionised the way that artists and producers work together. Some critics may argue that it’s taking away the authentic feel of having everyone in the same place at the same time, but we think that the advantages far outweigh any negative aspects. With our high-speed internet connection, we are guaranteed a perfect two-way video and audio link-up. It’s 100% effective, no matter what locations the musicians are located in.

Rejoice for Revoice We’ve recently started using the newest version of the Revoice Pro software, and it’s proving to be an amazing eye-opener. This is mainly used to replace dialogue or correct audio. For example, in our studio, we would use it to match an original recording. If something is filmed on

location in a busy street, there is a good chance that the audio or dialogue will be ruined. We can record using the Source Connect software, and the director can quickly listen in to how it’s being done. We did this recently while working with Fox in the US. We re-recorded badly-recorded audio that they had done on location, and the director was able to listen in to give his opinion on the job we did. It didn’t involve anyone having to leave the country; in fact, no one had to leave their office!

on the horizon No one can deny the impact that improved technology has had on the world of music and media – it’s definitely made our job so much easier. We think that remote recording is the future of these industries. Too much time and money is spent getting people from one location to another, so it’s only natural that this is now something in high demand. Fingers crossed it remains something that is both efficient and essential. Ofer Shabi is a producer/composer and managing director of Soho Sonic, a recording studio in London that has served the music industry for over a decade, accommodating musicians, record labels and media companies alike.

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This latest generation of Dual Concentric drivers has its genesis in many of the world’s high end recording studios, therefore, the new AMS loudspeakers ensure that playback of recorded material sounds exactly as the engineer intended when it was mixed in the studio, making them perfect for indoor and outdoor entertainment venues – in fact anywhere true sonic clarity and long term reliability is essential. We challenge you to a Dual!

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OPINION

www.audiomediainternational.com

BATTLING THAT BOTHERSOME BROADCAST MIX Live sound and recording engineer Phil Gornell explains why proper planning, research and preparation is the ideal solution to this common dilemma for touring professionals.

PHIL GORNELL

Picture: Jen O’Neill

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erhaps I am isolating some of you guys out there, but in the immortal words of Robert Baden-Powell (scout extraordinaire) it’s better to “be prepared”. Festival season drifted by as quickly as it arrived this year – the same muddy fields, the same stingy catering, the same portaloo every day for 60 days, and for FOH engineers, the same problem: the broadcast mix. Doing what we do, we are entrusted by our artists to deliver their musical vision to the masses on a daily basis, but what happens when the masses come via a camera lens? TV broadcast mixes are almost a daily guarantee during the festival runs, and usually they are of a much larger scale than the crowd stood at the concert. And I don’t know about you guys, but I feel torn. Do I offer my services in the truck to deliver the mix I know my band want, or do I stick at FOH?

Option 1: Do both This is an option many engineers take, feeding an L-R mix to the broadcast truck. All your rides will be there, all the effects will be appropriate, and most importantly, you can mute the drunkest musician onstage. But beware; very rarely do the FOH mixes translate well to broadcast. 14

Let’s paint a scenario – you go with Option 1. In all the commotion of your 20-minute changeover (if you’re lucky) you load your file and start line check; you get to open the PA for a whole three seconds to hear your kick drum in the tent. It’s too bright. You start to pull out that 4k that’s hurting your face, and follow suit with your line check with a muted PA. Bearing in mind that you have some aggressive highs in the PA, you take a little cut out of the attack of the snare, perhaps lo-pass your bass channels to clean up the hi’s; maybe take a 2.5k notch out of your guitar bus to control the hi-mid distortion. Your band walk onstage, you open the PA and they kick in. Hallelujah! It sounds sick! All the worries you had about the aggressive hi end of the PA have gone. But your broadcast mix is swimming 20ft under; a muddy unintelligible mess is currently being

streamed live on television worldwide, because you sucked all the life out of your channels!

Option 2: Get your ass in the truck! Consider that 30,000 people are in attendance to watch your artist play the main stage at Reading Festival, that same performance is broadcast online and via TV sets to hundreds of thousands of people. Perhaps your job is to be in the truck, but if you’re not doing the broadcast mix yourself, politely introduce yourself to the engineer and assist with any suggestions and mix moves. These guys work tirelessly around the clock, and might appreciate the break! But be courteous and polite – you’re in someone else’s home.

Option 3: Forget about it Your job is to mix FOH, so quit the strife and do just that. Rock the house and

don’t worry about the broadcast.

Secret Option 4: Make a cue sheet Voila. A cheat sheet! This is a simple answer that combines all of the above options and is, in my opinion, the best solution; a clearly labelled set list, with fader moves, effect suggestions and set notes. This allows you to keep your influence and signature in the mix, doesn’t require invading someone else’s domain and best of all, allows you to relax and get on with your FOH mix. A little bit of research and preparation before each broadcast will make everyone’s life easier, and ultimately, make the mixes better in every domain. Phil Gornell is a touring mix engineer for All Time Low, Bring Me The Horizon and New Found Glory, and an engineer at Steel City Studio in Sheffield.

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GEO FOCUS: FRANCE

THE FRENCH CONNECTION A distinctive character in the industry, France boasts a robust market full of challenges. But how are pro-audio brands profiting from it? Matt Fellows investigates.

A

s a main player in global economics and industry, the sixthlargest economy in the world and one of the wealthiest nations in Europe, France appears to be enjoying, as one might expect, a stable and potentially lucrative spell. Despite the recent downturn in neighbouring countries, the French market presents proaudio companies with a playing field quite unlike any other – one which, beyond its few difficulties, can prove to be richly rewarding. Franck Surena, L-Acoustics’ sales manager for France, has a lot to say on the subject, believing that while the pro-audio climate in the region appears assuredly secure, it may not be a simple black and white affair, and does still present pitfalls for audio brands seeking to benefit from its prosperity. “We’ve seen good stability in the market in France over the last few years,” he tells us. “This is mostly a good thing – especially when you consider the recent down years in many European markets – but it’s a situation that can be more or less favourable, depending on how a brand chooses to address the market. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, the current market can prove to be profitable and healthy, but if you cannot commit the resources and time to really get out there and support the clients, this market can prove less profitable.”

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Also weighing in on the state of the country’s market is Jean-Philippe Blanchard, director and COO of Audiopole – French distributor of brands in the live, MI, installation and broadcast markets including beyerdynamic, Studer and ClearCom. Blanchard’s statements appear to reinforce this image of a strong market, but one that is not without its challenges; he explains that, while showing promise, the current supply climate is feeling the burden of increasing online retail competition. “The overall current climate is not bad but the MI market especially is being hit by strong competition between local dealers and big shopping websites, which leads everybody to work with lower and lower margins. The coming of the big shopping websites has established the references in terms of pricing in the box shifting business.” However, Blanchard believes this challenge can be overcome when brands vary their offering from that of their competitors: “This phenomena does not affect the business where the distributor or dealer has a real added value, especially in the installation and broadcast markets.” Ultimately, Surena believes that, while it has its ups and downs, the market finds itself in a well-rounded position that promotes strong business opportunity: “Overall, I feel that we are seeing a balance in France. While performing arts

Population: 65 million

Have there been any significant changes to legislation, regulations and laws that have affected the industry in recent years?

n n n

‘Yes. Tax shelters in Belgium and Luxembourg have heavily impacted the film and TV post production sector.’ ‘Falling grants and subsidies.’ ‘Yes, a significant decrease in budget for public radio.’

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GEO FOCUS: FRANCE

www.audiomediainternational.com

How is your sector performing in 2015 compared with 2014?

Better

What’s having the biggest negative effect on the market at the moment? Economic uncertainty

25%

Falling budgets

Worse

41.67%

Slow payments Goverment legislation

The same 0%

33.33% 20%

Other

40%

60%

centres are dependent on government for funding, and we’ve seen a significant reduction in funding for new projects, there is always a demand to renew existing sound systems in the install market, or a demand for rental systems for big events. So overall there is an elasticity that contributes to creating an overall feeling of stability.”

Government input France presents a particular set of benefits and challenges to those dealing in the live and install sectors according to Surena, thanks in part to the government’s involvement in many of the country’s key venues. “Many of the venues or public events are owned or part-owned by the government. This comes out of a government philosophy that culture should not be a money-making operation; rather, it should be available to the widest possible audience. This plays into the elasticity of the market – there may be a little less dynamism than in other countries, but it also contributes to a stability and a willingness to renew the technical systems of the venues, based on that commitment to culture.” This helps to shape a distinct landscape in these sectors when compared to those in other countries. In particular, the live sector in France is a very mixed affair according to Surena,

80% 100%

who tells us that economic success has in recent times been dependent on the size of venue, and this has in turn had a knock-on effect on the kind of equipment used by artists on their tours. “I’ve seen good, dynamic growth in mid-range venues, with more and more of them looking to install highend sound systems,” he notes. “This in turn means that many tours are travelling light, with just a console and microphones, using the house system. The bigger, 2,000-plus seat venues are not seeing this kind of evolution, since they tend to host a wide variety of events from touring bands to political conventions or corporate events. Since the needs vary, it’s easier for them to rent in systems that correspond to the event, leaving the venue empty of an installed sound solution. “But for those mid-size venues, which have a lot more competition – both in attracting important artists and attracting a loyal audience – it’s a good business proposition to install a proper sound system. A mid-size venue can do a survey of the different rental PAs that have been used in their room over the last few years, assess which PA is the most rider-friendly, and choose to install that PA to attract bigger and better artistes.” In addition, France is also under threat, like many other European

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countries, of ever-shrinking wireless spectrum, thanks to recent legislation changes. “One of the main changes is the new legislation regarding the restriction of frequencies for wireless microphone and wireless talkback systems,” Blanchard remarks. “This will push the customers to turn to new solutions involving different frequencies and digital technologies.”

Overcoming obstacles Looking to the future, the French pro audio market certainly looks to be moving from strength to strength, but where do those in the industry think it’s headed next? “I think that the market is moving to solutions that cover the total sound reinforcement from design through to amplification and system management, and this is why we are seeing so much consolidation right now,” Surena puts forward. Blanchard predicts a positive outlook, but again one overcast with difficulties: “The pro-audio market is very active and we can forecast good development in the following years, but the challenge is that you always get more features for less money. So at the end of the day the revenue is decreasing and on the other hand the demand for support before and after sale is still the same.”

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Though the French market is fertile ground, the emerging theme put forward by industry figures is that differentiation is key; for brands to excel, it is imperative that they elevate themselves above their competitors and therefore above the challenges presented by the market. “The solution is to offer real added value in terms of service and support and to be able to invoice for this service,” Blanchard explains. “This is easier to do in installation and broadcast markets than in MI.” Audiopole aims to follow this philosophy into the coming years: “Our strategy is to develop our added value and to offer our customers a complete solution including the best products available on the market and a high-quality in-house service during the different phases of a project, including study, commissioning, putting into service, training and technical support.” Surena agrees, concluding: “Overall, our strategy is to offer systems that are easier, faster and more intuitive to design, deploy and manage. We’ve continually improved our electronics, redesigned boxes so that they are faster and easier to put in place, and of course, continually improved the sound quality of our systems. It’s this search for continual improvement that, I believe, will allow us to keep a leading position in the market.”

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FEATURE: NETWORKING

THE NETWORK EFFECT

The multi-Calrec Apollo installation, featuring a large-scale Hydra2 network, at MBC Sangam in South Korea

If everyone agrees that audio networking is a good thing, why is fuller implementation of the technology taking so long? Kevin Hilton finds out.

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he key to success for a technology is to promote it as not only what the industry has been waiting for, but also where everyone should be going anyway. That is certainly the case with networking. The ploy has worked in computing and is now reaching its ultimate implementation in the Cloud. The professional audio sector has been talking about networks off and on for around 20 years and now, with digital, IP and off-the-shelf IT components, it looks as though its time has come at last. The means are certainly available and the general issue of interconnectivity in broadcasting, live sound and installation has been debated widely over the past few years. There is the realisation that 18

people need to move on from not just analogue but also MADI. While MADI has had a resurgence it does not have the capacity for the several hundred channels of audio that will be required for large-scale events and outside broadcasts, ever bigger commercial installations and the prospect of Ultra High Definition (UHD) video and ‘3D sound’ for television. Ethernet-based distribution and connectivity, as offered by AVB (Audio Video Bridge) and Audinate’s Dante, is regarded as a way to work over long distances or throughout large buildings at a lower cost of installation and operation because cheaper IT components – including Cat5 and Cat6 cabling – can be used to carry the data.

Audio over IP (AoIP) is being promoted as the ideal carrier to run over these connections, offering high bandwidth, multiple channels and additional capacity for metadata and control. Dante is accommodating this but has a major rival in Ravenna, developed by Lawo affiliate ALC NetworX. With the technology in place the expectation would be that broadcasters, systems integrators, venue operators, facilities and rental companies would be adopting it en masse. The reality however, as is so often the case, is somewhat different. There has been some level of implementation, but not on a massive scale or with enough momentum to trigger a wholesale migration. Unhelpfully there are as many

possible reasons for this as there are networking formats. Audio consultant Roland Hemming identifies the barrier to mass adoption as being ease of use. “It still isn’t simple enough for many people to put together an audio network,” he explains. “I feel that there is a reason bigger than audio networking itself. This technology is just a transport, so while it does offer many advantages over analogue, it is only part of the bigger picture of what we need in networking. We need to have integrated control and networking across products from many manufacturers – truly interoperable systems of the sort we are used to seeing in the IT world.” Hemming gives the example of unplugging his Mac from an Ethernet

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FEATURE: NETWORKING

www.audiomediainternational.com

In addition, the ability to control gear remotely is a huge plus, but it has been quite hard to get users to really extol the virtues of working with networks.” Despite asserting that networking will happen, Hollebone points to the case of MADI, which took a long time to be adopted by the mainstream. “I was still at Sony when that was invented,” he says. “I left in 1994.”

MODERN MISCONCEPTIONS

Released in October, Dante Via is designed to allow a range of applications and devices to be networked and interconnected easily connection and having it link without interruption to WiFi, while at the same time connecting his RAID drive over Thunderbolt and making a call on his Bluetooth-enabled iPhone. “This level of integration requires not just networked audio transport but seamless control of the network as well as configuration, control and monitoring of equipment,” he concedes. “This will then offer facilities and advantages way beyond what we have now. Unfortunately, given the way the audio industry develops products, that is probably some way off.”

PLUS POINTS Hemming lists the advantages of networking as being: multiple channels over a single cable; simple accessibility for audio on and off a network; far cheaper cabling and installation costs; less interference; system flexibility; long distance transport using standard fibre-optic technology and ease of use in many situations. “Fibre also offers truly electrically isolated systems, eliminating issues caused by multiple sources of power on a large site,” he adds. The problem can be, Hemming observes, that “people are used to doing

things the same old way so many don’t feel the need to change their methods”. Chris Hollebone, sales, operations and marketing manager with Merging Technologies, saysthe main obstacle to adoption is inertia: “If you don’t have a specific reason for wanting to change

”It still isn’t simple enough for many people to put together an audio network.” Roland Hemming

your system – large or small – you probably won’t until you have to replace something major. For many an existing point-to-point connection is OK. I think there is a still a curious mistrust of sending audio down an Ethernet cable, which is curious since modern life as we know it would pretty much stop if you disconnected all the RJ45 connectors in the world.”

Merging Technologies produces the Pyramix range of digital audio workstations, which are used in music recording and post-production. These can be networked through either of the company’s audio interfaces, Hapi or Horus, both of which feature Ravenna and the AES67 interoperability standard. Through AES67 it is possible to connect Merging systems to equipment using other formats, including Dante. Hollebone comments that people would “have to be crazy” not to see the benefits of networking and while he says it will “definitely happen in a big way soon”, many are resisting because they don’t want to be the first to try it out. “It would probably take a major broadcaster or other huge facility to switch entirely over to a networked solution,” he says. “There are obviously a ton of people using our gear for recording or using Dante in a live situation that are enjoying the benefits, but it is a more elegant way of doing something they probably would have done with MADI and a lot of extra gear. Our customers are pushing the envelope with really high-resolution audio and MADI does not have sufficient capacity to deal with that.

Alex Lepges, product manager for Europe at Audio-Technica, observes that there may still be a perception that networking is only for a certain type of project. “Networked audio was first adopted for large-scale applications and therefore it was not – or not seen as – a solution ‘for the masses’,“ he says. “And still today many audio applications can be easily – and most of the time very efficiently – solved with ‘traditional’ point-to-point solutions: some microphones, other audio sources, a mixer and speakers.” The front and back ends of the audio chain are generally seen as the most problematic when it comes to fully implementing a technology, notably anything digital and, specifically, networking. Audio-Technica is addressing the starting point with its ATND range of microphones, which connect to Dante over digital Ethernet, replacing analogue XLR cables with Cat5. Lepges comments that there are some aspects that people have to get their heads around when considering the move towards fuller network connectivity, including what he calls ‘invisible audio’. “In the traditional audio set-up we are used to following the signal flow of audio from its source to the final destination – a speaker,” he says. “We could ‘meter’ the signal, adjust the gains and slowly route the signal from here to there. In networked audio solutions with, for example, AudioTechnica’s ATND Series mics connected to standard network devices, the audio becomes ‘invisible’ and harder to track down, especially if you do not want to use packet-sniffer software to monitor your network traffic. Overcoming this seeming loss of control is one step you have to make to learn the newly gained freedom of signal routing.” November 2015

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FEATURE: NETWORKING The largest ever full Ravenna implementation for a live event occurred at the 40th anniversary concert of the Orchestre Nationale de Lille (ONL) in July. Kit involved included Lawo consoles, Neumann interfaces and Merging’s Pyramix DAW

Dante and Ravenna are newcomers to a technology area that has promised much for nearly 20 years. Earlier attempts to standardise and simplify networking were CobraNet – originally developed by Peak Audio in 1996 before being bought by Cirrus Logic – and Livewire, introduced by the Telos Alliance in 2003 primarily for its Axia brand of IP-based consoles. Both carry audio over Ethernet and established themselves in specific installations based on either their manufacturers’ equipment or that of other companies licensing the technology, as in the case of QSC with CobraNet. Because of this Marty Sacks, vice president of sales, support and marketing at the Telos Alliance, says that if there is any “hesitancy” from the market in implementing networks, he and his company are not aware of it. “It’s not something we see because the people we talk to are familiar with AoIP,” he says. “But because we don’t see anyone being hesitant doesn’t mean it’s not there.” Telos this year upgraded its Ethernet/ AoIP network offering as Livewire+, which, Sacks explains, has been updated to be “extensible into the future” using standards such as AES67. “It has 20

interoperability capability,” he says, “and also support for other internationally accepted standards to allow somebody with a Livewire installation to continue to be relevant with what is next.” For Sacks the question people should be asking about networking is not whether they should adopt it but what kind of reliability and assurance it, in whatever form, will bring to their installation. He adds that by incorporating AES67 into Livewire+, and into other technologies, it is now “hard to isolate customers” regardless of their choice of technology.

LOOKING AHEAD Speaking at last year’s Audio Networking Forum, Patrick Warrington, technical director of Calrec, observed that a possibility for the future was “hybrid networks”, citing the example of his company’s consoles connected to the Hydra2 network router, which would in turn connect to any chosen AoIP system through the portal provided by AES67. Calrec’s vice president of sales, Dave Letson, comments that the lack of an accepted standard for audio transport over IP “is frustrating broadcasters and manufacturers alike” but that the situation is not standing

still. “Calrec’s vision is an agnostic one with regards to transport of audio,” he says, “and IP streams will clearly play a large part in the future broadcast ecosystem. In the future we see a great opportunity in expanding the Calrec broadcast networking tool set across IP infrastructures. The first stage of this is to allow IP protocols like Dante and AES67 audio transport to integrate with Hydra2. This means that even in this uncertain time, our customers can implement whichever protocol best suits their needs and still enjoy the additional benefits of Hydra2.” Networking is one of those ideas that broadcast, live sound and audio installation engineers like but they often come up against barriers created by clients, bosses, accountants or just the technology itself. But it is starting to happen, albeit largely at the top end. Hugo Burnard, a project engineer with distribution and installation company Sound Technology, observes that both Dante and AVB are going into large-scale performance venues and big office buildings. “Dante has a lot of backing,” he says, “and we are seeing a lot of people manufacturing AVB switches, such as NetGear and Extreme Networks, so AVB is a lot more accessible than it was.”

Burnard says there is definite uptake, with frequent enquires for venues, stadiums, universities and large theatres. As well as AVB and Dante, Sound Technology is also dealing with CobraNet, which Burnard says has an established user base, and Harman’s HiQnet software protocol, which is used for smaller installations. “When you consider the alternative for something like a large office block, digital networking over a single Cat5 cable carrying over 1,000 Dante channels makes more sense than running in lots of discrete tielines,” he comments. The consensus is that people should consider networking for new builds and installs but look at it in terms of what it can do rather than as a complicated piece of technology manifested in various formats and products. As Hemming concludes: “We need better products and ones that are based around solving user problems, not just features. Once we crack that the standards will follow.” www.audio-technica.com www.calrec.com www.merging.com www.rhconsulting.eu www.soundtech.co.uk www.telosalliance.com

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INSTALLATION FOCUS

THAT’LL TEACH ‘EM Having heard the University of Westminster now claims to offer recording facilities that most high-end commercial studios would be proud of, Adam Savage took a trip to the Harrow Campus to see for himself…

Studio manager Colm O’ Rourke with the SSL Duality console

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t’s not that often that we focus heavily on a recent studio build at a college or university – after all, why would our professional readership care about new facilities designed for those just starting out? – but bear with me here. First of all, take a look at the main image of this article. Does that look like the kind of set-up you would expect to find at a specialist audio college, let alone a university? I expect your answer is ‘no’, but that’s what around 300 music and audio production students enrolled at the University of Westminster’s Harrow Campus now have available to them. That’s right, I’m sure some of you have spent years begging for the chance to 22

be let loose in a studio equipped with an SSL Duality console, PMC’s flagship monitors, TubeTech outboard and much more besides, and now you discover that all this can currently be found in the grubby hands of some kids who are only just beginning their audio journey? Oh, the irony. Sorry about that, but let’s look at the good news: surely this is a clear sign of how far pro-audio education has progressed in recent years – at least in terms of the quality of kit on offer – and can you really argue against giving these young people the chance to learn on some truly high-end gear right from the off? Well that was the main objective here, according to Alan Fisher, previously acting dean and head of the

university’s music department, and now consultant. “Our philosophy is to only introduce students to equipment that is industry standard. We realised some years ago that we needed an acoustically accurate recording studio that was of sufficient size to accommodate a large group of students,” he says. “It has taken five years to accomplish our mission, but the University of Westminster now has a facility that is easily on a par with commercial recording studios, enabling us to educate students on the techniques and skills they need to progress in the real world.” And if the Duality wasn’t surprising enough, it’s also home to the first PMC QB1A main monitors – the kind that

were installed at New York City’s Capitol Studios recently – in Europe, as well as vast quantities of Van Damme analogue Blue Series, video, HDMI, data and control cable, along with connectors, patchbay and studio hardware – all supplied by VDC Trading. There are also 5.1 surround systems featuring PMC’s twotwo 8 speakers in the control room, adjacent live room with variable acoustics and in three other spaces across the facility. What’s more, the control room is permanently linked to the university’s existing live spaces, including Area 51, a large onsite performance area boasting an L-Acoustics ARCS Focus PA and Avid VENUE SC48 consoles, courtesy of SSE Audio Group – enabling concerts and gigs to be recorded.

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INSTALLATION FOCUS “We are now using 48 channels of Prism Sound ADA-8XR I/O in our new control room and the sound we get is exceptional – very natural and with no coloration at all. “We’ve got a top-class facility – well we’ve got two, as we’ve also got Area 51 and we know that’s really up to scratch for the live side of things.” And as for the console, getting hold of a board of this quality had been on the university’s wish list for some time, partly as a way of fulfilling demands that weren’t exactly easy to meet. “It was the one thing that students would give feedback to us about,” O’Rourke reveals, “so we were confident if we only installed equipment with a global reputation for excellence, we would attract the best students from around the world to study with us.” “As part of the deal our engineers have been certified by SSL on the Duality and the [existing SSL] AWS, and to put that on our website or outside out tech office is really attractive for students. My staff get a great kick out of that.”

THE BEST OF BOTH

//////////////////////////////////////////////// GOING ALL-OUT In fact, there was a lot more to the installation than just the main centerpiece, as Bill Ward, director of Langdale Technical Consulting, explains: “This was a big install with an SSL control room housing the 48-channel Duality console, a machine room, live area, vocal/drum booth, three rehearsal rooms, two performance rooms, a fully equipped live venue and, just for good measure, two further spaces allocated for future use and expansion,” he comments. “We designed a complex multi-room system and I have to say Westminster University now has in its possession one of the finest audio recording facilities to be found at any university in the world.”

Designed by Peter Keeling of Studio People, the facility’s impressive spec is largely down to the work of studio manager Colm O’ Rourke – along with other members of the faculty – while Yan Gilbert-Miguet and Neil Bola of Academia took responsibility for sourcing and supplying the gear. “It was a collaborative process, particularly for the big-ticket items such as the console and the monitors,” O’Rourke explains. “We listened to a number of different monitors but the only ones that really impressed us were the PMCs. Although we all have very different musical tastes and different views on what a good monitor should sound like, PMC was the only brand on which we could all agree.

The new desk’s hybrid approach, which allows students to combine a traditional analogue path – SSL’s SuperAnalogue inputs, mix bus and processing – with DAW control and integration on the same surface was also key for O’ Rourke, who was keen to stress the importance of passing down both modern and classic recording techniques to the next generation, and used the outboard versus plug-ins debate as an example. “We don’t dictate to our students, we say ‘OK, here’s the plug-in version and here’s the real thing’ and we’ll line them all up, play three versions and ask them to tell us which they think is the best,” he says. “Until we do that they won’t come in here with the idea that a Duality is going to sound better than their Waves plug-ins, but we let them listen and decide. We’ve kept three studios heavily on outboard, and this [the main control room, with space for up to 25 students at a time] is one of them. The idea is to give them both experiences. “What we want to do with our students is say ‘there are all the plugins that you need, and there’s all the hardware, so you learn how to use them

and we’ll show you how it all works. We’re not going to tell you which is best; you’re going to find out yourselves.’” O’ Rourke has been succeeding with this method of ensuring proficiency with both analogue and digital equipment – but allowing the class to pick their own preferences – for some time now, and relishes that moment when the student realises they’ll need a lot more than just a laptop and some software when they take their first steps in the real world. “We get in students who think they know a lot before they do, and when they come in they will have used the plug-ins, they’ll have done a certain amount of in-the-box mixing, but by the time they leave they’re generally different people entirely,” he continues. “They’ve discovered what a mixing desk does, what a proper room does and why you would spend so much money on monitors, and that gives us a lot of pleasure actually. “And to be able to give them a facility where we know the monitors are excellent, the room is excellent and the desk is excellent – that gives us an awful lot of pleasure too. “We’re probably the biggest course in the university now, which is weird considering we were the smallest when we started 16 years ago.” Some might argue it’s almost a bit of a shame that there’s now a new studio in London bursting with high-end kit, yet out of the reach of pro users, but there are plans in place to allow producers and engineers to use the facilities out of term time, and make the studios useful to non-students in other ways. “The university is also developing some interesting links with external organisations such as the BBC, providing a Maida Vale-style service to the BBC Introducing initiative, and British Underground in promoting their acts,” reveals Fisher. “Students from TV and Music get the opportunity to work on these projects, which gives them real experience while they are still studying. This is definitely a benefit to everyone involved and something we are keen to expand.” www.pmc-speakers.com www.prismsound.com www.solidstatelogic.com www.vdctrading.com

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STUDIO PROFILE

ROGUISH CHARM After more than ten years handling other aspects of recording, Mike Kalajian decided to set his sights squarely on his one true passion: mastering. Matt Fellows investigated how he is getting on with his new, focused venture.

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cting as the final stage of the recording process to add that perfect polish to a project, mastering is often undervalued and overlooked by engineers and artists alike, but not by Mike Kalajian, the owner and head engineer of Rogue Planet Mastering. Operating out of New Paltz, New York, he has moved away from recording after more than ten years of producing, engineering and mixing to deal exclusively in the field of mastering. It’s an unorthodox move that has paid off in spades, though, now that he’s finally where he wants to be. “I was talking to a friend of mine who works at Sterling Sound, and he said, ‘nobody ever says they want to be a mastering engineer’. I kind of did!” enthuses Kalajian. “My father gave me my own stereo when I was eight years old and I would always play with the EQ. And I remember him telling me there’s a job where people do this on the CD before it gets printed. And I said ‘that’s what I want to do for a living.’” Realising he couldn’t jump straight into his preferred field, Kalajian got into recording, but that sole focus on mastering was always in the back of his mind. 24

“I think that with the recording industry changing it’s less rewarding to be a producer or an engineer,” he remarks. “There’s not as much money in it and it’s a lot of time and hard work, and it wasn’t my number one passion; mastering was.” The studio has been up and running for around 18 months now, and recently reached 200 projects for the year by the beginning of October, dispelling any claims of the move carrying a lot of financial risk. “It’s actually been my best year yet!” he states. “I think being in New York as an engineer for ten years or more helped, because I had a lot of contacts already which helped me get a bit of a jumpstart. “Another big thing was Facebook and offering test masters,” he continues. “I know a lot of guys don’t do test masters, but I feel confident that if I have a guy who’s a good engineer, I can show him that I can deliver a good product and it’s totally worth it.”

Perfect space But getting the studio up and running wasn’t easy. Kalajian himself contributed towards the design specification of the space, with a little help from WaltersStoryk Design Group (WSDG).

“All we were really concerned with was that we were going to have a comfortable space and we laid out the rooms in a way that was ergonomic,” Kalajian continues. “It worked out pretty well; the rooms sound good but the transmission from our space to other spaces wasn’t great so we had WSDG come by and tell us how to stop annoying our neighbours.” And then there was the task of properly equipping the space for its new function, which called for a complete gear overhaul as Kalajian discovered: “The biggest thing for me was getting the right equipment and getting my room set up for it,” he continues. “At the time I was working on nearfields and I had to accommodate the fact that I would always have bands in. I cleared out the room and sold off all my gear – I mean everything except my computer and I started over; I bought a set of Bowers & Wilkins 802Ns and immediately when I set them up I could hear everything. I bought some mastering equipment, which was definitely nice but the main thing was getting to the point where when I sit in my chair in my room I can hear exactly what I want to hear – that’s everything.” “When you listen to something, within the first 15 seconds you have this

instinct of where you want to go with it,” he explains. “I think part of what makes a good mastering engineer is to have that first impression and make a very good judgement at the start of a project. A mix engineer can’t do that; once you’ve heard a song so many times you can’t really make that snap judgement. I can say that from experience.” Even with the recording industry in a state of uncertainty, Kalajian has still chosen to place his faith in the significance of the mastering process, and he feels confident that the discipline will continue to follow the path marked out by studios like Rogue Planet. “I think that mastering is going to somewhat survive, because with people having more of a DIY approach to making records I think having a real studio and a real treated room is still worth the expense,” he comments. “I definitely see mastering becoming guys with their small space – more of a one-on-one thing. But other than that I think it’s going to continue to be guys who have good ears, who know what they want to hear and know how to help people make their stuff better. That’s really what it’s about.” www.rogueplanetmastering.com

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TECHNOLOGY: HOW TO

www.audiomediainternational.com

INCREASING WIRELESS SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO

RF Venue’s Alex Milne provides some of his best advice on improving SNR using ‘physical layer tools.’

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hen it comes to wireless audio systems, there is never a situation where a lower signal-to-noise ratio provides better performance over a higher signal-to-noise ratio, all other factors being equal. Never. So, you should use every opportunity and every tool at your disposal to improve that ratio. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is the ratio of the amplitude of the signal of interest to the amplitude of the surrounding noise floor or competing signals. SNR measurements are used across many systems and components within an audio signal chain, like microphones and amplifiers, but here we’re talking about the signal-to-noise ratio of the amplitude of a radio signal (coming from a wireless microphone or IEM transmitter) in comparison to the amplitude of surrounding radio noise floor when measured at the receiver front-end (antenna input). Because the majority of the ‘noise’ part of wireless signal-to-noise ratios usually exists outside of the electrical audio and RF system, manipulating SNR is something that must – and in fact can only – be done by manipulating what network engineers refer to as the ‘physical layer’. The physical layer in wireless audio includes the hardware components that move electrons and electromagnetic waves that make up audio and RF signal, as well as the processing of digital bits. There are very few electrical components, software processing, or DSP chips that can improve SNR downstream in the signal chain from the antenna input (inside the device), but many simple and accessible techniques available using physical layer tools – like transmitting and receiving antennas, coaxial cables, and filters – that profoundly improve SNR upstream from the antenna input (outside the device). 26

The simplest, and perhaps most powerful, method is to shorten distances between transmitters and receivers. By closing the distance gap between receiver and transmitter, signal strength increases dramatically because of the relationship of distance to received power and the inverse square law. For example, if you double the distance, the strength of your received signal will be four times less powerful. This works the other way around, too: halve distance, and received power increases four times over. Of course, moving an entire rack of equipment closer to a performance area is not always practical, but for some one- or two-channel systems, it certainly can be.

Tricks of the Trade Another extremely effective way to improve SNR is to use a high gain directional antenna. When used as a receiving antenna, a high-gain antenna can increase the received strength of a signal by focusing the RF energy in a given area, thereby increasing the apparent strength of your signal in relation to noise and other unwanted signals in the area from the point of view of the receiver. When used as a transmitting antenna (commonly for

IEMs), high gain antennas can project a narrower and more intense beam of RF energy, to similar effect. When external directional antennas are used, it’s very important to deploy them correctly. Using an external antenna lofted on a lightstand above the audience is a common method to obtain proper lineof-sight, but even better SNR is possible by remotely deploying antennas closer to the stage, backstage, or stage left/right using long runs of low-loss coaxial or fibre-optic cable. Long runs of coaxial cable should be treated with similar care. Use only high-quality, low-loss, undamaged coaxial cable for placing remote antennas, such as RG8X or better. Coaxial cable is fragile. Small defects can cause a dramatic reduction in signal quality. So it should always be inspected for damage before use. And cable runs over 100ft/30m often require in-line amplification to maintain sufficient signal strength lost due to in-line attenuation, which occurs in all coaxial cable to some degree. An additional technique for improving SNR is to increase transmitter power – though this should be used with caution, as unscrupulous indulgence in increased power to multiple transmitters may cause

more noise than the noise you are trying to avoid. In the US certain end-users are eligible for a licence that allows them to use transmitters as powerful as 250mW. In the UK, power exemptions are given to operators of PMSE equipment under the control of Ofcom. Finally, it’s also possible to block or reduce noise and competing signals coming from outside the performance venue by shielding the interior of the space with electromagnetic barriers. Broadcast studios and some secure facilities will hire consultants to do this for them at significant cost, but most of you are doing this already to a lesser degree: all buildings attenuate (weaken) signals and noise from outside. By operating a wireless microphone inside a physical structure (especially metal ones) you are keeping a significant amount of the ambient radio noise from intruding into your venue, which lowers the noise floor and improves signal-to-noise ratio at the receiver. Alex Milne is marketing manager at Bostonbased RF Venue, a manufacturer of wireless audio antennas and hardware. www.rfvenue.com

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INTERVIEW – TECH TALK

www.audiomediainternational.com

THE X FACTOR

Matt Fellows quizzes Florent Bernard, L-Acoustics’ director of application, touring, on the manufacturer’s X Series of coaxial speakers, which were launched at Prolight + Sound earlier this year following a rigorous R&D process.

What was the main idea behind the X Series? The R&D process to create the K2 [loudspeaker system] led us to make significant advances in the sound and directionality, as well as in handling and ergonomy. We felt that these breakthroughs in design would be well adapted to our coaxial line. The goal was to create each of the enclosures in the series to optimise it for a specific use. We’ve gone back to the drawing table for each, and improved SPL, widened bandwidth, reduced weight for the X12 and 15 by 30%, reduced the size of the box and ensured that each speaker is easy to handle, transport, install and take down.

which reduce turbulence and port noise, increasing LF efficiency. The X8 goes from 60Hz to 20kHz and has a wide 100° conical directivity for spatial imaging. The X12 is a multipurpose enclosure, perfectly suited to any short-throw application. The X12 operates from 59Hz to 20kHz and the ellipsoid design produces a 90° x 60° directivity with smooth tonal response, giving maximum flexibility. Using engineered wood, the enclosure has been reduced to 20kg (a 9kg weight loss compared to the previous 12XT) and ergonomic handles make it easy to carry and place. It’s got integrated risers (which we call stilettos) that allow for two different angle choices: 35° or 55° vertical. The X15 HiQ is our reference stage monitor – an active coaxial system with a low latency preset, designed to integrate onto any stage and withstand even the most energetic live performers. The X15 goes from 55Hz to 20kHz and boasts ellipsoid directivity of 40° x 60°, perfectly adapted to stage monitoring. The X15 weighs just 21kg and the ultralow profile – it’s just 341mm high – makes for easy integration onto any set. Like the X12, the X15 has integrated risers, allowing for a 35° or 55° vertical angle. All X Series cabinets come in a RAL colour program, making them easy to integrate with any architecture. How does it differ from the rest of your product portfolio? Our mission at L-Acoustics is to keep our product portfolio as shallow as possible, meaning we avoid confusion by creating

product lines that respond to a specific need – and so each of our product lines is clearly adopted for its niche. What that means is the X Series is our only coaxial product line, and within the series each speaker has its specific use. The beauty of coaxial technology is that you don’t have any minimum listening distance; you get clear tonal balance over distance and excellent specialisation. For live/stage monitoring and fill needs, the X Series is the perfect solution. You say that the X Series design was influenced by what the company learnt bringing the K2 system to market. What experience did you gain from the K2, and how did this affect the design? When designing the K2 we set out to get the absolute most SPL in the smallest footprint possible. We meticulously chose our materials to assure power while cutting weight. We designed the cabinetry intelligently, using the material and form of the box to reinforce the acoustics. The result was a powerful speaker with extended bandwidth and horizontal as well as vertical directional capabilities that is quick and easy to rig. What this translates into for the X Series is a 30% weight reduction for the X12 and X15, as well as a smaller profile – really important when you are doing

stage or live monitoring. The angle settings for each enclosure have been carefully designed to ensure each is the most useful for its purpose. How did you use industry feedback to your advantage? In general, we are constantly getting feedback from our partners about their experience in rigging our systems. From this feedback, we’re continually improving the ergonomics and handling of our products. In the case of the X Series, this translates into an obsession with the handles (this is not a joke – our R&D team went back to the design over and over to ensure that the handles are easy to grip, comfortable to use and well-balanced!) as well as attention to details like the integrated pole mounts (they are specifically designed to welcome the pole on the first try, so users don’t have to spend time fiddling with the mount) and of course the L-Acoustics obsession with weight. Lighter boxes make for lighter freight costs, quicker install/rigging and happy users. What were the challenges you faced during the R&D stage? Whenever the team sets out to incorporate vase improvements in size, weight, SPL and bandwidth, you know that there will be many challenges along the way. Beyond that, it’s hard to be specific as we keep a close lid on our R&D processes. www.l-acoustics.com

Tell us a bit about the new models – what are the key features of each? The X8 is a live monitoring enclosure with maximum SPL, imparting a faithful translation of the engineer’s mix on the larger L-Acoustics live system. With a 1.5in diaphragm compression driver coaxially loaded by an 8in low frequency transducer in a bass-reflex cabinet, it’s also got our signature L-Vents (a feature on all X Series models – Ed), 28

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

SOUNDCRAFT SI IMPACT DIGITAL LIVE SOUND CONSOLE

Designed to combine an analogue workflow with digital flexibility at an affordable price point, this new desk has a lot of boxes to tick, but does it deliver on all fronts? Simon Allen investigates.

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he digital console market is growing at a phenomenal pace, particularly at the cheaper end, with many manufacturers offering ‘budget’ solutions. It’s a race to see who can produce the best small-format, complete digital mixing solution with the highest spec at a competitive price. These consoles have made digital mixers more accessible to a wider market and provided engineers with a larger toolbox than what was previously possible on relatively small jobs. This raises a question, however: are we cutting corners and shouldn’t we be more concerned with sound quality than channel counts? The Si Impact from Soundcraft appears to have the spec and a very strategic price point, but what is the build and sound quality like? While the competition has embraced this substantial market, there’s certainly room for improvement, so will the Si Impact jump at the opportunity? 30

Overview From the moment you first use this desk you can tell the build quality is sturdy and durable, with a solid frame and rubber push buttons – much like those found on Soundcraft’s flagship Vi consoles. The faders are plastic and the touchscreen is small, but this doesn’t seem to matter as the overall impression is very professional. Adding to the look and feel of the console is Soundcraft’s FaderGlow technology, indicating at first glance via colour coding, different fader tasks. This looks great and allows for speedy use, which is quite a pleasant surprise on a console of this price. Well-lit controls and a digital scribble strip further enhance the sharp look that enables the console to be used easily in dark environments. The layout is much like many smallformat digital desks with a single channel strip, operated via rotary encoders, on a channel-by-channel basis using select buttons. This has become standard practice for many engineers today and

is also familiar from analogue console layouts. The Si Impact, however, has an in-depth channel strip, offering one encoder per parameter to avoid menu or page scrolling. The four-band parametric EQ, for example, has a complete set of encoders for each band rather than using three knobs and tabbing between bands. This makes it very tactile – much like an analogue desk, which is very quick to use. Unlike some other consoles at this end of the market, the fader layers are completely customisable. Each fader on every layer can be anything from an input channel, mix bus, VCA, Matrix, effect send, effect return etc. Additionally, if a fader is being used as an input channel, for example, the input patch can be from any source and have any direct output. This enables custom configurations to be created, allowing you to make the most of the 24 faders in each of the four layers. So, here are those all-important numbers. The Si Impact is a 40 DSP-input channel mixer, to 31 output busses.

Key Features n 40 DSP input channels n 32 x 32 USB audio interface n FaderGlow technology for enhanced navigation n Implemented processing from Lexicon, BSS and dbx n Built in Stagebox connectivity RRP: £2,499 www.soundcraft.com Importantly, though, there is a pool of possible inputs from each of the 32 onboard preamps or either of the two option cards. The Si Impact ships with a USB-MADI option card installed, offering connectivity with any of Soundcraft’s Stageboxes, or a 32 x 32 USB audio interface. Although not all of these channels can be mixed simultaneously, it offers a huge range of connectivity configurations. All input channels and output busses support full dynamics and parametric EQ processing, with a 31-band graphic EQ on all outputs. This is a great deal more processing than Si Impact’s rivals.

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A stunning renovated church with unique acoustics. A fine-dining experience bathed in a waterfall of sound from the lively mezzanine bar above. The perfect balance of warmth and energy. All delivered by the XY Series: versatile professional speakers that guarantee superb sound and complete coverage throughout venues of every size.

The Jane & Upper Room Bar | antwerp | belgium

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW Other connectivity options include one AES and Word Clock output, and a HiQnet port. The HiQnet data port supports Soundweb devices or connection to a standard network router for wireless control. Wireless control of digital desks has become important within today’s workflow, and the Si Impact falls straight in line. They use the same iPad ViSi app that all Soundcraft consoles support, which has become better and better over the years.

is actually via dedicated hardware inside the unit from Lexicon themselves, rather than algorithms executed by the console’s DSP processors. There are four stereo internal effects engines from Lexicon, offering a wealth of choices based on the MX400 effects processor. These effects engines have dedicated send and return busses, with independent tap-tempo and sendon-fader buttons from the console’s surface. This allows for fast and easy

the small touchscreen with its slightly unsophisticated software and the slightly dim metering view built into the scribble strip distracted me. However, in essence there’s nothing wrong with these features – the desk still does everything we have now come to expect from digital mixers. Due to the comprehensive channel strip, Soundcraft’s colour-coding system and ‘tOTEM’ (The One Touch Easy Mixing) system, the Si Impact feels

Fundamentally, the Si Impact is very fast and easy to use during a show. I even found myself changing routing and fader arrangements on the fly during a show. The lack of visual information from the touchscreen soon passes you by and, in a way, helps you to concentrate on the sound and the action happening on the stage. The FaderGlow technology not only looks good, but really helps keep navigation around the console fast and intuitive, which has

The console’s touchscreen is compact, much like the other Soundcraft consoles, and is where you find all the settings. The software isn’t the most graphically enhanced or the most efficient I’ve seen, but it functions well. A combination of touch with a couple of push buttons for another rotary encoder allows for reasonably quick operation. What’s good about this software is the range of configuration opportunities, but the user interface feels slightly dated in this smartphone era. It’s clear to see where Soundcraft has chosen to save the costs needed to deliver this desk at a competitive rate. However, we must be encouraged by the fact that the manufacturer has focused on the console’s layout, processing power and sound quality rather than some pretty software. It functions well but don’t expect an iPhone-style menu system.

use during a show, but I had to make an effort to understand the tap-tempo operation. Unlike standard two-tap tempo buttons, these take an average over all the taps you make. Therefore, if you tap four times, it will calculate the average time between them, rather than just the time between the last two. This is in an attempt to make it more accurate for studio use, as well as live. You need to remember to wait five or six seconds before you change the tempo, otherwise it will use the previous taps in the calculation. I like this concept and it does give a more accurate result, but if you change your mind from crotchets to quavers for example, it can be a little frustrating when working live. The graphic EQs are DSP versions of the BSS FCS-966 analogue graphics. They are easy to operate with flip to fader control and I particularly like the indented zero centre point that the faders feedback to you. What is really impressive, and is certainly one of the selling points, is having one of these graphics on all available outputs. The dynamics are based on dbx algorithms, with gates and compressors on all inputs and compressors on all outputs.

very tactile to use. In fact, because you haven’t got your eyes glued to a screen, which is a bugbear of mine, it keeps your focus on the stage. In order for Soundcraft to market this console at a competitive price, I’m glad that they went down this route and didn’t cut corners on fundamental processing and sound quality. I found the audio quality from all aspects of this console to be excellent. The USB interface is a must-have feature today, which sounds great too. I also recognise that the ability to route anything to and from the USB card is powerful and flexible. While the USB interface worked well without needing to install any drivers on my Mac, I would have liked the offline editor to work on the Macintosh platform rather than having to use parallels. I think this would be a great feature to look out for, with a proper remote application for Mac desktops, as most people in this industry are now Mac-based. The implementation of tried and tested industry processing from Lexicon, BSS and dbx is a huge positive. We’re not quite at the stage of running plugin-style mixing at this end of the market, but this is a great solution with intelligent choices. The Lexicon processors sound great, and I believe better than built-in effects on some other competitive consoles.

worked well for Soundcraft since the Vi consoles were developed.

Industry Processing Most of the audio processing inside the Si Impact is courtesy of some acknowledged industry favourites. Soundcraft and Studer, who themselves have a 40-year pedigree, developed the parametric EQs for this desk, along with many fundamental features required in a console of this capability. Additionally, processing from the likes of Lexicon, BSS and dbx are also built in. The internal effects processing 32

In Use The more I use this console, the more I really appreciate what it has to offer and I now don’t want to give it back. Originally,

Conclusion Soundcraft has been producing consoles for 40 years and has been making digital desks for a while now. This pedigree, experience and knowledge can be clearly found and heard in the Si Impact. It feels like an analogue desk but with the enhancements and ease of use that digital desks offer us today. Complete with modern expectations such as the USB audio interface and plenty of processing, the Si Impact is sure to have a strong market share. The focus is on build and audio quality at a very respectable price and I would be really happy to use one again. If you are in the market for an affordable mixing solution, then this console should be high on your list.

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

November 2015

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

GENELEC 8330A & 7350A LOUDSPEAKER AND SUBWOOFER

Nigel Palmer puts these compact new additions to the manufacturer’s SAM (Smart Active Monitoring) series to the test.

L-R: Genelec’s 8320A, 8330A and 7350A

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’m something of a convert to DSP loudspeaker and room correction, having had a high-end Trinnov processor driving the monitors at Lowland Masters for about 18 months now. Although I was initially sceptical – I’ve heard older electronic room tuning attempts where the best sound was definitely achieved using the ‘bypass’ button – for me the benefits were immediate and obvious, taking an already good room/monitor pairing to the next level. Although workable solutions have only become available relatively recently, it’s clear they’re here to stay – a number of manufacturers now offer chip-controlled internal speaker components such as crossovers and converters, and in some cases add a microphone/software combination enabling the user to sample the 34

monitoring environment and offset adverse room characteristics. In the latter camp is respected Finnish loudspeaker company Genelec, which introduced the SAM (Smart Active Monitoring) concept in 2006. Earlier this year they announced the smallest in the range, the analogue input-only 8320A and next up in size the analogue and digital 8330A (reviewed here), both suitable for combining with the new 7350A subwoofer.

Overview The 8330A is a two-way ported design in a smart dark grey finish, and measures a diminutive 299 x 189 x 178mm HWD (approximately 12 x 7.5 x 7in). Height includes an Iso-Pod, a neat rubber foot assembly which helps decouple the speaker from its support and allows a ±15° tilt – a

useful solution in locations such as console bridges. The 8330A’s die-cast aluminium enclosure, curved to reduce edge diffraction, has a (5in) woofer and 0.75in metal dome tweeter powered by 50W Class D amplifiers, and weighs in at 5.5kg ; a power/status indicator at lower right next to the maker’s badge completes the front view of the unit. At the rear, below the reflex port and mounting points, is a pair of RJ45 sockets to connect to a GLM (Genelec Loudspeaker Manager) network; below these and a Power/Reset switch is a panel containing, from left to right: mains input, AES digital in and out on XLRs (16-24 bits, 32-192kHz) and lastly an analogue input, also on XLR. The compact 7350A subwoofer (410 x 350 x 319mm) has a 203mm driver and 150W Class D amplifier housed in Genelec’s Laminar Spiral

Key Features n 8330A – Die-cast aluminium Minimum Diffraction Enclosure (MDE) n 8330A – Floating-point DSP engine n 8330A – Directivity Control Waveguide (DCW) for flat on and off-axis response n 7350A – Laminar Spiral Enclosure (LSE) for clean, articulated bass reproduction n SAM technology adapts accurately and automatically to the acoustic environment RRP: From £589 (8330A); £779 (7350A) www.genelec.com Enclosure (LSE), and weighs 18kg. Space doesn’t permit full coverage of its comprehensive I/O, but along with GLM ports it has both AES and analogue access – the latter delivering up to 5.1 surround capability with additional speakers.

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

In Use Setup of the network and audio connections for the 2.1 8330A/7350 review system was refreshingly straightforward, thanks to clear instructions in the accompanying guide – the GLM Adapter hub provided was connected to my computer via a USB port, then the adapter was daisychained with network cables (also provided) firstly to the two satellites and then the sub. Audio-wise I opted to go digital, routing from the computer via the AES I/O. Lastly, the system’s omnidirectional microphone was connected via the adaptor and placed pointing upwards at my usual listening position – you can also create profiles for other parts of the room such as a client sofa. I installed the GLM v2.05 software – available in both Mac and Windows versions – on my iMac and started the calibration process: the speakers on the network were identified, the room position of each (the sub having been set off-centre as recommended)

confirmed by dragging icons on a graphical grid while the physical unit being placed emitted an identifying tone. Next, having named the group and selected AES, the microphone’s icon was clicked to start calibrating via a short swept tone from each box that was then analysed, and a suitable EQ correction curve generated. Once the calibration settings were saved, the final step was for the software to set the sub’s relative phase with a low frequency tone. I then started listening to reference material, controlling overall level via a supplied external potentiometer that plugs into the hub and provides a tactile alternative to a mouseable fader on screen. Thanks to the satellites’ small size and the ability of their Iso-Pods to angle down, I was able to place the 8330As on top of my usual speakers to compare the two systems. Despite this being an unfair test because of the significant cost difference, the result surprised me – while there was no doubt that the

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house speaker/Trinnov combination had greater resolution, the Genelecs were much closer in performance than I expected and sounded larger, with a greater bandwidth than their size would suggest. A clue to this could be seen in the GLM frequency plots showing the natural in-room response, the corrected version and the processing required between the two – the ‘before’ and ‘after’ peaks and dips were a close match to those I’ve become familiar with through my own listening and analysis with the other system – a commendable achievement at the price. The subwoofer integrated very well, and in spite of a range of crossover frequencies being available I felt no need to change from the default of 85Hz. Switching the sub out via the software left the satellites with a graceful low-end rolloff to their -6dB points at 45Hz, and while one could work without a sub the presence of one significantly enhanced and smoothed the system.

Conclusion For the engineer on the move, a pair of 8330As with or without a 7350A subwoofer has to be a must-audition on portability grounds alone – I could imagine keeping a number of GLM profiles on a laptop for various places of work and adding new ones as they arose. And for a one-studio rig in stereo or surround, the price-to-performance ratio and flexibility of this little system is exemplary, the ease of setup for what is a sophisticated control process being hard to understate. Genelec has shown the smart loudspeaker concept to be effective at the smaller end of the scale, and looks set to build on that success.

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

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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SENNHEISER AVX WIRELESS SYSTEM

The straightforward-touse AVX series for video camera users is designed to ensure “totally stress-free audio capture”, but does Alistair McGhee agree?

E

ven before you unbox the AVX you can’t fail to notice two things: first, the petite packaging, and secondly the symmetrical positioning of the word Video in the same font and size as the product name. The AVX system is aimed firmly at the video market, where Sennheiser’s analogue G3 systems have long been big players. Sennheiser’s website explains: AVX has a different target group compared to ewG3. G3 offers more options and flexibility for the professional user with an audio and RF background; AVX is for the self-contained videographer who needs to focus on capturing a story. So if you are self-contained and working in video and focused on capturing a story, what might attract you to the AVX? Well first, brand and build. Sennheiser is the biggest name in wireless for a reason, and the build quality of the AVX (I had the handheld kit) is excellent. The transmitter features a standard e835 cardioid capsule (replaceable) in the same – externally at least – package as the D1 system. And like the D1 there’s a smallish LCD screen that I find a little hard to read, showing system name, battery life in hours and signal strength. There’s a power switch with LED that doubles as a pairing indicator and pair button. Pairing is key to the AVX – you don’t worry about frequencies; all you do is press the pair button on the TX and the RX and let the system do the rest. The real joy though is the receiver – a well-finished metal box with a smaller footprint than a credit card, designed to fit a camera. Jutting out at right angles is an XLR and the body of the receiver 36

is rotatable through almost 360º to accommodate local obstructions. Basically, the receiver is small enough to be directly plugged into most cameras and you also get an XLR to mini jack lead if your camera doesn’t have an XLR input. The receiver has a plastic slip-on battery pack, rechargeable via a standard micro USB connector. Press the power button while the receiver is powered up and the four LEDs will glow green with the number lit indicating battery status. My receiver recharged in a couple of hours from a PC USB port. Pressing the AF output button provides access to four audio output levels in 10dB steps, the selected step being visible across the four LEDs – now red for audio level setting. At full whack I needed to give the receiver about 10dB of gain at the line input of a Nagra LB. The handheld also has a rechargeable battery pack and this features a micro USB charging port, though you have to remove the pack to gain access to the socket. Fully charged the handheld will run over 10 hours, while Sennheiser claims over five for the receiver. The sharp-eyed will have clocked that this means you won’t get a full filming day out of the receiver, but remember you are not limited to fixed internal battery packs as you are in some systems, and changing the one in the receiver is a snap. Plus, because the charging connector is externally accessible you can recharge the battery without removing it or indeed power your receiver externally, for instance from a portable battery pack designed for phones or media players. If you have the lavalier system (which I didn’t have to test) the transmitter battery pack can be charged in use or powered by an external micro USB equipped battery pack. One extra power trick: the receiver can be switched on and off via phantom power. Plug the

Key Features AVX into a mic input and when it senses the application of 48V phantom it will power up and if you switch the phantom off the AVX will also switch off.

In Use What about range? Well, in the realworld testing I did, the AVX had better range than the D1 – the AVX works at 1.9GHz so will be less directional than the D1 operating at 2.4GHz. As you get close to your range limit, these systems suffer noticeably if you put your body between the transmitter and the receiver – remember the wave length is a few inches at these frequencies so diffraction isn’t going to help much. The RF performance of my Micron Explorer kit (lavalier) was better and Sennheiser recommends its own analogue G3 kit for more professional applications but you should get 30m outside from the AVX. The AVX units offer antenna diversity and both devices ‘talk’ to each other, exchanging the information required to establish and maintain the radio link. Like most radio systems the AVX has some dynamic processing going on – in the situations I used it I never found it intrusive. For simple video shoots the range shouldn’t be a problem, and as a bonus the 1.9GHz band is much quieter than 2.4GHz (only DECT phones to contend with) and is usable across the world. So what is the downside? Well the niggly problem might be latency. The AVX has a fixed codec related latency of 19mS, which is considerably longer than the 4mS figure for the D1. This means you won’t want to mix AVX systems with analogue systems or even D1s for any

n Operates in the license-free 1.9GHz range n Automatic On/Off function n Handheld and receiver will pair straight away and search for a free frequency n Powered by lithium-ion batteries, rechargeable via USB n Available in three different sets RRP: AVX Handheld Set: £810; AVX Lavalier Set: £810; AVX Lavalier Pro Set: £946.80 (inc VAT) www.sennheiser.com job where you are mixing the audio (unless you have delay compensation on your mixer), although you might get away with multitrack iso recording, accommodating the delay in the dub. The good news is that the delay is fixed and therefore one fixed adjustment at the start of the edit will ensure synchronicity. For a foolproof radio mic kit for video the AVX is hard to beat. In fact I’d say two or three of these in a kit would cover a lot of simple doc work for someone starting out and at a price well below most professional systems. The portability is truly amazing and the plugand-playness of both the RF link and the receiver hardware make it a joy to use.

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

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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AKG D112 MKII MICROPHONE

An admirer of the Mk1, how does Andy Coules feel about this updated version of what was once his go-to kick drum mic? Let’s find out…

B

ack when I first started sound engineering there was only really one choice for your kick drum microphone – the original D112 from AKG. Its familiar ovoid shape was a common sight in recording studios and on the live stage. Over time rival offerings from various other manufacturers have gradually gained popularity and dented the ubiquity of the D112, but now there’s a MKII version, so how does it stack up? A quick comparison of the specs of the original and the MKII suggest that the only real difference is the stand mount. This is quite a significant improvement because the biggest problem with the original D112 was the stand mount. Basically, the shaft of the microphone was only slightly wider than the male XLR connector it housed, which made it much narrower than most common microphones. This meant you had to use the narrow AKG microphone clip that came with it to mount it correctly. Inevitably this specialist piece of gear would either go missing, wear out or break, meaning you had to try to find a microphone clip that would suitably hold the microphone or resort to wrapping the shaft of the microphone in tape until it became thick enough to fit into a standard microphone clip (something which I’ve done many times). This resulted in the original D112 often being tricky to mount precisely. As with all microphones, accurate placement is key to getting the sound you want, but with kick drum microphones it’s even more crucial as many of them exploit the proximity 38

effect to enhance the bottom end of the signal, which means even a variance of a few centimetres can change the sound. So the MKII is similar to the original insofar as the stand mount projects down from the centre of the microphone, however it now houses a standard screw thread enabling it to be connected directly to the microphone stand, obviating the need for a clip. The XLR connector projects from the side and front of this shaft, and the stand mount locks solid in the vertical position and can allow the microphone to swivel backwards up to 90º to accommodate the positioning of the microphone stand at various angles. The joint is reassuringly stiff, suggesting that once positioned it is unlikely to wander. AKG has clearly decided when it comes to the key performance characteristics of the microphone that if it ain’t broken then there’s no need to fix it. The specs of the MKII are almost identical to the original – the bandwidth is 20 to 17,000Hz, the sensitivity is 1.8mV/Pa, the recommended load impedance is 2k Ohms and the electrical impedance is 210 Ohms (the only figure that differs from the original, which was 200 Ohms). Like its predecessor it can handle levels in excess of 160dB SPL before distortion occurs, it has a cardioid polar pattern and the frequency response trace and polar plots are identical to the original.

In Use The microphone was easy to mount on a short boom stand and straightforward to position. I tried it out at two very

Key Features n Improved stand mount n Bass resonance volume chamber n Large diaphragm for delivering accurate low frequencies n Integrated hum-compensation coil n Also suitable for miking bass cabs and trombones RRP: £159 www.akg.com

different gigs – one was in a small London venue and the other was a large outdoor festival. In the small venue it sounded pretty good as soon as I brought the fader up; it just needed a little boost at 50Hz to bring out the bottom end (due to the less than stellar bottom end of the PA system). That was all the EQ I required to get a solid kick drum sound that worked well with pop, rock and indie bands. At the large outdoor festival I had a small issue with positioning the microphone as the kit was sitting very close to the front of the rolling riser, which prevented me from placing the microphone stand on the riser. I always prefer to place the microphone stand on the riser because it ensures the microphone stays in position when it’s wheeled out, but in this instance the microphone stand had to be placed on the floor in front of the riser. When I brought the fader up it sounded good on the large system (an Adamson E12 line array with T12

subs), presenting a solid bottom end, a smooth middle and a well defined top end; the only EQ I applied was a cut in the lower mid region (i.e. 200 to 400Hz) to make it a bit punchier. In this instance I used it in conjunction with a boundary microphone placed inside the kick drum, which I typically use to add a little more of the ‘click’ of the beater sound, but for this show I found myself relying more on just the signal from the D112, which gave me most of what I needed. So there are no real surprises here; regular users of the D112 will be unlikely to notice any difference in the sound of the MKII, while the new stand mount is a big improvement on the original design and should ensure the solid and consistent sound that has made the D112 an industry standard.

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. andycoules.co.uk

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MCDSP SA-2 DIALOG PROCESSOR Mike Minkler

PLUG-IN

Based on hardware originally conceived by top re-recording mixer Mike Minkler, this new piece of kit promises to improve the sound of recorded speech, but does it do the job? Mike Aiton finds out…

D

ialogue is a key part of any movie, television show, documentary, or for that matter any creative media production involving the spoken word. Add to the mix a sweeping musical score, dozens of Foley effects, and plenty more and it becomes clear the job of dialogue mixing is a tall order. After all, if you can’t hear what the actors are saying, you lose the flow of the narrative and the story telling is broken. Veteran Academy Award-winning Hollywood re-recording mixer Mike Minkler has a successful blend of skills that he brings to the table in a film mix. Often, to tell the story, a film mixer has to push dialogue and help it cut through. Boosting high upper mid/HF is one of the starting points, but this can lead to harshness and sibilance if over pushed. To combat this, Mike had an engineer friend of his build a custom hardware box that he would strap across his dialogue bus on the final mix to catch any of these frequent peaks. This box has travelled to many mix stages and was in danger of becoming fragile, so a soft ware solution was required. Genius Welsh mix tech Ceri Thomas, who was working with Mike, suggested that the chaps at McDSP would be the right guys to successfully achieve this, so after much clever hard work, the SA-2 Dialogue Processor has now been born. The SA-2 Dialog Processor is made up of five bands of strategic active 40

Key Features

equalisation configurable in a variety of modes. Each band has a threshold control to determine at what signal level the active equaliser begins to affect the signal. There are also enable buttons for each band to quickly audition the effect of any given band (a band on and off switch). There are two mode selectors: one for controlling the timebase ballistics of the active equalisation (from gentle to severe), and a second for adjusting the width of the five bands in the frequency spectrum, from narrow, via normal, to wide. Finally, there are input and output gain controls for overall adjustment. Being McDSP, it is available in AAX Native and AAX DSP formats – vital for the film and TV post world – as well as AU and VST.

In Use I was curious as to what the band frequencies chosen were, so I put some pink noise into the plug-in and analysed the output by turning on the various bands. The five bands would seem to be 3kHz, 5kHz, 7kHz, 9kHz and 11kHz. I then strapped the SA-2 across my dialogue bus in a feature mix. The location dialogue for this film is very problematic, as it was shot in central London with a fast turnaround and a low budget. I have had to use considerable Cedar DNS One processing to salvage the dialogue. The dialogue tracks have had considerable LF and LMF processing to remove

traffic and construction sounds, and this can lead to slightly spiky and strident dialogue, as the frequency balance is uneven. Once I had dialled in a reasonable threshold, I tried the SA-2 on the Gentle (timebase) and Narrow (freq) with all bands in. Wow! It’s not often this old timer’s jaw hits the floor, but my dialogue all of a sudden had no ‘premix inconsistencies’ and any of my dialogue premix excesses were deftly handled. The dialogue had a roundness and smoothness to it. I have also used this on some documentary voiceover recordings, where there were some broadband HF peaks – the SA-2 tamed them beautifully. To view the SA-2 as a de-esser is to slightly miss the point. It can de-ess, but it is not a broadband de-esser, in that it does not kill the HF. Nor is it a surgical tool as indeed some de-essers claim to be. The SA-2 is designed to improve the overall sound of recorded speech and is a broad stroke tool that to my mind beautifully suits being a ‘bus tamer’. It achieves this job that would otherwise require quite a few de-essers very carefully set indeed. But the SA-2 is not just for dialogue. It’s equally useful for vocals, and is a great tool for adjusting the timbre of any track; I have also had success using it on my Foley bus to tame spiky presence peaks where the Foley is not as ambient as I would like and doesn’t have a room acoustic to ‘smooth the frequency response’.

n n n n

Unique signal reduction metering Double precision processing Ultra low latency Mono and stereo versions

RRP: $149 (Native) or $249 (HD) www.mcdsp.com I started reviewing this plug-in with a slightly cynical and marginally pessimistic outlook and came away knowing it will now be a template stalwart. I was so impressed that I am now off piste exploring other McDSP plug-ins, which somehow I seem to have passed by in my mixing travels. The plug-in is Stereo or Mono only. It would be nice to have a multichannel version, as centre channel dialogue is just an opening gambit – the gloves are off regarding dialogue placement in multichannel (even LFE use) these days. A colleague of mine, Alan Sallabank, wondered if the reason why it is not multichannel might be because using it on a bus master or group wouldn’t be any use for object-based mixing, such as Dolby Atmos. This is a very good point indeed, but I still think it would be a very nice option to have a surround version.

The Reviewer Mike Aiton was weaned at the BBC, but after breaking free nearly 25 years ago and becoming one of London’s busiest freelance dubbing mixers, he can now mostly be found in his Twickenham dubbing suite, mikerophonics.

November 2015

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INTERVIEW

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SOUNDS OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS

Having recently won a second Primetime Emmy for Game of Thrones, production sound mixer Ronan Hill talks to AMI about the challenges he regularly faces, working in tough locations and what’s on his gear list…

The DPA 4071s are definitely the way to go for a natural sound with great isolation. The accessories are very useful, although at this stage we have adapted and created a few of our own. They are more fragile than other lavs but DPA has taken measures to rectify this. Time will tell.

Credit: Helen Sloan SMPSP You’ve said before that Game of Thrones gets bigger and better every year. Has your role therefore got more challenging since the beginning? I don’t think my role has got more challenging but it certainly hasn’t got any easier. Scenes can be complex with a large character count and involved action. When you throw difficult costumes, smoke and snow into the mix there aren’t many easy days. However, the crew on Dragon unit, across all departments, give us great support and do everything they can to make it work for us.

shot exterior in difficult, inaccessible locations, which may also be hostile to RF. Our local weather is also a challenge. I remember one morning in particular when we were shooting the shoreline scenes on Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8). There was horizontal rain. It was one of those rare occasions were you feel filming is impractical and someone will make the decision to send us home. When the decision was made it was to set up four cameras and shoot. In studios with up to 200kW of lighting power the equipment must also work at high temperatures.

Has sound become a more important part of the whole production? Having producer Greg Spence attached to the project from the pilot ensured sound was always important. He has supported me through the seasons to ensure ADR is kept to a minimum. His influence with departments ensures their negative impact on production sound is negligible. He keeps a close ear to each episode right through to the final mix.

What are the main items on your kit list that you couldn’t do without? I am still mixing on a Cooper 208D. It sounds as good as ever and and the only reason I can imagine changing it is for a desk with more channels. The Sound Devices 788T SSD is my main recorder. The 788T has proved extremely durable and reliable for the job. I contacted Sound Devices at the end of Season 1 and during the subsequent seasons, to ask if they planned to release a recorder with more inputs, as on a show like Game of Thrones with only eight inputs I am maxed out a lot of the time. I can only

It must be difficult having to work in so many different environments? Where do I start! A lot of the show is 42

hope a replacement with at least 16 fully-fledged inputs and bulletproof – or should I say swordproof – limiters is just around the corner. I have used Audio Ltd 2040s since Season 1 and I am hoping any day now to receive one of the first of their new digital radio mic systems for testing. An internal SD card recorder seems like a great belt and braces idea and encryption I imagine will become mandatory in the future. What are the main mics you’re using at the minute? Are you still mostly working with Sennheisers and DPAs? I have three Sennheiser MKH 60s and an MKH 70, which I use for exteriors. For interiors I have four MKH 50s. I also have two MKH 8050s and two MKH 8040s with all the accessories, which allow us to break them down and place them in areas too small for the 50s. For Season 6 I purchased three of Rycote’s new Cyclone baskets and suspensions for the 60s, to cope with the local weather. They sound more open than the old baskets and are proving to be an asset in our fight against the elements. I also purchased a couple of their new softie wind covers for the MKH 60s and 50s.

Has your set-up changed much over the years? My set-up hasn’t changed that much from Season 1. The most recent change was upgrading my IEM system from the Sennheiser 300 series to the Sennheiser 2050 transmitter and 2000 receivers, allowing greater flexibility. I don’t run a return for video playback to the mixer; instead I provide a transmitter for video on an adjacent channel. By pressing one button on the IEM receiver it can be switched from ‘Sound’ to ‘Video’ depending on whether you want direct sound or playback. It can also be utilised for two-zone use. How does working on a series like Game of Thrones compare to other well-known projects you’ve been involved with, like The Fall? It has been great over the last few years to be able to work on a huge multi-awardwinning show like Game of Thrones – a period fantasy drama – and contrast this with The Fall, which is a highly acclaimed contemporary drama. In both shows we are trying to achieve the same results: pristine dialogue and stereo effects where possible. The Fall gives me more scope to capture the texture of Belfast to give the drama an authentic feel. Have you got anything else lined up at the moment, other than Season 6 of Game of Thrones? There have been a few outline calls for potential jobs in the new year and it’s great to see Belfast busy and continuing to blossom as a centre of excellence for film and television drama. I haven’t agreed to a deal on any job yet and at the minute my head is full of Game of Thrones.

November 2015

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