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

November 2016

IN THE DOGG HOUSE How to exceed expectations for a studio build when your client is one of the biggest names in hip hop p26

FEATURE

FINAL CUT

REVIEW

We talk to a trio of Tony Awardwinning sound designers p18

What’s it like working with The Wachowskis? We find out p24

Getting to grips with the Shure KSM8 p32


A series of high-intensity touring and installation loudspeakers, engineered for even coverage, outstanding control and unforgettable audience experiences.

Evolution Series www.funktion-one.com


WELCOME EDITOR Adam Savage asavage@nbmedia.com

Experts in the issue

A STEP BACKWARDS?

MANAGING EDITOR Jo Ruddock jruddock@nbmedia.com STAFF WRITER Colby Ramsey cramsey@nbmedia.com ADVERTISING MANAGER Ryan O’Donnell rodonnell@nbmedia.com

Paul Arditti is a multi awardwinning sound designer and associate director at London’s National Theatre

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

Audio Media International is published by NewBay, The Emerson Building, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU, England.

David Hamilton-Smith has had an extensive career in music production, television and film postproduction. He has worked on numerous prestigious projects that have won top awards including Emmys and BAFTAs and his experience spans many aspects of sound recording.

Stevie Haywood is a production sound mixer. Recent projects include Sense8, HIM and The Night Manager.

Editorial tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6002 Sales tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6000 Audio Media International ISSN number: ISSN 2057-5165 (Print) Circulation & Subscription enquiries Tel: +44 (0)1580 883848 email: audiomedia.subscriptions@c-cms.com Printed by Pensord Press Ltd Front Cover: AMS Neve

© NewBay 2016. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owners.

Joe Kearns is a freelance producer specialising in pop music who has worked extensively with Ellie Goulding, and most recently recorded and produced vocals for the new Little Mix album

JHS PRO AUDIO SALES MANAGER South of England and the whole of Ireland. Reporting directly to Executive Director level, the successful candidate will be an experienced distribution sales professional, responsible for demonstrating and selling the Company’s sound reinforcement products within the defined territory. We seek a well-educated, self-motivated, outgoing individual, with a thorough knowledge of the Commercial/Pro-Audio/Concert sound sectors, with excellent organisational ICT and time management skills, tenacity and determination, with the ability to train and motivate others and capable of closing sales at all levels.

don’t know whether it’s because I’ve had theatre sound on the brain lately due to the article we’ve been putting together for this issue on the topic, or the fact that I admire it every day on my way into the office, but the fierce reaction to the recent news that Shakespeare’s Globe has opted to part ways with its artistic director Emma Rice caught my eye to such an extent that I felt compelled to bring it up here. Some of you might be wondering what this has got to do with pro-audio, so if you’re not familiar with the world-renowned theatre’s change of direction under Rice’s leadership, then basically she’s the person responsible for bringing the venue into the modern era by implementing sound and lighting technology, generating “huge creative and critical acclaim.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, as we’re talking about an institution that prides itself on providing playing conditions as close as possible to the original Globe built at the turn of the 17th century, the response to the new approach from

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regulars and newcomers has been mixed, but from what I’ve seen, the Globe Board’s decision to revert back to theatre programming “structured around ‘shared light’ productions without designed sound and light rigging” hasn’t gone down well in this industry. It’s an interesting debate. On one side you’ve got the die-hard traditionalists who feel it should stick to the way it’s always done things; on the other there’s the group who believe Rice’s methods are what The Great Bard himself would’ve wanted. After all, he was known for consistently breaking the mould back in his day, so who’s to say that he wouldn’t welcome a new production of Macbeth backed by a whacking great sound system and dazzling light show? Of course, we’ll never know the answer to that, but I’m one of those who thinks that the best way to introduce the next generation of theatre goers to these classic works is to figure out how best to utilise the brilliant new technology now available, but I do appreciate that the decision was not an easy one. Which brings me on to our feature. If you’d rather hear from people who do know the benefits of a fully loaded sound and light setup, then page 18 is where you’ll find them and their thoughts on how advancing audio tech has led to better productions. And I don’t know many who will disagree with that.

Adam Savage Editor Audio Media International

A centrally located residence within the Southern England portion of the territory is preferred, and a willingness to travel extensively within the sales territory is a pre-requisite for the successful applicant. Relocation support would be considered for an outstanding candidate. • Expenses provision – company vehicle • Expenses provision – accommodation and meals • ICT equipment and services as deemed necessary by the company (currently iPhone and iPad). To apply for this position visit: www.jhs.co.uk/news/category/careers

November 2016

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CONTENTS

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PRODUCT NEWS

FEATURES

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QSC expands TouchMix family

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Radial releases a host of new products at AES LA

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API launches Legacy AXS

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1176-KT compressor new from Klark Teknik

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THEATRE SOUND A trio of award-winning sound designers talk about their attitudes towards today’s audio tech

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FINAL CUT Production sound mixers Stevie Haywood and Barry O’Sullivan recount one of the most challenging shows they’ve worked on – Sense8

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STUDIO PROFILE Colby Ramsey takes us around Snoop Dogg’s Beach City Music, featuring three new futuristic and flexible studios

OPINION David Hamilton-Smith on why Foley artists should get more recognition Studio People’s Jamie Keeling on what motivates him in his line of work INTERVIEW Producer and mixer Joe Kearns talks about working with Ellie Goulding and life after British Grove

TECHNOLOGY 28

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT Power amplifiers

Photo: Marc Brenner

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REVIEWS 32 34 36 38 40

Shure KSM8 Focusrite Clarett Octopre Adam Audio S1X iZotope Neutron Tascam DR-100mkIII


THE LEO FAMILY TRUE SOUND IN LINE ARRAYS.

The LEO Family provides power and clarity for nearly every application, from intimate performance spaces to the world’s largest outdoor festivals. LEOPARD, the smallest in the family, is gaining a following for being the most lightweight and versatile line array in its class. From small to midsize to large-scale, this family of line arrays has you covered.

meyersound.com/believeit


PRODUCT NEWS

D&B BOLSTERS XS LINE d&b audiotechnik has made two new additions to its xS series of point source loudspeakers. The 24S and 24S-D all feature redesigned front grilles making them more unobtrusive than ever before. The new units are said to be suited for permanent applications including nightclubs, live performance venues, houses of worship, multipurpose centres and sports venues. Differing only in horizontal dispersion, with 75° x 45° and 110° x 45° (h x v) respectively, the 24S and 24S-D house two 12in LF drivers in a dipolar arrangement and a single horn-loaded 1.4in exit compression driver. This HF horn is rotatable, meaning the 24S/24S-D can be mounted either vertically or horizontally. By separating the LF drivers, they achieve

constant directivity control in the same plane as the dipole down to approximately 500Hz. The units also have a frequency response extending from 55Hz to 18kHz. With this extended bandwidth, the 24S and 24S-D point source loudspeakers are a truly standalone option, while for applications with bass-heavy programme material, the new 21S-SUB provides additional low end support from a conveniently small footprint. www.dbaudio.com

TSL AND CINELA’S VR REVEAL Broadcast equipment manufacturer TSL Products has collaborated once again with windshield specialist Cinela to produce the PIANI-SPS200, which it is calling the ‘ultimate virtual reality recording package.’ The two companies previously worked together to house a custom short body version of TSL’s SoundField SPS200 ambisonics microphone within Cinela’s ZEPHYX windshield to create a portable, robust and reliable recording system. The success of that partnership led to this latest project that enables surround sound and VR content creators to capture highquality, immersive sound with the absolute minimum of handling and wind noise to complement their images, TSL says. The PIANI-SPS200 is comprised of TSL Products’ SoundField Standard SPS200 mic slotted into the Cinela Pianissimo windshield, which contains flexible inner extensions using SoundField’s original connectors, maximising the isolation of vibration and noise handling. Users can purchase each element

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separately and need only connect them via the regular extension provided with the microphone, near the swivel. The SPS200 Software Controlled Microphone can capture SoundField B-Format, surround and stereo simultaneously. The lightweight microphone (approximately 220 grams) is powered by standard 48V phantom power and incorporates four low noise, studio-grade condenser capsules. www.tslproducts.com www.cinela.fr

www.audiomediainternational.com

APOGEE ANNOUNCES ELEMENT SERIES Apogee used the recent AES show to introduce its Element Series, along with a Dante network option card for its flagship Symphony I/O MkII interface. The range comprises three Thunderbolt I/O boxes for Mac: Element 24 (10-in, 12-out), Element 46 (12-in, 14-out) and Element 88 (16-in, 16-out), delivering a new control ecosystem that features ‘an advanced blend of software and hardware options’ as well as Apogee Ensemble recording quality in simple form factors. The Elements utilise Apogee’s Thunderbolt driver for 1.41ms roundtrip latency when using Logic Pro X, and the series also incorporates Apogee Groove’s headphone output technology. This design dynamically optimises sound quality for a wide variety of headphones, regardless of their impedance. The highly configurable Element Control software for

Mac is designed to let users set up workflows that meet their needs and the Element Control for iOS App allows them to control the Elements remotely over WiFi. Logic Pro X users can adjust Element I/O settings directly from their Logic channel strips and for those wanting more traditional desktop control, there’s the optional Control hardware, featuring an Apogee Duet-like form-factor with eight assignable buttons and a master control knob. Prices range from $595 for the Apogee Element 24 to $1,495 for the Element 88. www.apogeedigital.com

QSC EXPANDS TOUCHMIX FAMILY QSC has introduced TouchMix-30 Pro, the new 32-channel member of the TouchMix family, with immediate availability in select markets. Aimed at production professionals, musicians and bands as well as live performance venues, TouchMix-30 Pro promises ‘a new standard for performance in a compact digital mixer with features and functionality that will satisfy the most demanding professional, while also providing an intuitive workflow that delivers great results, quickly and easily, to users at every level of experience.’ With 32 mixing channels (24 mic/line, six line, stereo USB) and 16 outputs, the mixer offers ‘tremendous signal management flexibility for a wide range of applications’.

Additionally, it offers numerous features typical of a TouchMix Series console, including 24 Class A microphone preamps and over 120 live instrument, microphone and other audio source presets created in live environments providing mix-ready channel settings. List price is $2,359.99 with a US estimated street price of $1,899.99. www.qsc.com


MAGDALENA | BERLIN

GS-WAVE SERIES Bringing energy back to a former power plant in Berlin, the phenomenal sound system at techno club Magdalena comprises eight 3-metre GS-WAVE stacks plus extra subs and lenses, and eight tweeter pods above the dance oor. This huge installation, driven by Powersoft’s K Series amps with built-in DSP, provides total coverage of a modestly sized 800-capacity room. Keeping most of its power in reserve, the system can run effortlessly when the club is open for days at a time.

Pioneerproaudio | pioneerproaudio.com | #madeintheuk


PRODUCT NEWS

RADIAL RELEASES NEW ‘PROBLEM SOLVERS’ Radial Engineering announced a number of new products at the AES Show in Los Angeles. First up is the LX2 Passive Line Splitter and Attenuator, which allows users to send a single source to two different destinations at once without noise, with the ability to attenuate the input signal and tame hot outputs from a mixing console or mic preamp. The input of the LX2 features an XLR/TRS combo jack for connecting balanced or unbalanced line level signals to be split to two different destinations. The LX3 (pictured) is also a Passive Line Splitter, designed to send one audio signal to up to three destinations at once; it is completely passive with no need for power.

The Studio Q Desktop Talkback and Cue System with built-in mic is a simple, compact device that enables convenient communication between the artist and engineer when in the studio. Finally, the JDX Direct-Drive is described as a unique and powerful device that simulates the sound of a guitar amplifier while doubling up as a direct box. www.radialeng.com

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YAMAHA ADDS TO MT SERIES Yamaha has announced the launch of the HPH-MT8 and HPH-MT5, the latest additions to its MT Series of professional studio monitoring headphones. The HPH-MT8 and HPH-MT5 feature custom drivers equipped with 45mm and 40mm CCAW voice coils respectively, along with neodymium magnets to achieve precise definition and control. Made from aluminium wire coated in highly conductive copper, the lightweight drivers deliver a broad frequency response of 15Hz-28kHz in the MT8 and 20Hz-20kHz in the MT5. Other features include a comfortably-fitting closedback, circumaural configuration with solid ABS housing and a sweat-resistant headband, while the large ear pads

feature smooth synthetic leather and low-resistance cushions which absorb excess vibrations and reduce sound leakage, providing stress-free wearability over extended periods. The HPH-MT8 and HPH-MT5 both include a detachable straight 3m cable, equipped with corrosion-resistant gold-plated stereo mini-plug and 6.3mm stereo adaptor, allowing them to be used with both professional audio equipment and portable audio players. The MT8 is also supplied with a detachable 1.2m coiled cable. www.yamahaproaudio.com

Audio showcontrol Dynamic delay-matrix Moving 3D surround TimeLine and PanSpace

Spatial wizardry 3D performer tracking for real-time vocal localisation

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Inspiring Every Moment Audio-Technica’s In-Ear Monitor Headphones Bringing the worldwide critically acclaimed sonic signature of the M-Series to an in-ear design, the Audio-Technica in-ear monitor headphones have been designed to fully answer the needs of demanding sound professionals and musicians from the studio to the stage and the DJ Booth.

www.audio-technica.com

www.audio-technica.com

ATH-E70

ATH-E50

ATH-E40


PRODUCT NEWS

API LAUNCHES LEGACY AXS API has strengthened its line-up of largeformat recording and mixing consoles with the Legacy AXS, which made its debut at the AES Show. The new Legacy AXS continues API’s commitment to an all-analogue signal path with an ‘expanded and powerful feature set.’ The console frames range from 32 to 80 channels, with each channel offering dual input capability and access to two API 200 Series module slots. One key aspect of the design is a return to the traditional 1.5in module width

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standard, which allows for the use of API’s 500 Series equalisers on a perchannel basis. The console also features a complete centre section that includes six automated stereo echo returns with motorised faders, 5.1 surround monitoring and a builtin 2500C stereo bus compressor, along with onboard or remote patchbay facilities to complete the system. A DAW/producer’s desk is just one of many customisable options available, and the first AXS console has already been ordered by Strange Weather Studio’s Marc Alan Goodman and Daniel Schlett for an extensive upgrade of their Brooklyn, New York facility. Goodman commented: “We made a list of everything we could ever want in a console, and the API AXS checked off every box!” www.apiaudio.com

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ATC INTRODUCES SCM12 MONITOR ATC has announced the availability of the SCM12 Pro – a two-way compact passive nearfield monitor. The SCM12 Pro is designed to offer a compact, installation-friendly footprint suited to nearfield monitoring as well as multichannel music and post-production. The tweeter is a 25mm/1in soft-dome designed around ATC’s dual-suspension technology. Unlike conventional tweeters, this precision part employs two suspensions, promising greater control of the voice coil and dome motion – especially at higher sound pressure levels. At the lower end of the frequency spectrum, mid/bass reproduction is handled by ATC’s 6in proprietary CLD drive unit. Using a 1.75in-diameter voice coil, and employing

an FEA (Finite Element Analysis) optimised high-energy symmetric gap motor system, the driver is capable of huge dynamic range with minimal power compression, the firm says. An install-specific sibling, the SCM12i, will also be available as of early next year. This will feature threaded mounting points to mate with widely-available wall and ceiling brackets from K&M and Adaptive Technologies to simplify installation – useful in complex multichannel systems. www.atcloudspeakers.co.uk


PRODUCT NEWS

KLARK TEKNIK’S NEW 1176-KT COMPRESSOR ARRIVES

The 1176-KT FET-style compressor has a modernised and discrete signal path utilising custom-engineered Midas input and output transformers. With an easy to operate user interface, the compressor offers three ratios: 4:1 for moderate compression; 8:1 for severe compression: 12:1 for mild limiting; and 20:1 for hard limiting. Additionally, ‘Allbutton’ mode is included for aggressive vocals and is said to be especially effective when applied to drums, bass, guitar and room microphones. An attack knob adjusts the time it takes for the compressor to respond to audio that exceeds the threshold. To accompany this, a release knob adjusts how long

the compressor remains engaged after incoming audio falls below the threshold. An illuminated vintage-style VU meter keeps the 1176-KT in style with the original Klark Teknik processor, applying visual confirmation of gain reduction and output level based on which meter button is selected. The 1176-KT comes in a 2U steel rack mount enclosure for live touring. Neutrik XLR connectors ensure reliable audio connection while a universal power supply with auto-voltage sensing is included for worldwide usability. The unit comes with a suggested list price of $689.99. www.music-group.com

Reinventing the large sound system

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www.audiomediainternational.com

LEWITT LCT 640 TS NOW SHIPPING The LCT 640 TS from Lewitt is now available in the UK through distributor JHS & Co. The new microphone’s multi-pattern large-diaphragm condenser makes it possible to adjust the polar pattern post-recording, and it features a dualoutput mode that enables engineers to record the front and back diaphragm of the capsule individually, as well as change and fine-tune the polar pattern seamlessly all the way from

omnidirectional to figure-8 and turn the recording direction of the microphone by 180° even after the recording session has been completed. The dual capsule can also be used for interactive face-to-face duets between musicians. Another useful feature is the ability to record ‘Mid Side’ stereo with only one LCT 640 TS. Musicians and engineers just have to point the side of the microphone to the source they want to record. The process of changing or finetuning the polar pattern is done via Polarizer, a newly developed DAW plug-in that comes bundled with the microphone. The LCT 640 TS from Lewitt carries a UK RRP of £959. www.lewitt-audio.com


OPINION

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APPRECIATING THE ART OF FOLEY

David Hamilton-Smith explains why he feels the work that goes into reproducing sound effects the old fashioned way has never really got the attention it deserves. DAVID HAMILTON-SMITH

oley is the industry-wide term used for adding a variety of sounds to pictures. It is, in my opinion, one of the least appreciated of the recording arts for the very reason that it should never be noticed. Unlike flashy explosions, pulsating music and weird sci-fi noises built by sound designers, the work of the Foley artist remains subliminal. Yet we hear their work on films and television every day. Developed by sound engineers in the 1920s from a need to increase the ‘realism’ of their radio plays, the activity of recording sound effects on films derived its name from one specialist, Jack Donovan Foley, who worked for Universal Studios. Back then everything had to be done at once as there was only one track to record on. This meant a team of people to make every noise required, and they had to be very accurate. Today’s almost limitless digital tracks and technology means two things: 1) the large teams of yesteryear are gone – one or two people can cover each scene while dubbing mixers add new tracks on each pass, and 2) if there’s a mistake we can very quickly edit/move/re-record any effect we have recorded. Theoretically, therefore, it doesn’t have to be perfect. So surely anyone can be a Foley artist? My answer is an emphatic “No!” It is not just a question of duplicating what is on the screen and recording that actual noise

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in a soundproofed booth. It often requires lateral thinking to create effective sounds. I tip my hat to whoever was the first Foley artist to slice a cabbage and then drop it into a basket to denote a guillotine beheading. I worked with the late Beryl ‘Footsteps’ Mortimer on many occasions. She always surprised me with how she created sounds. Once we had a man trudging through snow. The location sound was badly distorted. I was curious as to how Beryl would approach replacing these in our sound booth. “We’ll do it like we always do, dear,” she said. Clueless as to what she meant, I blustered, “Of course!” She removed a roll of cotton wool from her Tardis of a bag, placed the roll close up to the microphone and tore the wool on each step. Perfect! On another session for a short animated film about growing people like plants in pots (don’t ask!) we couldn’t find the right sound for their limbs stretching as they grew. We called Beryl in. Immediately she took a wooden mortar and pestle out of the Tardis and ground the two together in time with each movement. Again, perfect!

Watch and learn Over the years I have learnt a lot from watching these experts ply their trade. On a Ruby Wax show when we needed to make the sound of eels moving over each other – the actuality had buzzing all over it and they hardly made any noise. I went to the kitchen and brought some liquid soap and a bowl into the booth. My assistant recorded me ringing my gloopy hands under the mic. It sounded exactly like slithering eels. Most dubbing mixers have a vast store of digital effects on hard drives. And yes, of course we have a huge library of footsteps. So why don’t we dub them ourselves? Answer: because it would take us far too long, and I know it would never be as good. I might attempt a short sequence but never an entire project. For me, recreating footsteps would be an utterly thankless task if it wasn’t for the skills of Foley artists. This, along with recording ‘cloth’ (all the sounds the actors’

Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio (2012) Photo: Warp X

clothing would make as they move), I believe, more than justifies their invaluable role. Whether it is a sitcom, a drama, a film, or an animation I will always use Foley experts whenever possible for their speed, their choices of sounds and their ingenuity. I think they add a great deal. We replace, and/or add to, various sounds recorded on location for a variety of reasons – extraneous noises that intrude upon the dialogue like aircraft, sirens, technical glitches etc. During a particularly poignant scene in a drama I was dubbing, the director’s chosen takes had the sound of doves cooing loudly from their nest in the eves! This required ADR and Foley to repair. Sometimes a director decides to re-record the actors for performance reasons, so every sound in those scenes has to be dubbed back on. On feature films and high-end dramas the demand for the entire project’s sound separates, from which alternative language versions can be made, meaning that every scene has to have every sound dubbed on. Doing this without the expertise of Foley artists is possible, but it would take forever and the result would never be up to their standard. Also having the Foley tracks to play with on the final mix gives the engineer the greatest possible scope for creativity. A post-production schedule includes time for the dubbing mixer to ‘fit’ the Foley before creating a sub-mix. Foley artists build their reputations on being fast

and accurate. This ‘fitting’ time is simply because no matter how good the person creating the effects might be, there will always be sounds that benefit from being moved slightly earlier or later. The better the artist, the fewer the tweaks. There can be understandable confusion as to where spot effects, background atmospheres, sound design and Foley begin and end. Often I’ll add in ‘spot effects’ like doors, gun shots, explosions etc, but I always make a definitive list of exactly what we need the Foley artists to cover so as not to duplicate or omit essential sounds. Foley is definitely an ‘art’. These professionals live with the irony that their work, by its very nature, has to go virtually unnoticed. Every sound they create is designed to create believable environments in viewers’ minds. My colleagues and I appreciate every noise they continue to make. David Hamilton-Smith has had an extensive career in music production, television and film postproduction. He has worked on many prestigious projects that have won top awards including Emmys and BAFTAs. His experience spans every aspect of sound recording, including dialogue editing, Foley, ADR, spot effects, music editing, sound design, background atmospheres, location recording, live mixing, pre-mixing, music composition, lyric writing, over-dubbing, mixing and mastering.


OPINION

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THE IMPORTANCE OF A PROFESSIONAL RAISON D’ÊTRE Jamie Keeling of media facility design and build company Studio People on what motivates him in his line of work.

JAMIE KEELING

t is obvious to me that over the past decade or so, the landscape of the world has changed dramatically, and continues to do so: the music industry was turned upside down with the birth of digital media; educational institutions have taken their courses online due to increasing demand, the need for geographical flexibility and the dynamic approach the online market place offers; and people the world over are expecting more depth from their lives both personally and professionally. I’m seeing more and more people who want to use their skills in a career that gives them freedom to learn and grow, and to make a difference to the problems we face. Another way of looking at this, is that the ‘Why?’ question is becoming increasingly more important and relevant than the ‘What?’ and the ‘How?’ both for individuals and businesses alike. This is something we can’t afford to ignore, lest we be left behind like the record companies who said MP3 downloads would never take off. The Studio People and companies like it at every level of the media industry are important in today’s world not because of what we do, or how we do it, but because of why we do it. It’s true that we build cutting-edge creative environments for our clients, yet this is not the main driving force that gets us out of bed in the morning. That comes from our ‘why?’, which is quite simply to change the face

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of the earth for the better; to set the foundations of a legacy that will allow following generations to take what we’ve started and run with it. You see, businesses like ours that work tirelessly to build the backbone of the media industry are doing much more than just building creative environments and the infrastructures that feed them – we are creating cutting-edge environments whose sole purpose is to nurture the people that use them to be the very best versions of themselves imaginable, and then some. This is important for a lot of reasons – primarily though, because these are the people who are, or will be, creating the immeasurable amount of content that is spewing forth into the world. With the hyper-connected global society we live in today, billions of people have seemingly limitless information at their fingertips; never before has digital content had so much power and reach, enabling it to affect the hearts and minds of so many people in such a short space of time. This is why the quality of the content we produce and distribute is so important. Put simply, more high-quality content, being consumed by more and more people, is resulting in our ability to facilitate a powerhouse paradigm shift unlike any other ever before witnessed.

Content is king This content has the power to affect individuals and societies from the micro to the macro. At the individual level, it is changing our perception of behaviours and practices we should no longer tolerate and those we should actively promote. At the macro level, the content we produce is educating entire societies, even whole countries, and is facilitating new ways of thinking and collaborating to accelerate our conscious evolution in the hope that we can catch up with our technological evolution before we destroy ourselves. As it stands, we have yet to find that delicate balance, as our technology threatens to run away with us. With connectivity and abundant content at our fingertips, the governments and mainstream media companies that previously dominated the supply of information are the gatekeepers no longer. We live in truly exciting times, and never before has our industry, or the companies that play in this marketplace, been more relevant or more important to our ongoing evolution on so many levels. What truly excites me though, is the effect we in the media industry (be that at the grass roots construction level, or the content creation and distribution level)

can have on the young hearts and minds coming through our outdated education systems. These people are the next generation of business leaders, politicians and humanitarians – it is these people who will use the tools we give them to change our institutionalised viewpoints and archaic paradigms in ways we can only imagine. For this reason, we must give them all the tools they need to set them up for success. These tools are the creative environments we build, the AV equipment we perpetually innovate and the social media platforms that provide the uncensored launchpad for getting cutting-edge content out into the world. So, we are here to change the world; whether that be through giving the young people of today access to ‘better than industry standard’ facilities in which to learn and grow, or in building the very best creative environments in which the professional content creators of today can produce their best work by allowing their creative juices to flow unabated. This is what fuels the fire of our passion; this is what gets us out of bed in morning. So, what’s your ‘why’? Jamie Keeling is contracts director at UK studio design specialist Studio People.


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


FEATURE: THEATRE SOUND

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SETTING THE STAGE

Lucian Msamati as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus at the National Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

We hear from three Tony Award-winning sound designers about their attitudes towards modern audio equipment and their gear preferences, along with what’s been keeping them busy lately. couple of years have passed now since the US-based Tony Award Administration Committee’s highly controversial move to axe its Best Sound Design categories, but the wounds have still not fully healed. Although it never became entirely clear why the decision was made, reports suggested that it was a combination of Committee members seeing it as just a technical craft and not an art form, and that Tony voters have neither the expertise nor an understanding of what sound design actually is. Well we un derstand, and disagree with that first point entirely, which is why we thought it was important to

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highlight some of the brilliant work that these people do here. We were pleased to be able to get hold of three previous Tony winners – Scott Lehrer (Death of a Salesman), Clive Goodwin (Once) and the National Theatre’s (NT) Paul Arditti (Billy Elliot) – to talk to us about their craft and the impact of new audio technology on their profession.

The times they are a-changing With a background in the theatre that can be traced back to the early 1980s, as well as a list of Broadway credits that could probably fill this page alone and a string of award wins that includes the first ever Tony for Sound Design in 2008, Lehrer is certainly well placed to discuss this subject.

When asked to tell us what he feels are some of the significant advancements in recent history, though, interestingly it wasn’t the continued rise of line array technology, for example, that first sprung to mind – he’ll come on to that later – but comms systems and source-oriented reinforcement – other areas that aren’t as “sexy,” as Lehrer puts it, yet are crucial all the same. “For a long time and on a lot of shows in the US at least we’ve been using analogue Clear-Com that’s been around since the late 1970s but now they’ve come out with HelixNet, which is very straightforward to set up and so far super reliable. I’ve introduced that on my last couple of shows and that’s made a big difference for our operators and engineers as far as ease of setup and sound quality,” he explains.

“Then there are things like TiMax. Since the 1980s I’ve been trying to work with the idea of time as an element of the system being really important but the technology just wasn’t there until about 15 years ago. TiMax allows me to do time-based system management and get musicals with voices imaged better to the stage. If you’re not trying to do a lot of loud reinforcement then it works really well. I also find that in musicals when using time-based systems, even if I get my orchestra loud, I can steer the audience’s hearing via time, which with a large audience is a lot more effective than level.” Goodwin didn’t have to think long when faced with the same question – his opinion on what the biggest change has been tech-wise is clear.


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FEATURE: THEATRE SOUND

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‘The King and I’ at Broadway’s Lincoln Center Theatre was another successful recent project for Scott Lehrer

“I think the biggest development over the past 10-15 years has been digital consoles. Theatre sound has taken a huge leap forward in that you can put delay times on the actors’ microphones so they time-align depending on where they are on stage, scenes within scenes so you can program mixes and which mics are going to be on. Being able to have all those facilities fully recallable has been so good for sound design,” he states. “I can control remotely from my iPad and wander around the theatre making changes. It’s probably the biggest thing that’s happened to sound design since the invention of sound systems all those years ago.” Arditti takes a broader view and responds by outlining the efficiency of the modern theatre system as a whole, and the benefits of easy interconnectivity between the various elements. “As computers have got exponentially faster and more capacious, and networking has become more sophisticated, technology has moved us in unexpected directions. Now we 20

November 2016

can connect entire complex systems together in seconds with a few network cables, and create content in a theatre or rehearsal room with a laptop containing an entire recording studio. We can recall settings instantaneously across every component in a system from mic to speaker,” he notes. However, like in so many other areas of the industry, technology may have sped up the process but this can simply lead to more testing demands, but Arditti in fact welcomes this: “As everything gets faster and easier, more is expected of us in the same timeframe, which is also fun. I always push myself, or am pushed by others, to achieve something new on each project, and whether it’s mastering some ace new software, or learning to tune some amazing new speakers in an unfamiliar room, the challenge of the new technology is always out there.”

An array of positives Speaker technology has also come on leaps and bounds of course, but what do our sound designers feel are important factors to consider when speccing a

system, and which companies have impressed them most with their recent innovations? “I’ve developed a lot of comfort with d&b products over the years,” Lehrer reveals. “I know what they’ll do for me and what their sound is. They have a lot of control software that’s very useful for me – ArrayProcessing is a major jump forward. “I found that in my first show using ArrayProcessing that I didn’t even need delay speakers any more, which I’ve always used in bigger theatres, and I didn’t need to push the main system that loud. With ArrayProcessing I found that the system can be steered in a way so that you’re only a few dB down in the last seat in the house from the front seat with equal frequency response, and it’s a huge thing.” The manufacturer that Goodwin turned to for probably his most successful stage project to date, Once, which was set in modern day Dublin and told the story of a man who gives up on his love of music and the girl who inspires him to dream again, is not one that you often hear associated with

theatre productions, but in this case offered the perfect solution. He commented shortly after the show’s return to Canada last year: “The Funktion-One system allows me to keep more of the architecture out of the equation by giving me more closely defined projection patterns, which, along with the fast transient response, helps boost the intelligibility. But more importantly, it assists in keeping the sound as natural as possible, which is important to the realism and perceived simplicity of this show.” And looking back on it again at the tail end of 2016, Goodwin believes that his clever use of the system, which consisted of ten Funktion-One Resolution 3 SH skeletal loudspeakers, nine F55 units, four F121 bass enclosures and four RM15 wide-dispersion monitor speakers, demonstrated how he likes to try out new approaches when he can, but it’s not always possible. “I probably work in a different way to most other theatre designers,” he says. “I do like to experiment; there are set ways of doing things that people like to stick to but I like to make it work in different


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FEATURE: THEATRE SOUND ways if I think the opportunity is there to do that, if I think the necessity is there.” Like Lehrer, d&b speakers also “tick a lot of boxes” for Arditti, but the system he’s been working with at the NT’s Olivier Theatre since it came through a major upgrade in 2013 is from another firm that continues to gain ground in this field. “When the golden ears of the National Theatre’s sound department had a listen to the available speaker options of the appropriate size, the L-Acoustics KARA apparently performed best in the Olivier auditorium,” he recalls. “I thought they were amazingly powerful and sounded great. Most importantly, the two left and right hangs evenly cover almost the entire theatre.” “At the same time, the ARC IIs were chosen for the centre array, as they fitted in to the available rigging area without destroying existing lighting positions or infringing the audience’s sightline. The horizontal coverage required in the stalls is much wider than average, and six ARC IIs were able to provide that horizontal coverage. As it turned out, the vertical dispersion was not as good as had been suggested by software prediction, and there has been a continuing effort to improve coverage at the front of the stalls and in the circle, using additional loudspeakers. For example, after some more listening tests, three small hangs of KIVAs were added in the circle, to improve vocal coverage up there. “I’m also a huge fan of L-Acoustics SB18 subs, by the way. There are six of them in the Olivier and they do a mighty job.”

So what now? We’ve heard about one of Goodwin’s career highlights, but what are our trio up to at the moment? And what sort of challenges are these projects presenting? We’ll start with Lehrer, who describes the amount of effort that went into a part of the sound design for a new Broadway comedy starring John Goodman and John Slattery that proved more difficult to perfect than you might imagine: “There’s a show that opened in late October called The Front Page, which takes place in the 1920s in a news bullpen at police 22

November 2016

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The cast of ‘Once’, with sound design by Clive Goodwin

headquarters in Chicago so there are all these newspaper men using this new technology called the telephone to call in stories! There are phones all over the set so with the prop master we found a bunch of 1920s-era telephones with 1920s-era ringers, which require old 90V ringer voltage but there are so many calls made during the show that I wanted it to be something that could be easily cued by the sound operator,” he explains.

“As everything gets fatser and easier, more is expected of us in the same timeframe, which is also fun. I always push myself or am pushed by others to achieve something new on each project” Paul Arditti

“Part of my spec was that I wanted a device that would interface between new QLab technology and 1920s-era telephone ringers! So it was a totally custom thing and we ended up going to Masque Sound to do it. They have a really strong technical department and built us a two-rack device.” As for Arditti, putting the orchestra centre stage alongside the cast for Michael Longhurst’s brand new revival of Amadeus at the place where it made

its name 37 years ago, gave him plenty to think about. “The big and exciting challenge on the current production of Amadeus has been to integrate the live orchestra with the actors. Unlike the original NT production, and most subsequent productions, our show uses 20 members of the Southbank Sinfonia to play Mozart’s music live,” he says. “They move around the stage, take part in the action, and are constantly reforming themselves into different smaller groups, depending on the needs of the music and the choreography. Each instrument has a DPA 4099 clipped to it (except the percussion instruments, which are miked in slightly different ways) and this allows me to balance the orchestra wherever they are on the stage. “The acting company are all radio miked too, in the usual way, as are the six opera singers, and the challenge for us is to keep the dialogue and music balanced with each other, as the action flows around the stage.” Glowing reviews for the show were flooding in the week AMI went to press – a clear sign that the sound department’s hard work must be paying off – but Arditti admits that some tweaking to the setup may be required in order to leave him completely satisfied. “We are using vocal zones to try and locate the performers, although the width of the Olivier auditorium makes it difficult to make as many discrete zones as I would like. Locating

a voice accurately on that stage is still something of a Holy Grail – I think we have a lot more work to do with the speaker system and the addition of some kind of automatic tracking system (like Stage Tracker or TiMax or one of their descendants) before every member of the audience will be able to perceive a voice or an instrument or a sound effect coming from the right place on the stage.” Goodwin is currently working on an off-Broadway musical called The Band’s Visit, based on an Israeli film that won a lot of awards. “There’s a lot to do there but I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “It’s at the 200-seat Atlantic Theater in Manhattan – an old church so it’s kind of a box of a room. I persuaded them to sound-deaden it as much as possible with drapes and even some egg cratetype foam on the ceiling. I’ve got a very live set – it’s set in a town in the middle of the Negev Desert in Israel, all built of concrete, so the whole set is hard surfaces so that was a bit of a challenge. “I’ve got to be able to allow the cast to monitor the orchestra and then not have their monitoring interfere with what I want the audience to hear, and the proximity of the stage to the audience is making it interesting. I’m trying not to watch it [the original film] so I don’t get any preconceptions about what I should be doing but I probably will soon. It’s another subtle one in many ways so there’s as lot of quiet understated humour in there, which I love.”


FEATURE: FINAL CUT

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Stevie Haywood on location

SENS8IONAL SOUND

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Production sound mixing has always been a tough profession, but surely few will have been pushed as hard as Stevie Haywood and Barry O’ Sullivan were during the making of one of Netflix’s acclaimed original series. Adam Savage caught up with the pair as they recovered after the latest run of filming. s we all know, being able to deal with unpredictable occurrences and think on your feet is crucial in this industry. Whether you’re a front-of-house engineer, a record producer or in the case of the two interviewees for this article a production sound mixer, you’ve got to be able to stay calm and collected and still get results when things don’t quite go according to plan. But what if this ‘plan’ is subject to such a degree of change that almost nobody – cast or crew – knows exactly what to expect once the cameras start rolling? This is the situation that Stevie Haywood and Barry O’ Sullivan found themselves in when on the set of the hit Netflix series Sense8, season two of which finished filming only last month.

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Created by visionary sibling duo The Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy, Cloud Atlas), Sense8 is centred around eight characters from all corners of the world who start experiencing violent visions before realising that they all share a mental connection and can communicate mentally, as well as gain access to each other’s secrets and individual abilities by using these strange powers. Sounds intriguing then, and from the description alone you can tell that sound is likely to play a key role throughout. As a first question though, what’s it like working with someone as well known as Lana Wachowski, bearing in mind this was her first project without sister Lilly by her side? Well, it turns out that ‘unconventional’ would be one word to describe her way of doing things solo,

which creates a working environment that is challenging to say the least. “It couldn’t be further from the script – you turn up and you really don’t know what she’s planning to do. Dialogue certainly changes,” reveals Haywood. “Her style is to shoot these enormously long takes – the default position is two cameras and then the shot evolves over the length of the take, which can be 15-20 minutes long. It loops and loops and she takes it back to different points and works through until she’s got what she wants. “If there are 14 people on screen, you have to make sure they’re all miked up because they may or may not say something. So there’s this constantly developing shot and the other thing is people arrive, we may or may not be able to get the boom anywhere near

them because the shot could expand or contract; we’re not sure whether we can stop people’s footsteps – even the crew from walking around – because there are cameras going around in circles and there’s also the fact that we never do any rehearsals. We rehearse on camera effectively. When she says go you’ve got to be ready and if you’re not, she goes anyway. Nobody is allowed to call cut unless it’s her, regardless of technical issues. If something doesn’t work she expects the actors to improvise around it and keep going.” O’ Sullivan, who worked on the whole of season one and a portion of the second series before Haywood stepped in, recounts a similarly ‘full-on’ experience when he was in the role: “In terms of recording audio it’s probably the most challenging show that I’ve


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FEATURE: FINAL CUT

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worked on,” he says. “Very often you’d look at a scene and have an idea how it’s going to be shot and the way you’d want it to go – how you’d like it to sound – but on a show like Sense8 what you’re trying to do is cover all the bases because you don’t have any clear idea what’s going to happen. You’ll have eight to ten radio mics out on people trying to get all of that into the mix. Traditionally you would always have a boom or two running but because of the way that Lana likes to shoot the booms are a big compromise so you spend a lot of time relying on radio mics.”

Globetrotting troubles Constant improvisation wasn’t the only complication; a series set in multiple countries – 12 in total – and headed up by an executive producer who likes to film on location whenever possible meant a lot of travelling to places that aren’t always ideal for detailed audio recording. And aside from the obstacles presented by the locations themselves, the overall itinerary could hardly have been more unforgiving for the crew and their equipment. Having worked on the first series O’ Sullivan at least had a rough idea what to expect – although he admits that the second season was a step up logistically – but Haywood found it certainly took some getting used to. “When I first slotted into it I hadn’t really got my head around the fact that they wouldn’t build into the schedule

enough time to get things from A to B,” he recalls. “For example, we were shooting in Seoul, South Korea, where there were lots of car crashes and motorbike chases etc, and then we jumped over to Berlin to go and tell another story, but that’s also where the studio is based. We were only there for two days before we had to pop over to London to shoot outside the Houses of Parliament for 48 hours then the whole crew was shunted back over to Germany again.” And a common issue for users of wireless gear when on a major international job is the spectrum variances from place to place, particularly when you’re expected to travel from Europe to Asia and be ready to go with little preparation time. “I use radio mics that have a wide range of frequencies available to them but sometimes we hit brick walls. Nothing works everywhere and you sort of think ‘once I’m in production I’ll be able to work something out about what I’m going to do in the next country’ but once you get going there’s no time to organise anything,” Haywood explains. “The next season I think we’ll approach quite differently! I’ll have more redundancy with me I think and take more stuff than I did this time because they don’t care about how heavy it is or how many boxes there are; it’s about you having everything available wherever.” This is especially true when someone like Lana Wachowski is in charge, as

Haywood discovered in the early stages of the process. “If she suddenly decides that she wants to play back some music here, you’ve got to have some options on standby for her because 30 seconds later she wants it working,” he notes. “The first time it happens it didn’t really go to plan because I wasn’t prepared for that level of standby but after that we responded quickly.”

Go-To Gear So what else would Haywood change to make the third series more manageable from an equipment perspective? Like most audio professionals he has a very firm brand of choice when it comes to recorders, but he admits that an upgrade may be necessary before it’s time to go again. “I’m a Sound Devices guy. I had a 788T on a trolley and a 788T in a bag. I knew there was a lot of car stuff and some difficult locations, but next season I’ll take a machine that records more tracks – something like the 688 and now they’ve got the Wingman app and that’s something I was looking into while I was out there,” he says. “I quite often had to run the two machines side by side to take into account all the tracks that we needed and that just wasn’t a very efficient way of operating.” As for the all-important radio microphones, Haywood is a fan of the Audio Wireless brand from ‘radio mic guru’ Aldo Hakligil. “They cover a huge

Picture: Murray Close/Netflix

range of bands, which was very useful as they go from Channel 37 all the way up to 51 on one smallish unit,” he continues. “Aldo also built me an antenna array so I could split the signal but still have the max mW RF that was legally allowed in the country and have that running on five different aerials that were all synchronised. That was vital.” O’ Sullivan also lists his recorders among his most prized possessions, along with his selection of microphones: “Just before season one I switched to Zaxcom. I’m using the Nomad recorders with the Oasis control surface,” he explains. “Lectrosonics radio mics I’ve been using for a number of years and they’re great too. Interior-wise I use Sennheiser MKH 50s and then for exteriors I tend to use MKH 60s. In terms of lavs the main go-tos would be Sanken COS-11Ds.”

Out of this world Finally, out of all those locations worldwide, which ones gave them the most to think about? “Mumbai is probably the noisiest place I’ve ever been to!” O’Sullivan claims. “I remember having a conversation with Lilly Wachowski on season one and she reckoned that you could probably put all the Mumbai sequences together and have a car horn on every word.” Haywood adds: “Seoul is just a really RF-heavy place and although there are rules and regulations it seems that a lot of people don’t pay attention to it so there are a lot of problems with radio mics.” Even though it required an immense effort from him and the rest of his team, speaking to Haywood it becomes clear that it’s the sort of project that gets him really excited, and even though she pushed him virtually to the limit of his capabilities, getting the chance to team up with Lana Wachowski was a real privilege. “The hours were absolutely astronomical. The minimum that we did on the nine weeks I was on it was 14 and a half hours,” he comments, “but Lana is the classic cinema auteur; it’s so spontaneous but at some point she manages to exercise her control over it all and coax out these amazing performances.” November 2016

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STUDIO PROFILE

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IT’S A DOGG’S LIFE

Snoop Dogg’s Beach City Music has served as a beacon of creativity on the US West Coast for some time. After the construction of three new studios, with ‘The Mothership’ as the centrepiece, those responsible for the upgrade tell Colby Ramsey how the new-look facility is driving the megastar’s vision forward.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// ust five minutes away from Los Angeles International airport there is a 20,000sqft building that houses the headquarters of one of the biggest names in hip hop. But Snoop Dogg’s Beach City Music complex is more than just a recording facility, and the owner more than just a musician. Surrounded by his collection of classic and modern cars, alongside a full-size basketball court, games room,

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radio broadcast studio and video edit suites, it is the pinnacle of Snoop’s business vision and a hive of culture and creativity for the modern artist. Nestled within the complex is The Compound: a trio of futuristic, flexible studios that convey the experience of being aboard a spaceship. Snoop’s right-hand man, DJ Pooh, was instrumental in deciding on the AMS Neve Genesys Black console that is integrated with a Slate Raven Mti2 into

a custom Zaor desk, and sits at the heart of Studio A, also known as ‘The Mothership’. “The console is great. Snoop could have had any console he wanted but the Genesys Black just did everything that we wanted it to do”, says DJ Pooh on the acquisition of the 64-channel Genesys Black, which was selected to satisfy the need for an analogue console with ‘an old school workflow’, particularly for tracking and mixing.

Much of the work done at Beach City combines production-based music from sequencers, drum machines and keyboards with tracked live instruments, and so Snoop and co needed a console that could switch between multiple tracks being worked on simultaneously with ease. After much deliberation over which console would best satisfy these requirements, the Genesys Black was supplied by Professional Audio Design,


STUDIO PROFILE

//////////////////////// which has been associated with AMS Neve for around 20 years. The company’s president, Dave Malekpour, praises the console as “a great solution, combining the sound of both the vintage Neve 1073 transformer coupled mic preamps and Class A 1084 with the modern 88R’s signal path for clarity and tonal expression combined with instant reset. “The combination allows Beach City’s producers and clients to move swiftly between projects and tracks and to add the

classic sound to their recordings,” he continues. The Zaor desk that holds the console is also home to workstations that allow producers to plug in to the main system, giving them power to work on their own material until it’s ready to send to the Genesys Black for processing. “Along the way we ended up designing the furniture system for The Mothership, maintaining the same aesthetic design throughout,” Malekpour explains. “We took some of the visual cues and were able to create a workflow to suit them and their desired sci-fi vibe.” But the console carefully selected for The Mothership was just one – albeit important – element of the wider installation, which also encompassed Studio B (The Battleship) and Studio C (The Starship) as well as several smaller recording rooms, isolation booths, live recording rooms and video production spaces. Sales consultant Chris Young and CTO Jonathan Deans of Westlake Pro, which specialises in the construction of recording facilities, worked closely with Snoop and DJ Pooh on the design, project management, wiring and equipment integration throughout the studios. “In the time of studios disappearing and shrinking, it was fun to help build a large facility again,” says Young. “They were looking for someone to wire the studio when they initially reached out to us but we provided a majority of the gear for the installation in the end. “Mostly we just had to collaborate on the details and work around his schedule. We started talks in February 2015 and the plans were not finalised until the August, so the installation was finished in November. We were just patient and ready to go when they needed us,” he continues. “It was a little different from usual because we were interfacing with project managers Snoop had assigned the task of completing the studios. Usually we work with the client directly, so sometimes it was a challenge making sure everyone was on the same page with details.” The Mothership utilises a Pro Tools HDX Rig with 32 analogue I/O and 64 MADI I/O, all tucked away in a machine room outside the studio. The full 7.1 surround system features Focal SM9s for left and right in tandem with JBL LSR 708s and 705s for centre and surround, along with the new JBL Sub18 for the

(L-R): Dave Malekpour and Snoop Dogg with AMS Neve’s James Townend and Elizabeth Wilkinson

LFE channel. Additionally, the Westlake Pro team anticipated that Snoop and DJ Pooh would want extremely low frequency for playback, and so they put a Crown Audio IT12000HD on the sub channel alone. “Studio A also features some new and vintage rack gear, including Pultec EQs, LA2A, two 1176’s, two distressors, Avalon 737, and Tube Tech CL1B, all integrated into a TT patchbay of 14 Bittree patchbays,” Young explains. “The wiring guys had their hands full for sure. Our biggest concern was whether the general contractor had allowed enough space for our cable troughs and pass-throughs. Luckily the cable pulls went really well and it all came together.” Meanwhile, studio B ‘The Battleship’ features another custom Zaor desk with a Slate Raven Z3 multi-touch production console, utilising a 5.1 speaker setup with the same components as The Mothership. While this secondary room has less analogue gear, it similarly has a Pro Tools HDX system with 32 analogue I/O and Focal SM9 midfield monitors. Two workstations in the rear corners of the room also allow producers to hook up laptops, synthesizers and other instruments. Professional Audio Design ended up providing all of the custom furniture, gear and wiring for Studio C ‘The Starship’, a tracking/writing room that was created for Snoop’s son Cordell, who is also involved in music production. To satisfy the need for high SPL and superior clarity, Malekpour also built the largest Augspurger system he has built to date – a Quattro 415 system including a pair of Solo 12MF monitors flanked by dual 218subs as well as a Slate Raven MTi2 to manage Pro Tools files.

It was the Augspurger monitors that Malekpour was originally approached for. “Snoop and DJ Pooh seemed to be compelled by the sound quality and were impressed when they heard them working together with the Genesys Black,” he remarks. “Having a console that gives some of that vintage impression but also has that openness and clarity in the mix bus, which the Genesys has at the heart of it, is a significant factor for these types of artists, who essentially just need the console to sound good.” Malekpour was able to tune the Augspurger DSP to produce an accurate and consistent mixing curve across all three of the rooms, and believes that this is a major part of why the studios have been so successful already in the few months they have been operational: “When you can make three rooms of different purposes and different sizes work together as one it’s something special – I think that’s a signature of Beach City Music,” he says. “The whole collaborative approach between parties is somewhat of a reflection of how Snoop does things.” Snoop himself was also delighted with the Burnley FC shirt presented to him by AMS Neve’s Elizabeth Wilkinson during her visit, celebrating the link with the town where the pro-audio desks are designed and built. Malekpour concludes: “Snoop has an incredible vision and helping to create these studios as part of that, as well as hanging out with these guys and understanding how they work, was a great opportunity.” www.ams-neve.com www.proaudiodesign.com www.westlakepro.com

November 2016

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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT

www.audiomediainternational.com

POWER AMPLIFIERS

DRIVING RANGE

We investigate some of the recent trends to emerge in the power amp market, along with a selection of products that could be worth considering for those looking to upgrade. nteroperability and integration have been common buzzwords in the world of power amplifiers of late. Highly efficient networked units that are able to operate at both high and low impedance simultaneously are rapidly becoming a standard requirement for installed systems, and companies in the industry are anticipating increased demand for greater flexibility and ease of installation as a result. Yamaha Pro Audio’s global marketing specialist, Karl Christmas, sees demand growing quickly for installed audio systems in commercial premises that offer precisely tailored background music and other functions, making restaurant and retail environments as audibly pleasing as possible to customers. “A key element to achieving this is having different system settings at different times of day, as well as the

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economy of integrating background music with voice evacuation systems and, in the drive for economy and energy efficiency, for audio systems to be automatically shut down overnight,” explains Christmas. Such systems are inevitably complex, yet they are usually being operated by untrained staff in these environments. “Fully networked amplifiers with pre-programmed/remote control and simply-operated manual overrides make this attainable,” he adds. Wolfgang Schulz, product manager installation at d&b audiotechnik, also observes amplifier technology becoming more complex albeit with operability and user interfaces becoming more intuitive. “Sound reinforcement systems need to produce the highest output with the highest efficiency, while offering complete interoperability and

integration within remote control and audio transport networking,” comments Schulz. Some areas of the market also appear to be focusing on smaller, more compact amplifiers with DSP integration, as systems are increasingly being used for voice evacuation alongside the entertainment function. While most of the regulations in the EU refer to EN54-16 and EN54-24, they do not fully cover the application of a high power system. A separate 100V VA system is in most cases not capable of producing the required SPL level above the noise of the audience, and so the integration of PA and VA functionality is the best solution to ensure a safe and quick evacuation of a building or venue, according to Powersoft’s brand and communication director Francesco Fanicchi.

“To integrate the PA and VA system special attention has to be given to the system design including redundancy, uninterrupted power supply, fault monitoring and of course audio quality,” remarks Fanicchi. “Powersoft’s Application, Commissioning and Engineering (ACE) department offers tools and support to ensure a design that offers full PA and VA functionality.” Along with these factors, it will certainly be interesting to see how manufacturers go about integrating full remote control and flexibility into their products, as these tend to be the most important additional user demands on top of audio quality and efficiency as we roll into 2017. Here we showcase some of the current products on the market that look to tick all of the boxes…

d&b audiotechnik

30D The comprehensive DSP on the installation-specific 30D contains setups for all d&b loudspeakers, as well as two 16-band equalisers, up to ten seconds of delay, sophisticated filter functions and protection for each of the four output channels. All eight input channels feature an independent input gain and can be summed and routed to any of the outputs. Advanced system status monitoring functions such as Input monitoring and Load monitoring notify the user of any malfunctions, while the Fallback and Override functions ensure that an emergency signal is transmitted when required. A five-pin GPIO connection allows the 30D to be controlled via an external device, while it can also be operated through the d&b R1 Remote control software via Ethernet using the OCA protocol, or via third-party control systems such as QSC Q-SYS, Beckhoff Automation or Peavey MediaMatrix. The optional ArrayProcessing function optimises the level and tonal balance of the d&b J, V, Y and T-Series line arrays. www.dbaudio.com

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“The four-channel d&b system amplifiers contain comprehensive setups for the appropriate d&b loudspeaker range and guarantee highest performance and maximum reliability,” according to Wolfgang Schulz, product manager installation. “These amplifiers share a common DSP platform with specific feature sets for the exact demands of the application, whether it’s rental or touring companies or consultants and integrators for install applications.”


PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT POWER AMPLIFIERS

WorxAudio

PDA-1000(R) The PDA-1000 and PDA-1000R (rackmount) are two-channel, Class D power amps with 500W per channel and a rich feature set that includes XLR input, XLR Pass thru, Dante connectivity and WorxControl (a loudspeaker management system). The PDA-1000 and PDA-1000R provide PreSonus’ Active Integration technology to create networkable Dante-enabled loudspeaker systems with powerful DSP that can be controlled by a computer running WorxControl over a standard LAN. With its versatile design, the PDA-1000 incorporates WorxAudio’s DSP tunings for the company’s loudspeaker products. The PDA-1000 mounts into the speaker enclosure while the PDA-1000R offers the flexibility of being mounted directly into a standard equipment rack. Key features of the WorxControl system include an 800ms alignment delay adjustable in 0.1ms increments so operators can perfectly align delay systems, centre fills and more, plus a limiter with variable threshold and a compressor with fully variable attack, release, threshold, ratio and make-up gain. www.worxaudio.com

Crown Audio

Yamaha XMV Series

CDi DriveCore Series The CDi DriveCore Series leverages Harman’s DriveCore technology to offer a balance of ‘robust functionality and reasonable cost.’ The amplifiers offer the power and capabilities of Crown’s DriveCore Install Series with a streamlined set of options for small and medium-sized installations. For optimal sound, the CDi DriveCore Series includes DSP to achieve precise speaker tuning. Commercial integrators and technicians can configure amplifier inputs/outputs, modify DSP settings and recall created settings from the built-in front panel, offering the ability for fast and simple configuration without a PC. Additionally, users wanting comprehensive configuration of the CDi DriveCore as well as other Harman audio products can use Harman’s Audio Architect software. The option of using digital audio with BLU link simplifies pairing with other Harman products, such as the BSS Soundweb London BLU-50. www.crownaudio.com

According to Harman restaurant and retail solutions manager Emilian Wojtowycz: “The Crown CDi DriveCore Series is the next step in our continuous improvement of our contracting products. These new amps pair with other Harman devices and offer contractors a feature-rich product family that is low in cost but high in advanced features and reliability.”

“The PDA-1000 is a digital amplifier with a power supply that auto senses input voltage ranging from 95V-260V,” explains managing director of WorxAudio’s loudspeaker division Hugh Sarvis. “This also enables the amplifier to operate at a very efficient 80%. The I/O includes very high quality XLR connectivity with a thru output loop and a digital Dante input is also available.”

“Designed in response to the increasing demand for integrating amplifiers into a networked system, the XMV series makes exceptionally flexible installed audio systems possible,” remarks Yamaha Pro Audio global marketing specialist Karl Christmas.

The XMV Series multichannel power amplifiers combine Class D efficiency with features designed specifically to benefit commercial installation systems. The series comprises eight different four- and eightchannel models with varying output power capabilities and flexible in/out connectivity, suitable for a wide range of installation environments. When used with Yamaha MTX series processors, various XMV amplifier settings can be programmed using MTX Editor software. Equipped with either Dante or Yamaha’s newly developed YDIF digital audio format, configuration is simple and fast with instant connectivity and flexible parameter control. XMV amplifiers are also equipped with a Network port, allowing direct control from controllers such as AMX/Crestron. Installed sound applications often demand both high and low impedance connectivity in the same venue – XMV amplifiers can simultaneously operate in both high and low impedance modes. www.yamahaproaudio.com

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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT

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POWER AMPLIFIERS

Powersoft Ottocanali DSP+D The Ottocanali 12K4 is a ‘flexible and reliable’ eight-channel power amp with up to a total of 12,000W at four ohms, ideal for multi-zone applications in medium to large-scale installs. Ottocanali 12K4 supports any combination of lo-Z loudspeakers, mono-bridgeable channel pairs and 70V/100V Hi-Z distributed lines with no need for output step-up transformers. It features switchable main/aux signal inputs and offers a wide range of system control, alarms, GPI/O and monitoring functions as well as sound shaping options. The Ottocanali 12K4 DSP+D, however, features new levels of signal processing, providing non-boolean routing and mixing, multi-stage equalisation with raised-cosine, IIR and FIR filters, delay up to 2s in input processing and 100ms for time alignment, gain and polarity adjustment, crossover, peak limiters, TruePower limiters and Active DampingControl.

“The Ottocanali DSP amplifiers offer one of the best sounding and widely accepted digital audio processing cards in the industry,” according to Powersoft’s brand and communication director Francesco Fanicchi. “Controlled by Powersoft’s remote control platform Armonia or any thirdparty control system like Symetrix, QSC or Xilica the powerful DSP in combination with eight-channel package offers full remote control capability over a network or by remote devices.”

www.powersoft-audio.com

Lab.gruppen E Series Lab.gruppen has introduced its first four-channel models to its E Series range, the E 10:4 and E 5:4. The E Series now offers eight channels configurable as any of 21 different power output and channel combinations in the same rack space as one 2U C Series unit. Options include one-to-one alternatives for the C 20:8X (with two E10:4 in a 2U space) and the C 10:8X (with two E 5:4 units). The flagship model, the E 10:4, provides four discrete inputs and four flexible output channels producing 1,000W of maximum total output at 4, 8, 16 ohms or into 70V. Nominal maximum output per channel is 250W, but with the E Series’ asymmetric power loading capability, one channel can produce output beyond the nominal maximum when other channels have lower power requirements. Each channel may be individually optimised to drive either a low impedance (4-16 ohms) or a 70V load. The E 5:4 also provides four channels of amplification with all the same features as the E 10:4, but with a maximum total output rating of 500W (4 x 125W nominal at 4-16 ohms or 70V), while the new two-channel addition, the E 2:2 (2 x 100W) provides installers with a cost-effective option for lower power applications. www.labgruppen.com

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L-Acoustics

LA12X The L-Acoustics LA12X is an amplified controller with 12,000W of power, thanks to its smart DSP-controlled Switch Mode Power Supply (SMPS) with Power Factor Correction. Boasting up to 3,300W per channel with record hold times, the LA12X is capable of operating from 100 to 240 volts while offering high tolerance to unstable mains. Universal SMPS ensures the LA12X can be taken around the globe while boosted DSP resources with AVB means the amp is future-ready. The company believes the four-in-byfour-out architecture of the LA12X will make it a strong and economical choice for both rental and install projects. www.l-acoustics.com


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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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SHURE KSM8

Key Features

MICROPHONE

The term ‘revolutionary’ is unquestionably overused in new product descriptions these days, but you could perhaps forgive this manufacturer for choosing the word to define its new flagship mic, as Andy Coules discovers. he latest dynamic microphone from Shure has arrived with much fanfare and is being hailed as the most technologically advanced mic of its kind for 50 years. Shure claims that it has virtually no proximity effect, has excellent off-axis rejection and will require minimal EQ and processing due to its accurate, flat frequency response. These are bold claims but before we take a look at this wonder of modern science let’s have a quick history lesson. Shure’s Unidyne I capsule went into the very first directional, single element, dynamic microphone, the Model 55 (aka the ‘Elvis’ microphone) in 1939 and was developed into the Unidyne III capsule, which went into the iconic and ubiquitous

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SM57 and SM58 microphones in 1965 and 1966 respectively. It’s interesting to note that the SM57 and SM58 were developed as studio mics (that’s what SM stands for) aimed at the emerging radio and TV broadcast markets – hence the lack of a switch and the nonreflective dark grey finish. Unfortunately sales were sluggish in those hard-tobreak-into industries and there were plans to discontinue both models when someone had the bright idea of giving them to some live sound engineers and the rest, as they say, is history. One of the key things that makes the Unidyne III capsule so effective is its directional capabilities. This comes from a clever design which causes sound arriving from the back of the microphone

to travel down two simultaneous paths: one directly to the back of the diaphragm and the other a slightly delayed path to the front of the diaphragm, thus causing cancellation. Add to that a frequency response that sounds great with most voices and an in-built shock mount which reduces handling noise and you can see why the SM58 has been so popular for the past 50 years. The KSM8 uses the new Dualdyne capsule (so named because it has two diaphragms), which takes this whole process a stage further by utilising two diaphragms in a reversed side entry airflow system, meaning the sound enters via the side inlets and passes through the passive (i.e. rear) diaphragm before arriving at the active (i.e. front) diaphragm; this resistance network ensures that low frequencies are partially blocked from entering the cartridge and results in a natural low frequency response with a controlled proximity effect. For those not familiar with the proximity effect this is the main consequence of the clever engineering required to create a directional microphone, which results in the frequency response of the microphone

„ World’s first dual-diaphragm dynamic handheld microphone „ Diaphragm Stabilization System to reduce high-frequency handling noise „ Reimagined Shure pumping pneumatic shock mount „ Dent-resistant hardened carbon-steel grille „ Available in Black and Nickel finishes RRP: £455 www.shure.co.uk changing depending on the distance of the source sound. If you get close up (i.e. less than an inch away) the low frequencies are artificially enhanced; if you get far away (i.e. over three inches) it sounds thin and weak, thus somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot where you get the most even frequency response. This can be a major problem when the microphone is being used handheld for vocals; the vocalist needs to have very good microphone technique to consistently get the best sound. The Dualdyne capsule also utilises the patent pending Diaphragm Stabilization System (DSS), which protects and stabilises the active diaphragm from unwanted excursion or rocking during plosives or impact. The whole thing is mounted in a Shure pumping pneumatic shock mount, which is fully integrated into the capsule’s acoustic properties – all of this is housed in a dent-resistant hardened carbon-steel grille lined with hydrophobic fabric atop a tapered body terminating in the usual XLR socket.


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

When I first plugged it in I was rewarded with an instantly warm and natural sound – very smooth and not at all edgy with no obvious presence peaks. The next thing I had to do, of course, was test the proximity effect and while it hasn’t been eliminated completely I was quite surprised how much it’s been reduced compared to other dynamic microphones; the sweet spot is noticeably larger.

In Use So I decided to throw it in at the deep end and take it to a gig to try it out. The first thing I did was put it up on a stand stage centre and have a listen on a big PA with a flat EQ – again it sounded very warm and natural so I set up an SM58 beside it and the difference was quite striking; the SM58 was dull compared to the KSM8 and a fair bit quieter at the same gain settings. Then I realised this was probably a slightly unfair comparison so I got a Beta 58 out and the level was a lot more comparable (which I assume is

down to those neodymium magnets used in both models). In a direct comparison the KSM8 was noticeably warmer than the Beta 58 and when I tested the off-axis response I found the cardioid response of the KSM8 was a little bit tighter than both the SM58 and Beta 58 (which is, of course, super cardioid). Next I let it loose on three actual real live vocalists. The first two worked out fine – they were strong singers who enabled me to get plenty of gain before feedback; the only EQ I used on the channel was a high pass filter and both sounded great in the mix. The third vocalist was slightly harder to work with – quite a soft voice that required a few extra tweaks of the graphic EQ to get the required level. I also encountered feedback issues when she put her hands around the top of the microphone, which was quickly dealt with by tweaking the monitor EQ (as you would with any other dynamic microphone). Every vocalist I tried it on said they liked the sound and would like to use it again.

I mentioned earlier that to compare the KSM8 to an SM58 is an unfair comparison, but it’s difficult not to. They’re clearly part of the same lineage but are separated by 50 years of incremental technological advances – the SM58 is still much loved by vocalists and engineers alike. One area in which they clearly differ, however, is the price – the Shure KSM8 is just over four times the price of an SM58 but you do get a lot of bang for those extra bucks. I was very impressed with the performance and the sound of the KSM8 – it’s the kind of microphone that could

transition quite easily from live to studio usage and on into TV and radio. Shure has put a lot of very clever engineering and its many years of experience into creating what could be the ultimate dynamic vocal microphone.

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 November 2016

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FOCUSRITE CLARETT OCTOPRE

MIC PREAMP AND CONVERTER

f I had a list of all the audio equipment I’ve seen on my travels around various recording studios, the Focusrite OctoPre is likely to feature in the top five most common. There have been two versions before this new release and wherever I go, I seem to come across an OctoPre in one form or another. Inevitably, like many, I’ve used them all on many occasions. In the last few years, Focusrite has turned its attention to building high-end preamps and converters, with the RedNet series being its flagship preamp and converter units, and even more recently, the Clarett line of Thunderbolt interfaces was born. In a slightly surprising move by Focusrite, the OctoPre has now been given the Clarett label too. I was keen to find out if this new OctoPre can be considered a worthy addition to this new range that I rate so highly.

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Third Time Around Anyone that’s used the original mkI OctoPre is likely to say what a good unit it is/was. Even today it still delivers a respectable result depending on the source. I say ‘is/was’ because although it isn’t manufactured anymore, there are still plenty in service, which is testament to how well they were built, as well as their performance. The mkI was quite a sizeable unit – just 1U but very deep and it had some significant weight. However, the mkI wasn’t without its flaws. They got hot; extremely hot. It was thanks to the rubbery-plastic 34

November 2016

Simon Allen offers his thoughts on how this new eight-channel mic pre with A-D/D-A conversion compares with the original mkI and mkII models.

controls that you could still operate one without receiving a third-degree burn. If used in a slightly warmer than ideal environment, or if you hadn’t left sufficient rack gaps, then they were prone to over-heating. This would result in digital spikes occurring in the audio, or worse still I had one that simply froze until it had been left to cool off. I vividly remember running the rest of the session with the unit out of the flight case and on a desk with a fan blowing air over the top. They were fan cooled, which meant that although they weren’t noisy, they weren’t silent either. Silent equipment in home studios, for example, has become really important for those that can’t physically build a separate machine room. The mkII thankfully addressed these issues and came in a much smaller and lighter enclosure. The dark grey colour scheme and plastic front panel, however, wasn’t the cause of any inspiration. I appreciate that what gear looks like is irrelevant, but considering the mkI had a smart aluminium finish, this did feel like Focusrite had cut corners. The mkII has since proven to be a reliable and well-known unit, offering a convenient way to add extra preamps to your interface. Both the mkI and mkII had ‘dynamic’ versions available, where each channel was equipped with a compressor. For the most part these were really useful for providing some protection over your recording level, but I never felt that they were compressors worth using in anger. Perhaps this is something that could have been improved in this

latest release, but instead they’ve just dropped the dynamic idea entirely. This new unit is clearly aiming at being a more professional solution, instead providing insert points on each channel for your own external hardware. With the third version, it’s really interesting to see Focusrite take the OctoPre in this more professional direction. The OctoPre has always represented a good level of performance at a reasonable price point, which has earned it the success it’s enjoyed. With much of the market becoming cheaper to meet the demands of increasing numbers of professionals working from their own facilities, this is a bold move. Somehow Focusrite has managed to keep the price of this new Clarett OctoPre down, but if this was ten or even five years ago, I’m sure we would have been looking at a four-digit figure.

Overview This unit is built well and is full of highquality components; it’s also extremely solid and has a good weight, although perhaps not quite as sizeable and heavy as the mkI. In comparison to its predecessors, this latest Clarett version is in a new league. It is beautifully made and has a finer quality finish than many pro-audio products. Focusrite hasn’t cut any corners here and the result is a product you’d be proud to own. If you are a lucky owner of a Clarett, or the latest Red 4Pre or Red 8Pre interfaces, then this preamp extension looks great alongside those units. With the release of the Clarett and

Key Features „ Eight Clarett mic pres with switchable analogue ‘Air’ effect „ 24-bit A-D/D-A conversion all the way up to 192kHz „ Eight high-quality analogue outputs „ Dedicated switched insert points on every channel „ Six-segment LED input metering on every channel RRP: £649.99 www.focusrite.com Red 4Pre/8Pre interfaces there’s been a need for some higher quality preamps with ADAT connectivity. Using a mkII OctoPre with any of these new generation interfaces from Focusrite doesn’t seem fitting when you appreciate the difference in the quality of audio that you’re getting. Like the old OctoPre, there are eight channels of mic preamp. Every channel features a combo XLR-jack connector with auto switching mic/line inputs. The first two inputs, located on the front panel, also support direct instrument inputs. This is a proven layout, which also works from an efficient space saving point of view. Personally, I would have preferred all eight XLR/line inputs on the rear with just the two instrument inputs located on the front. When using an XLR loom for example, it can be untidy and a hassle to extend the first two channels so they reach around the front of the unit. New to the Clarett OctoPre are TRS insert connections for each input channel, which are relay switchable in and out. This allows for the unit to be left connected in a rack with other outboard hardware such as compressors and EQs, or even a


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW patchbay. I really appreciate this feature as consoles are becoming less common in small to medium-sized studios, which unfortunately results in great gear sometimes being overlooked when under time constraints. Obviously this feature permits the use of the Clarett mic pre with your chosen outboard, but importantly still taking advantage of the A-D converter in the Clarett OctoPre, which is excellent.

In Use To test the Clarett OctoPre I ran a session with a Clarett 8Pre Thunderbolt interface in a studio that I’ve used many times before. We were recording some percussion tracks in a very classical manner. This meant that there was several distant and room mics used, which is always a good test for the sensitivity of preamps, line noise and the quality of the converters. We were working with a huge variety of percussion instruments, some with high SPL transients through to some with soft and harmonically rich tones.

Given some more time I would have loved to try using the preamps for some typical vocal and guitar recording, but in hindsight this probably proved to be a much tougher test overall. I am also used to the Clarett interfaces so feel I can already vouch for the quality of these preamps and converters. I couldn’t tell a difference on this test between the Clarett’s preamps and the OctoPre’s. These are truly excellent preamps and converters that cope with anything I’ve thrown at them so far. They also have one of the lowest signalto-noise ratios you are likely to come across in today’s market. Just as the mic preamps on the Clarett Thunderbolt interfaces feature Focusrite’s new ‘Air’ mode, the OctoPre also offers this on a channel-by-channel basis. ‘Air’ isn’t a DSP effect but is in fact an additional circuit inside the preamp. In the same way I try to employ this feature whenever possible with a Clarett interface, I also enjoyed using it on the OctoPre as it performs well with most

sources. It’s a reasonably subtle effect that does exactly what you expect. Adding some extra clarity before the audio is converted into the digital domain, I believe is nearly always a good idea.

Conclusion While they might not be quite as phenomenal as Focusrite’s RedNet preamps, I believe the quality of the Clarett preamps and converters are very close. I would even go as far as saying the Clarett preamps and converters are some of the best in any interface currently available. Their tone and performance suit modern production music just as well as they do for more ambient and detailed material. They are probably more colored than other interfaces, especially with the Air feature enabled, but I like that. As modern recording interfaces have developed, I’ve felt the focus has been on neutral sounding preamps. While that’s highly commendable, Focusrite is offering a more musical option.

I would highly recommend the Clarett OctoPre to anyone looking to extend the number of inputs to their audio interface, or for adding another flavour of preamp to any interface with ADAT connectivity. When you consider how expensive branded preamps can be, even without A-D converters, the price point of this Clarett OctoPre is incredible value for money. Add in all the little features such as the insert points and the Air circuitry and this leaves a remarkable unit. I believe these units are a good investment opportunity, which will serve even highend facilities for years to come.

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

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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ADAM AUDIO S1X Key Features

MONITOR

„ X-ART tweeter allows for increase in frequency response up to 50kHz „ Specially designed 50W Class A/B amplifier „ HexaCone woofer provides more linear excursion for higher maximum SPL „ Midrange/bass unit driven by PWM amplification „ Weighs just 6kg

They might not be new to the market, but Stephen Bennett explains why these nifty nearfields – combined with a Sub 10 for this review – are still well worth a look. DAM Audio speakers continue on their quest for X-ART tweeter-based monitor world domination via the two-way active S1X. The X-ART Air Motion Transformer tweeter has come to define this range of monitors and gives the company’s products a definable sound. So what does the nearfield monitor bring to the studio? A robust crinkle-finish cabinet encloses the aforementioned tweeter, a midrange unit and amplification. The monitor weighs 6kg, but is not electronically shielded – I didn’t find this a problem in practice and a five-year warranty demonstrates the company’s commitment to quality control. The X-ART tweeter offers a flat impedance and phase response, alongside high efficiency and an extended frequency range and there’s a specially designed 50W Class A/B amplifier for driving it. The familiar Kevlar HexaCone midrange/bass unit is present, driven by 200W of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Class D amplification. Specifications are impressive for a small cabinet: a 40Hz-50kHz frequency range is coupled with low distortion and a 103dB maximum SPL. ADAM monitors are usually happy to go really loud with few problems and the S1X is no different in this respect. I was pleased to see that the front panels are devoid of tweakable controls, which are a nightmare in educational situations. The uncluttered rear panel features controls for equalisation and input level

RRP: S1X pair = £1,799; Sub10mk2 = £849 www.adam-audio.com

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setting alongside the usual IEC and XLR signal connectors. The two rear Room EQ controls have a 6dB boost or cut at 6kHz and 150Hz and a boost or cut 4dB adjustment for the high frequencies to balance the bass and treble levels. Also on test is the Sub 10 active monitor. This unit allows you to audition signals from 150Hz down to 25Hz, both helping create better mixes and frightening small animals. A paperconed 10in driver moves the air via a 200W amplifier. It’s a sturdy beast, weighing in at 21kg, but with dimensions of 560mm x 300mm x 400mm it shouldn’t be difficult to place. The rear panel features a cutoff filter control for setting the upper frequency of the sub, a level control, an output for daisy-chaining several Sub 10s and various ins and outs for attaching satellite monitors including XLR balanced and 0.25in unbalanced connectors. The controls section has a setting to turn on the sub when a signal is received or for continuous operation, a phase switch and an 85Hz Dolbyready high pass satellite filter button.

Front panel LEDs indicate the standby situation of the monitor.

In Use Adding a sub unit to a monitoring system can often create more problems than it solves if the room is not ideal, but luckily, for this test, I was able to set up the three speakers in a new acoustically treated control room. The first thing that is apparent when listening to the S1Xs alone is that they exhibit ‘the ADAM sound’ that is familiar to anyone who has spent time with the company’s speakers – a detailed top end, revealing midrange and a quality of bass that has no right to be emanating from such small speakers. They can also go extremely loud without apparent distortion – although the tendency to ‘shout’ can become tiring at high SPL. In comparison to my ATC SCM25s the bass is a little ‘one note’ – a common issue with ported designs – and some work was required with the rear panel controls to get them sitting nice in the room. These controls also came in handy when adding the Sub 10 to the monitoring chain, but really, did I leave

all those noises down there? The sub worked without fuss and the results in use were similar to my normal low frequency unit that cost a lot more and is a lot bigger. The integration of the Sub 10 with the S1Xs was pretty seamless and had me hankering to audition a complete surround system using these speakers, the X-ART tweeters bringing out detail in both voice and effects. Using the Sub 10 with my ATCs also worked a treat and I spent a happy few hours hi-pass filtering almost everything I have ever recorded. In the right room, a sub can be an essential addition to any monitoring system, while in a space with acoustic problems, it can make auditioning and mixing almost impossible. If you have the right studio space available, the Sub 10 is a really nice low-frequency speaker that you would be happy to use every day. If you like the ADAM sound – and many do – the S1X is a really competent small monitor that stands out in the crowd of near-field speakers by virtue of its unique high-frequency driver. It’s detailed, powerful and compact and doesn’t mess up your sound in any appreciable way.

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


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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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IZOTOPE NEUTRON Key Features

PLUG-IN

„ Track Assistant lets the user create a custom preset based on their audio, getting them to a faster starting point „ Masking Meter for visually identifying perceptual frequency collisions „ Five ‘industry-leading’ mixing processors, including an Equalizer, two multiband Compressors, an Exciter, a Transient Shaper and a BS.1770 True Peak Limiter „ Neutrino mode for adding clarity and detail to a mix „ Advanced version offers up to 7.1 Surround Support

Stephen Bennett tries out this new ‘virtual mixing assistant’ to see whether it really is as useful as it first sounds. rtificial intelligences are encroaching upon professions once thought immune to automation. Expert systems now write economic bulletins, prepare law papers and compose music. Neutron, iZotope’s new plug-in, doesn’t quite try to muscle out the mixing engineer, but it does provide tools that attempt to make the process easier, more reproducible and, most importantly, quicker. Under the hood of Neutron are iZotope’s wellrespected processing algorithms and Spectral Shaping technology, so there are no concerns about the sonics – but do the tools provided help or hinder the journey to the perfect mix? Neutron comes in standard and Advanced versions, and everything you might expect from a mixing and mastering programme is available either as a standalone element or configured as a channel strip. iZotope’s compressor, EQ, limiter, Transient shaper and exciters are all fully featured, and, if you are familiar with the company’s Ozone software, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the processors sound and the flexibility of the parameters available. Where Neutron gets interesting, however, are the automated tools that are designed to help engineers sculpt their audio to improve their mixes. Most processing software comes with presets and while ‘Lead Vocal’ and ‘Crunchy Guitar’ can sometimes be useful stepping off points for processing, it’s extremely unlikely they will be suitable for all audio passing through them. iZotope says that Neutron’s Track Assistant is like having “an assistant engineer getting you to an optimal

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starting point so you can start mixing creatively”– which is quite a claim. Once Neutron is loaded onto a track, clicking Track Assist and starting playback for about ten seconds allows the program to analyse the audio and provide some starting settings for further adjustment. You can choose between Subtle, Medium and Aggressive settings alongside Broadband Clarity, Warm and Open or Upfront Midrange options. It takes a while to get the hang of how these different modes actually modify your audio, but with practice you can pretty much predict their effects. Of course, the settings created in Track Assistant mode are more your kind of “guidelines”– as Cap’n Barbossa might have it – but I found that the settings of EQ and multiband compression were pretty much where I would have placed them by ear. Even at the Aggressive settings, Neutron’s predictions appeared mild when auditioned on individual tracks. But, as I added the plug-in to more and more tracks, I realised that this was actually an advantage. One of the deadends you can find yourself in when mixing is spending time over-processing solo’d tracks and, while these often sound great in isolation they often do not fit in so well to an overall mix. Processing tracks with Neutron and then tweaking them proved to be much quicker than starting off with instancing separate plug-ins and I was extremely pleased with the results. The Track Assistant isn’t only useful when mixing – I used Neutron to process whole songs and it proved to be a godsend when I was trying to create masters with

a relatively consistent sonic profile when supplied with mixes supplied by several different engineers.

That’s helpful The Masking Meter feature is a tool that attempts to visualise frequency overlaps – something that we do all the time aurally when mixing. To do this, you instance Neutron on channels that you suspect have overlapping frequencies – for example electric guitar and vocals – and then overlay one analysed frequency curve next to the other. Neutron then indicates, via neat flashing grey bars or a histogram, where it thinks the problem frequencies lie. If the Inverse link button is on, Neutron makes complementary adjustments in the other track when changing EQ. Nodes can also be controlled via a Dynamic mode, where one node on a track can affect another, or by using side chain signals to modulate the EQ processing in the same way you would work with a compressor. It works well in practice as an indicative and processing tool for isolating common timbral clashes. The Neutrino section offers some specific presets that utilise the underlying technology of the Neutron program and I found it quite useful to select one of the four modes – Voice, Instrument, Bass and Drums – to do a bit of ‘pre-mixing’ when collaborating via the internet. Although Neutrino is available separately as a free plug-in, the whole Neutron package makes more sense if you are serious about mixing and mastering.

RRP: From $249 www.izotope.com Although the automated tools are extremely useful, Neutron has an extensive suite of parameters to allow the user to fine tune each section of the program. The only problem I found was that my 2009 quad-core Mac Pro was struggling with multiple instances of Neutron (Ed – iZotope says this wouldn’t be the case with a newer system), but Logic Pro’s ‘Bounce in Place’ allowed me to rapidly process a whole mix. I also tried to reproduce Neutron’s predictive settings with some of my other favourite plug-ins with some success. iZotope’s Neutron isn’t going to put mix engineers out of a job just yet – it does not take into account the dynamic and spatial relationships that make a great mix – but pros and dabblers alike will benefit from the processing and the ‘jumping off’ points it generates. I await further developments in this area with interest and I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

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


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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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TASCAM DR-100MKIII Key Features

RECORDER

„ Delivers ‘ultra-high-resolution’ recordings up to 192kHz/24-bit „ 109dB S/N ratio „ High-performance dual-mono AKM “Velvet Sound” converters „ Dual battery technology for extended recording times „ Supports SDXC cards up to 128GB

The newest generation of the company’s flagship handheld digital stereo recorder promises ‘ultrahigh-resolution’ recordings up to 192kHz/24-bit. Strother Bullins takes it for a spin. ascam’s latest incarnation of its DR-100 Linear PCM Recorder, the mkIII handheld, is a rugged and uniquely-equipped location recorder that is notable for its versatility, I/O options and intuitiveness, not to mention its fail-proof power supply redundancy scheme. In all, it’s a whole lot of bang for the buck, making it arguably the best overall handheld digital stereo recorder on the market today, available for $399 street. Capable of recording up to the 192kHz/24-bit highest-common resolution standard, key features of the DR-100mkIII include a 109dB signal-to-noise ratio, dual-mono AKM “Velvet Sound” converters, dual battery structure (using a built-in Li-ion type, rechargeable via Type A Micro B USB port, and two standard AA types), and an impressive offering of I/O. The DR-100mkIII can record up to 128GB of audio to a SDXC card (not included). Whether using its built-in dual stereo mics, configurable in either AB and omnidirectional patterns or recording dual inputs via its two Amphenol XLR/combo jacks with switchable phantom power, the DR100mkIII provides what most pro-level field recordists would need in a stereo digital recorder. And yes, the built-in microphones sound superb, rivalling great standalone small-diaphragm condensers; the dual inputs open

RRP: $399 www.tascam.com

T

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November 2016

”The DR-100 series has always been the handheld recorder of choice for serious location recording and sound design, and we knew we’d have to do a lot to improve upon that. We haven’t just added features – we’ve created an even more powerful, high-precision professional recording tool.” Jeff Laity, Tascam director of product marketing

up endless possibilities for audio capture since basically any two sound sources, mic or line, can be input to the DR-100mkIII.

In Use Operationally, the unit benefits from an Enter/Mark and Jog Wheel located centrally atop the unit for easy navigation of its comprehensive menu options via large LCD screen with easy-to-read graphics. In use, the DR100mkIII’s dedicated, easily adjustable input level knob was a boon, allowing me to actively “ride” the levels during some dynamic live performances I captured during my time with the unit.

A most important requirement of field recording is making sure that nary a note is missed in capture. Usefully, the DR-100mkIII features Tascam’s exclusive Dual Recording Mode, which simultaneously captures a lower level safety track, just in case you are often, like me, recording sources at the hottest levels you can muster; as such, the feature protects the material from unexpected source level spikes. Also helpful is its built-in mono speaker for quick in-the-field “I’ve got it!” references. I’ve reviewed many handheld digital recorders over the years, and while the DR-100mkIII will surely lose

any “Smallest Recorder” award, it is perfectly sized to be comfortably held in an adult’s hand, and feels most sturdy and rigid in its construction; not only do its buttons, knobs and various moving parts feel solid, it is all enclosed within a rugged black aluminum chassis that should be built to last. I wholeheartedly recommend this unit to anyone looking for a well-designed, great-sounding digital handheld recorder made of premium materials at an easily justifiable price.

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


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INTERVIEW

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FLYING SOLO

After years spent working on vocal tracks for numerous pop artists and prominent film soundtracks at British Grove, Joe Kearns went freelance in 2015. Colby Ramsey speaks to the producer and mix engineer about his already fruitful career and his new London studio space. having everything there in front of you makes the process much easier. I use a [Avid] D-Command as a main control surface and for monitoring I use ProAc Studio 100s, which I really like. With regard to plug-ins, Soundtoys is my favourite in terms of making things sound fun. My go-to EQ for everything is the FabFilter Pro-Q 2 and the Valhalla reverb is a favourite of mine as well. I also like the new Waves Andrew Scheps 1073 EQ. The

Joe Kearns (right) in the studio with Ellie Goulding

top end on it is really good and it sounds really musical and smooth.

How did you initially start out in this business? After graduating from Huddersfield Uni, I got my first job at British Grove Studios in west London as a runner/assistant. A friend of mine called Rich Cooper, who has gone on to become a brilliant producer, worked there at the time and enabled me to get my foot in the door. British Grove is a big studio but it has a family feel. You get thrown in the deep end quite quickly there and you’re not just waiting for someone to quit to get your big break, which may be the case at some of the other big studios and institutes. It was just me and Rich as the two assistants for the first couple of years so a lot of the work came straight to us. It’s definitely a great place to learn and the equipment there is amazing. There’s also a lot of variety in the work, so it’s great for someone new who is unsure about what they want to specialise in as the opportunities come thick and fast. It was a great education for me to observe some of the top producers and engineers at work there. So when did you receive your ‘big break’ and how do you think you have you managed to get so far at such a young age? 42

November 2016

Getting my foot in the door at British Grove in the first place was great, but my big break came after I had been working there for five or six years when Ellie Goulding booked in. I ended up engineering the session and we’ve worked together ever since – I just happened to be the guy there on the day and it turned into a fantastic opportunity because I do production, mixing and sometimes even writing with her now. I have British Grove to thank for getting me started in the industry but I have also been super determined and very career driven. I find I’m quite good at keeping in touch with clients and their management after a job. The networking side is sometimes overlooked I think by engineers and mixers – some people forget that it is still a human industry and that you need to keep good relationships going, as well as doing a good job. You’ve worked with some big names in pop recently. Do you have any particular highlights? I pretty much do pop music exclusively now. I like working with Ellie because she does things a little bit left of centre so it’s more experimental and interesting. I’ve also enjoyed doing a lot of mixing and vocal production for Little Mix and

have more recently been working with Hurts on their next album. I really enjoyed working with Kasabian on Velociraptor and 48:13 too. Could you tell us about the setup at your own studio? Do you have more freedom now you are working freelance compared to in-house? Now I’m working freelance it’s up to me how much work I take on, which is great but it’s also quite daunting as you have to really keep yourself occupied and stay proactive. When you’re in-house there’s a list of things that need to be done for someone else. In that respect, it’s nice being part of a bigger team when working in-house, but when you’ve got an idea it’s sometimes a bit nerve-wracking to show it to a group when it’s not yet fully realised. My setup is very humble. It’s based around a Pro Tools HD system and is basically a small programming mix room. There’s some nice pres and a few bits of outboard here but I tend to not use those so much as the workflow’s 98% in the box for me. It all comes down to convenience because of how you need to be with recalls – when you’re on three or four projects at once and you need to be bouncing between mixes and productions, there isn’t time to be recalling stuff so

How important is it to be versatile in terms of the type of work you are able to take on? I did some film scoring work while I was at British Grove but haven’t done much since leaving – the versatility in my CV as it were stems from there. Since going freelance I’ve specialised a lot more in the pop vocal work. I do enjoy being varied though because it keeps projects fresh and interesting. I got married recently so since coming back from my honeymoon I’ve had a bit of free time to concentrate more on writing, which I really like doing, especially with people who have the same kind of ideas and who you can get on a level with. From a technical standpoint, I like all different aspects of the job and the whole process. For example I enjoy the solidarity of mixing alone without someone on your shoulder, when it’s just you and the music but equally I love being in a room with two or three other writers working on a new track. I try to keep my diary full with a variety of sessions to keep it interesting. Any interesting future projects coming up that you can tell us about? Very recently I’ve been working with Ellie and a guy called Chris Ketley on a classical piece for Victim Support UK, which is a great charity and was a really fun project to work on. Also I’ve just finished vocal producing five tracks for the new Little Mix album Glory Days, which was released last month.



AMI November 2016 Digital Edition