Genius!33 Genius! Brought to you by the makers of
Our guide to the most creative, innovative and inspirational individuals shaping pro audio is back! 01 Genius3 FC v2final.indd 1
Audio-Technica is passionate about sound and music,
always listening for ways to improve our products, our service, our company
to offer the highest quality audio solutions to a world of listeners who share the passion.
P4 - Fumio Kamikura
P18 - John Stadius
P6 - Hideo Matsushita
P20 - Alan Splet
P8 - Jackie Green
P22 - Martin Hannett
P10 - Shioto Oktia
P24 - Arthur Baker
P12 - Charlie Watkins
P26 - Ben Bauer
P16 - Todd Rundgren
Contributors Jon Chapple
hen I arrived at PSNEurope just a few short months ago and was briefed on the excellent work that made up editions 1 and 2 of Genius, I have to admit that my first reaction was to question how exactly we would be able to maintain the standard of Genii (plural) over future instalments of the publication. With such talent and innovation splashed across those pages, I’d be lying if I claimed not to be a little daunted by the challenge of amassing another line-up of pioneers that could stand toe-to-toe with our previous Genius inductees. However, any such fears were quickly dispelled when research for Genius 3 got underway, as it became clear that the biggest problem we would face was actually finding enough space for the hundreds of audio innovators – and there are hundreds - inside this supplement. From the technical wizards transforming the world of touring and recording, through to the producers daring to push the boundaries of possibility in the studio or on the live stage, we have endeavoured to delve inside the minds of just some of those that have carried, and continue to carry, the industry forward. And what made compiling this edition a particularly inspiring process was the number of entrants who are still blazing a trail in the industry. There can a tendency to look back at the work of heroes gone by – and it’s only correct that they are rightfully recognised – but it’s equally important to recognise the excellent work that is still being carried out in the here and now. And this is certainly what we have sought to do within these pages.
Editor Daniel Gumble firstname.lastname@example.org
Production Executive Jason Dowie email@example.com
Staff writer Tara Lepore firstname.lastname@example.org
Group Commercial Manager, Music Ryan O’Donnell email@example.com
Content Director James McKeown firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Account Manager Rian Zoll-Khan email@example.com
Head of Design Jat Garcha firstname.lastname@example.org
Sales Executive Mark Walsh email@example.com
Daniel Gumble, Editor
NewBay Media, Emerson Studios, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London, SE1 9DU © Copyright NewBay Media Europe Ltd 2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of Genius3 are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems. Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA
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Fumio Kamikura and dual companding The general manager of the engineering department at AudioTechnica’s Japanese HQ is the Genius behind the dual-companding technology – which processes bass and treble separately for improved clarity and dynamic range – in A-T’s wireless microphone systems... By Jon Chapple
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How did you come up with dual companding? In analogue wireless microphones, where the occupied bandwidth and high frequencies are limited, there needs to be some compression of the dynamic range. But the performance of the transient response of the compander inside will massively affect the sound quality. These properties – transient response and securing a wide signal range – are contrary to each other, so the mission was to find a solution to cope with both factors. This was the genesis of the idea. How does it work? In conventional wireless microphones, the traditional idea was that the whole audio frequency range was covered by a single
compander. By separating the signals into high and low frequency ranges, it then became possible to find the optimal setting for each of those audio ‘bands’, which resulted in a far superior overall sound quality. By achieving a flat frequency response and improving the transient response at the same time, the performance of a dual-companding wireless microphone is therefore near to that of a wired microphone. What other projects have you worked on? I have worked in pro audio for more than 20 years, specialising in electronic circuitry, system planning and embedded software. Over the past three decades I have worked on the development of multi-trackers, various automatic mixers, both
analogue and digital, for conferencing and other applications; but my passion has been wireless microphone technology and I’ve been proud to be part of the core of Audio-Technica’s longestablished wireless programme. What’s been your career highlight so far? Highlights include our dual-companding wireless microphone systems being used at the Grammy Awards and Summer and Winter Games. I have also enjoyed going out and supporting the deployment of our wireless microphones at many of the world’s top sporting events, seeing how they are really used in the field and inspiring us to continually develop. www.audio-technica.com
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I believe in quality audio for everyone P6
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Hideo Matsushita and the dual moving-magnet cartridge
hose seven words were the guiding vision, and a favourite quote, of AudioTechnica founder Hideo Matsushita – who in 1962, at the age of 42, left his job at Tokyo’s Bridgestone Museum of Art to embark on a quest to bring quality audio to the masses. Following a 10-year stint at the museum, during which time he organised a number of successful LP listening events, Matsushita struck out on his own, establishing Audio-Technica as a way to make his ideas and designs for accessible, quality phono cartridges a reality. He recalled in 2002: “The company immediately launched its first product, the AT-1 stereo cartridge. At that time, we were headquartered in a rented one-storey barracks in Shinjuku. We started out with three employees, but quickly grew to 20. We worked late each night, stopping only for dinner at the ramen shop in front of the premises.” Matsushita’s breakthrough was the invention of a phono cartridge design that, unlike other stereo cartridges, duplicated the structure of the cutter head of the lathes used to carve out record grooves. The now internationally patented design – still used in A-T cartridges today and referred to as ‘VM’ – employs two independent permanent magnets mounted at 45° angles, precisely matching the positions of the left and right channels in the stereo record groove. An isolation plate is positioned between the two magnets to reduce crosstalk and improve channel separation/balance. With its associated pole pieces and electrical coils, each magnet becomes an electrical generator reproducing only the signal from one side of the record groove, which maximises stereo channel separation. Each magnet is also smaller and weighs less than the single magnet in a conventional cartridge. Given this reduced mass, and the fact that the magnets are mounted near the fulcrum of the stylus assembly, the stylus can also respond more quickly and accurately to the motion of the record groove, resulting in less distortion. In addition to providing quality sound reproduction, the VM dual moving-magnet cartridge was priced affordably, winning AudioTechnica a legion of fans in Japan and laying the foundations for the company’s expansion into international markets and the development of many other audio products. Matsushita served as president of AudioTechnica until 1993, when he was named chairman of the board and succeeded as president by his son, Kazuo. Matsushita was later appointed executive emeritus – a position he held at the time of his death on March 5, 2013. www.audio-technica.com
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Jackie Green and the UWB microphone
By Jon Chapple
t’s hard to remember now, but back in the early noughties – when MySpace was king, the recorded music industry had yet to implode, and the live business was getting to grips with a new-fangled speaker design called the ‘line array’ – Wi-Fi had yet to cement its position as the goto technology for wireless networking. Wi-Fi, now ubiquitous on computers, smartphones and tablets worldwide, in fact had a serious competitor in the form of ultra wideband (UWB), a radio technology capable of transferring far more megabits per second (480Mbps vs Wi-Fi’s 54Mbps) using far less power than Wi-Fi – and which for a time seemed as if it would become the de facto standard for wireless internet and cord-free computing. As far as consumer devices go, UWB ultimately lost out to Wi-Fi – tech site Lifewire notes that while, “in the mid-2000s, UWB’s higher bandwidth links could handle much larger volumes of content than the versions of Wi-Fi available at the time, Wi-Fi eventually caught up”
– but the technology is finding a new lease of life in the pro audio world, courtesy of AudioTechnica subsidiary Alteros. Alteros’s latest innovation, launched at NAB earlier this year, is the GTX Series UWB wireless microphone system. By operating in the 6.5GHz range and beyond, the GTX Series bypasses the increasingly congested RF spectrum to offer broadcast professionals what A-T calls “immunity to regulatory changes in radio-frequency spectrum, bandwidth loss and channel crowding”. Jackie Green, president and CTO of Alteros, explains that she came up with the idea for the GTX series “out of necessity”. “I knew that the spectrum in which we operated traditional digital or FM analogue wireless microphones was rapidly shrinking,” she says. I searched for alternative technologies and frequency bands which could be utilised to provide the performance required, but in a range that would not be affected by spectrum auctions, crowding and TV-channel repacks. “When I examined UWB technology, quite simply, the maths worked: there was enough bandwidth and our data rate was suitable. It then just became a matter of learning how to overcome the challenges of designing and building a product that operated above 6GHz.” Green says she hopes the GTX Series helps the pro audio business realises that “it is possible to accomplish robust professional performance utilising completely new methods in the very high microwave frequency bands”. Prior to its launch, she says, “many in the industry believed the only way to make a high quality wireless microphone was to do so in the UHF TV bands”. “Since that spectrum is rapidly shrinking, I hope we have encouraged others to take a risk and design wireless microphones using new technologies – without being timid about operating in very high ranges,” Green concludes. www.alteros.tech
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Shioto Okita and the rec The head of Audio-Technica’s microphone development pioneered a design that combines four diaphragms into one mega transducer, as Jon Chapple finds out... By Jon Chapple Tell us about your invention. I figured out how to combine four rectangular diaphragms into one ultra-large diaphragm in order to achieve improved performance. This is the design concept used in the AT5040 and AT5047 microphones. How did you come up with the design? There are certain factors limiting the performance of microphones, as they work through a combination of sound waves, mechanical vibrations and the electrical signal in the diaphragm. If we are considering, for example, a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz – the hearing range for humans – with a sound velocity of 340m/s – the speed of sound – wavelength can vary from 17m to 17mm. Additionally, from 0dB SPL to 140 dB SPL, the sound pressure varies from 0.0002Pa to 200 Pa. The diaphragm, which is the most important part of the microphone, needs ideally to ‘accept’ these characteristics as they are – but in reality, the diaphragm has its own weight and a specific stiffness, which can limit the overall performance of the microphone. Regarding the electronic signal, condenser microphones need phantom power, which also impacts the maximum output level – while electrical noise and distortion can also affect the performance. To achieve the highest performance, a microphone needs to balance each of these aspects. This is something I, as a developer, need to consider, and I am continuously thinking about new ideas every day. One day, after many years of trial and error, the AT5040 was suddenly born. The idea was to put the rectangular-shaped diaphragms together like a Japanese tatami mat [a traditional rectangular floor covering] in order to construct one large transducer to improve
the microphone’s performance. Different timings and different ideas overlapped and the prototype for the AT5040 was finished straight away. How does it work? To achieve the greatest purity of sound, the circuit uses a buffer amplifier for the first and third elements of the four-part diaphragm, and through these feeds signals to the summing elements of the second and fourth elements. With this proprietary summing method, I was able to quadruple the microphone’s sensitivity while keeping self-noise low. The AT5040 provides a high sensitivity of -25dB SPL, and a S/N ratio of 89 dB, while keeping the maximum input sound level at 142dB SPL. Was anyone else involved in the development of this microphone? Yes – this idea did not come from me alone. All the know-how of microphone engineering pioneers, from whom I learnt a lot, and my engineering colleagues, who gave me a lot of inspiration, were also important factors in the development of this idea. What are your plans for the future? I want to continuously research the unknown possibilities of acoustic transducers. Modern analogue microphones are required to be compatible with digital equipment – but this digital processing comes after the transducer process, and I think the fundamental part of the microphone, the diaphragm, will not change. Therefore, we can say that if the diaphragm does not change, the basic performance of the aimed microphone will not change in the future either. www.audio-technica.com
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Charlie Watkins By Phil Ward
n 1967, heavy rock took The Beatles by surprise. The band that had led the way in popular music for five years suddenly were struggling to keep up with louder, bluesier competition and they never regained the pole position on which their reputation is based. They were no longer touring, of course, so although their records set new standards, they lost ground in the arena that depended upon different technological advances – advances that made the names and the reputations of figureheads such as Jim Marshall, Hiwatt’s Dave Reeves and a short, balding accordionist with a screwdriver called Charlie Watkins. By then, Watkins had already been around for a long time. In suburban south London, he’d had a record shop since 1949 that had soon evolved into an instrument retail outlet. Responding astutely to demand, he joined Marshall and the others in the quest for better guitar amplification during the beat boom, recognising the shift in emphasis towards sound quality, including loudness. Unlike the others, though, it was Watkins who identified the needs of integrated sound for the whole ensemble, rather than discrete ways of making the newly heroic guitar ever more dominant. His backline and effects had contributed to a ‘British’ rock sound, but as the live scene developed a culture of huge festivals, ritualistic counter-culture binges and theatrical noise, more was needed – especially for the vocals. A new breed of rock diva was abroad, and their vocal cords had matching egos – both of which yearned for attention. PENN PAL SSE Audio Group founder John Penn is among all of those in the industry ready to acknowledge Watkins’ genius, and has personal experience of his legendary premises that for a while became a regular haunt of the musicians who defined the first wave of rock’s rambunctious presence – including Hendrix, Bolan and Bowie. “I met him in around ’75 or ’76,” Penn recalls. “I was selling a bunch of WEM Copicats, and because I bought four I got a bit of a deal from him. To those of us who knew what he’d achieved he was a real legend, and I’d actually been to the Pink Floyd gig at Crystal Palace in 1971 that was the first quadrophonic concert, all with WEM gear. This was the gig where a giant ‘octopus’ was supposed to rise majestically from the lake, but all the plastic tentacles got tangled up, and in the end a roadie had to dive in through the pouring rain and try to unravel
“An innovator”: Charlie Watkins
eight 20ft legs… Charlie was there, just sitting on some cabinets at the side, and the DJ/compere Pete Drummond gave him a big shout-out as the guy who made all this possible, sound-wise, and got him a big round of applause. He was really embarrassed, this little bald fella who looked like [early British TV comedian] Charlie Drake.” This was a long way from service in the Merchant
Navy during the War, when Watkins worked in radio communications. It was his grounding in amplification, and after the war he started out fixing radios to earn a living, having set up a shop at 66 Offley Road, Kennington in south London. “That was where you would go to buy new gear made by WEM – Watkins Electric Music,” confirms Penn. “He was a nice, quiet guy who had a passion for
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John Penn (above): “Watkins was way ahead of anyone else”
electronics, radio, telecoms… and the accordion! He started to make speaker cabinets and amplifiers, and it wasn’t so much about the acoustics as the power. There was very little choice, and he was the first guy to make anything in PA that used what - in today’s terms - would be a power amp.” This went hand-in-hand with the jewel in Watkins’ pioneering crown: the Audiomaster, being the first ‘console’ with balanced inputs for long mic cables. Watkins also coined the phrase ‘slave’ amplifier, referring to amps with no controls other than volume that could be chained together for more power. “I remember the SL100,” says Penn, “a 100W model in a chassis about 12” long, four” high and 10” deep; with a jack input and output on the front and a volume knob. That was it – oh, and a Bulgin connector on the back, from memory, for mains input. The trick was you could pile these things up and keep adding speaker cabs.” CLAPTON PEER The big breakthrough into what we would now recognise as a PA occurred when promoter and
Marquee Ballroom founder Harold Pendleton (RIP) approached Watkins for help in a new venture. In the early ‘60s Pendleton had established the National Jazz Festival in Berkshire – the precursor to the modern Reading Festival – and needed a PA system to keep up with the mind-expanding backlines du jour. Until that point, options included the Shure Vocal Master, Vox MC and PA ranges, plus a few boxes Selmer had bequeathed out of the failed attempts to get The Beatles heard – all based on a few valve amps and a valve mixeramplifier. That was the competition that Watkins faced when he had the bold brainwave of turning to solid state circuitry. “When the Audiomaster came onto the market it was way ahead of anyone else,” Penn continues. “Charlie’s approach was completely different, and he used the National Jazz Festival as his test-bed. Of course, by about 1967, it wasn’t simply a jazz festival any more. You had all the up-and-coming blues-rock acts that would soon be defining heavy rock, and especially the guitarists like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page that would require a bigger sound
almost year-on-year! All the roadies who were touring around with these guys thought it was a fantastic amplifier chiefly because it was really lightweight. Compared with a valve amp it was significantly lighter, and that made a big difference when you were carrying it up a flight of stairs…” The synergy continued with Watkins’ choice of a column arrangement for the speakers, using multiple Goodmans drivers with robust magnets and a more flexible, concentric cone called the Axiom 301. This contrasted well with the firm cones used in guitar amplification, providing a gentler response better suited to the human voice. The classic WEM PA added another column containing the Goodmans Audiom subwoofer and one more with three Celestion MF100 horn tweeters to fill out the frequency range. He would later turn to Electro-Voice flat-faced horns called ‘HD’s, with an 1829 threaded, rear-opening driver – a derivative of which ended up in the Electro-Voice MT4. “So he was trying to source good parts and do it properly,” adds Penn, “and manufacturing PA that you could just pile up and create a real wall of sound.”
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Genius!3 Watkins with his wife June back in 2008
The ’67 National Jazz Festival duly witnessed 1,000W of PA, thanks to amp ‘slaving’. During testing in Kennington, the police had been called and one neighbour admitted to fearing an earthquake, so it was also the birth of the noise control industry as we know it today and its associated politics – an achievement of which Watkins was immensely proud. When Berkshire police intervened at the festival, notably at the climax of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown’s big hit ‘Fire’, Watkins calmly pointed out the consequences for Berkshire of switching off a system that was at that moment captivating a crowd of 40,000. Immediate cessation was averted, and Watkins was even cleared in court later of any civil charges: a line drawn in the sand, for which the rental industry has been grateful ever since. LOOP GURU Other WEM achievements include the Shadowcat and Copicat tape echo units: early models were valve, but Watkins improved on that by making the Custom Copicat solid state too, as part of his wholesale embracement of the new technology from the Far East. It cost £65 – a lot of money in its day but eminently affordable – it had a record head and three playback heads with variable speeds for short slapback to long delays, and vocals or guitar
passed through it would immediately produce an effect quite unlike anything that had gone before. “Previous to that there had only been the spring reverb – even the Audiomaster had one built in – and as soon as anyone knocked it in a crowded pub you’d get this almighty clang through the PA,” Penn remembers. “The first thing you did with that was disconnect it… then out came this little tape echo, and that was the thing everybody used for a long time – until the Binson Echorec, which you can see today in the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A.” Another contribution was stage monitoring – foldback, as it became known. Legend has it that this first happened at the Bickershaw Festival in Lancashire when vocalist Roger Chapman and his band Family were on stage… again, John Penn was there. “Roger said something like ‘there must be a million watts here and I can’t hear a thing’… so Charlie grabbed a couple of the PA boxes and turned them to point at the stage,” he says. “Roger was ecstatic. As a result of that, Charlie developed a version of the Audiomaster that you could customise with an extra split – post-EQ, pre-rotary output – for monitors. And thanks to the new ‘slave’ amplifiers, you could feed this signal to as many monitors as you wanted – although there was only one ‘mix’. Pretty soon, I remember Hawkwind
were using an entire WEM Festival system as side fills pointing at the stage, while using a completely separate FOH PA.” LUCKY LOGO Although astute, Watkins was a business phenomenon more by accident than design, and failed to capitalise upon his position in the way that current ‘business development’ initiatives would insist. Penn says: “One really important thing Charlie had was his ‘WEM’ logo, which became the most iconic thing in PA, equivalent to Marshall, HiWatt or Premier among the backline. Everyone remembers that picture of Eric Clapton in Hyde Park, playing with Blind Faith, with the orangey-red WEM logo on the column speaker just over his left shoulder. It really stood out, and after that everybody got a WEM PA – just the most brilliant piece of marketing never intended! “In fact, Charlie didn’t realise the commercial possibilities of what he was doing at all. All he wanted to do was turn up and get a great sound at these festivals and concerts, to make the whole event better while selling a few systems as he went along. He’d loan the gear for the festivals in order to encourage the bands to buy it. The concept of rental was completely alien to him. He did sell a lot of it, but he didn’t spot the opportunity he had to create a regular revenue stream from hire – especially from the large events that were now becoming a regular part of the calendar, and yet were difficult for promoters to afford if they had to buy a new PA system every time. He could have done so much more. “But he was an innovator. For that Crystal Palace gig, he made some unique 3ft-4ft-diameter parabolic reflectors, like satellite dishes. Years later, Meyer Sound produced something similar with the SB-1 Parabolic Long-Throw Sound Beam, so he was way ahead of his time. His genius was that he figured out how to separate the mixing element from the power amplification, so you could add as much power as you wanted, and do this without using cumbersome valve circuitry. There were a lot of people telling him he’d never make it work without valves, he’d never get enough power or it wouldn’t sound right because solid state transistors were notorious for sounding tinny. Don’t forget, solid state at that time was the technology behind miniature transistor radios from Japan or Hong Kong – not associated with hi-fi at all. It wasn’t your solid, warm radiogram! Using solid state was not an obvious thing to do, but Charlie used his experience and knowledge to come up with solutions that changed the whole industry.” Ironically, Watkins was a jazz-loving, accordionplaying mild man who disliked rock music intensely. The industry overtook him and by 1974 he’d sold the factory and moved on. His legacy, though, can be heard every night at a gig near you.
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The quest for audio excellence is much more than a utilitarian one. More than simply being heard, it is about capturing all the nuance of expression. Youâ€™ll find Audio-Technicaâ€™s commitment to this principle in both the sound and look of our products.
artistry both inside and out.
Genius!3 Image credit: Lynn Goldsmith/LGI?
Todd Rundgren and the art of multitasking By Kevin Hilton
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ot all talents and innovations are widely recognised or known. If asked who produced Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell most people would say Jim Steinman. And if they had heard of Todd Rundgren, who did produce that album, chances are the only song of his they would know is I Saw the Light. But Rundgren has been wilfully contrary for most of his 50 or so year career, during which he has released albums in most genres, produced both himself and an array of other artists, mastered audio, video and multimedia technologies and foreseen today’s download culture. Like many young Americans in the mid-1960s, Rundgren played in a high-school band and then looked to take the next step in music. In 1967 he formed The Nazz, inspired by The Beatles and George Martin, not only in the style of music but also the idea that production could add a extra dimension to music. “I put great importance on the role of the producer before we [the Nazz] made our first record,” Rundgren said in an interview for Studio Sound in 1999. When the producer of the first Nazz album left the project after producing a mix the band was unhappy with, Rundgren made a decision that would set the foundations for his later direction. “I ended up getting involved in the remix, which required learning about engineering, although I knew about it to a certain extent because I had worked on the demos prior to recording,” he said. This stood Rundgren in good stead when he went solo. He not only wrote and produced two albums in 1971 but played most of the instruments on them as well. More musicians featured on the following year’s Something/ Anything?. While this features several recognisable and commercial songs, including I Saw The Light and Hello it’s Me, it has its experimental moments and laid the way for 1973’s A Wizard, A True Star. This one-man record is something of an aural assault. Not only does it play with song structure, but studio technology is to the fore, with the heavily compressed sound leaping out of the loudspeakers. The compression helped Rundgren get as much music as possible on to vinyl and created his signature sound. “My approach to sound is that it is in your face,” he said. “I usually avoid anonymous acoustic spaces and I’ve never been one for gated snare drums or other gratuitous effects.” The creatively restless Rundgren established three personas: as a solo artist-studio master, a member of prog rock band Utopia and a producer for hire. In this last role he worked with the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, the Tom
Robinson Band and XTC. Bat Out Of Hell is the most famous of his production jobs but he views it as his least characteristic. Rundgren the technologist is particularly evident on A Capella (1985), on which his treated and overdubbed voice takes the place of instruments, and the synthesiser-heavy Healing (1980). The first “serious” sampler he used was the Fairlight but, surprisingly, he has admitted to not plunging straight into new technologies. “I’m not the first to use anything,” he admits. ‘Usually somebody else has done something before I have. For example, I came relatively late to MIDI.” Regardless of this, the fascination with new technology and what it can bring is a theme in Rundgren’s career. He released the first allmusic interactive CD-ROM, No World Order in 1993. This allowed listeners to select different sections of the tracks to create different versions. He toured as TR-i (Todd Rundgren interactive) in a special ‘pod’ housing synths, samplers and automatic triggers, with video screen on top. The interest in images continued with The Individualist (1995), featuring computer animations, and work on the NewTek Video Toaster, an early all-in-one production package. This gives the impression of a modern, technological Renaissance Man, but Rundgren has put it down to having a short attention span: “What I end up doing is multitasking.” This involved having a network of three computers, one doing programme design, another for sound projects and third handling data transfer, video and graphics. By his own admission, Rundgren has been “inconsistent” through his career, which has sometimes confounded fans and certainly antagonised record companies. This is probably why he was an early proponent of the internet, as a way for artists to be more in control of their work, and to reach their core audience directly. In 1999, Rundgren foresaw ‘music brokers’ charging a monthly fee to stream a selection of music and music sites offering people the best tracks of the moment. Rundgren’s genius for insight has been more fully realised in music recording. With a few exceptions, all his solo albums have been recorded at various home studios, something that most artists do as a matter of course today. He has also moved from tape to hard disk and then computer programme recording. His chameleonlike persona and low public profile have obscured his influence but this hasn’t made him change tack. The title of Rundgren’s 1999 compilation probably sums it up best: “Go ahead, ignore me!”
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John Stadius, Digico
For almost four decades, Digico’s technical director, John Stadius, has been at the cutting edge of sound, helping the company establish itself as one of the biggest brand names in the biz. Here, he tells PSNEurope about how he got involved in the industry and where he sees it headed in the years to come…
ith a career spanning some 39 years, Digico technical director, John Stadius, has played a pivotal part in revolutionising the world of pro audio. Yet, while his name is now most closely aligned with one of the most revered and recognisable console brands on the planet, his work has helped shape sound across all areas of the market. In fact, Stadius made his formative steps is the industry designing disco consoles, mixers, power amps and speakers for DJs with Soundout Laboratories back in the late ‘70s. Just a few years later, the firm would broaden its horizons, shifting its focus to sound amplification and audio mixing desks for the home recording sector, rebranding itself simply as Soundtracs. It was around this time that Stadius began to delve a little more deeply into the world of digital audio and the far-reaching possibilities that came with it, with Soundtracs having developed its first digitally controlled analogue mixing console in the form of the CM4400. Then, at the backend of the ‘90s, Soundtracs launched its first fully digital console – the Virtua - which was deemed to be something of springboard for future consoles. However, it was in 2000 that the digital boom across the sector really started to gather pace. A new management team invested in the company, resulting in Soundtracs becoming Digico, with the renamed business launching the first truly live digital console in the shape of the D5 Live, which also employed SHARC technology. Stadius’ pioneering work continued to help the company scale new heights, with the gamechanging SD7 console taking the market by storm in 2007. Benefitting from the use of large-scale FPGAs, which Stadius combined with Stealth Digital Processing to develop the core of the SD Range of consoles and the new S Series, the SD7 remains a benchmark and is still one of the most iconic and widely used desks across the industry. In recognition of his continued innovation and vast contribution to the professional audio industry, it was recently revealed that Stadius will be the deserving recipient of the 2018 Parnelli Audio Innovator Award. He will receive the prestigious award at the Winter NAMM show on January 26, 2018 at the Hilton Hotel at the Anaheim Convention Centre, California.
Genius: John Stadius
Q&A with John Stadius What was it that made you decide to pursue a career in pro audio? I always had a fascination for electronically generated music and sounds while at school. Getting into pro audio was a bit of an accident. After finishing a degree in electronics and electrical engineering, I was about to go to Canada and do a further Master’s degree. At that time, a friend who was working for a company called Soundout Laboratories, asked me if I wanted a job there. In fact, he was offering me his job as he wished to pursue other things. I said OK, thinking it would be just for a short period. That was in 1978 and it’s the only job I have had. Soundout started with disco gear, turning into Soundtracs, then into Digico.
the industry, and with Quantum 7, there is still more to come.
Were there any key industry figures that inspired you during your formative years in the industry? I’d rather keep those names to myself….
What is this biggest challenge facing the live music sector today? Keeping up with the technology around us and harnessing it for our applications. It’s also the fun part.
What is your proudest achievement to date? Without doubt, the SD7. It was the biggest challenge and has proven to be the ultimate live console. The idea of using the flexibility of FPGAs enabled us to keep enhancing the product with new ideas and keep it leading
As a pro audio Genius, what are your predictions for the future of the industry, particularly in the field of digital consoles? Artificial intelligence assisting and supporting engineers to keep up with the market’s growing demands. What is the biggest change you have seen in the industry during your career? Going digital and its impact on the size of productions. A few years back, 48-channel was considered a large show; now we are running hundreds of channels.
And what are the biggest opportunities? Embracing all these new technologies and seeing how they can help us deliver more, in a way that helps the operators. And for all the technology to be presented in a simple, user-friendly way.
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Alan Splet... and the sound effect as an art form By Kevin Hilton
odern film soundtracks comprise multiple layers of sound that help create atmosphere, a sense of place and even drive the narrative. There was creativity in audio during the earlier days of cinema, but for many films, the sound effect was merely a practical device. Alan Splet was among the creative technicians who helped to change that and create what is now known as sound design. His name is less familiar than those of his contemporaries - and in some respects, rivals - Walter Murch and Ben Burtt. Most of his filmography is less mainstream, and being a long-time collaborator of David Lynch, whose peculiar vision he helped realise in sound, added to people’s perception of his work as eccentric. Born in 1939, Splet took engineering in college but was also a fan of classical music and a cello player. His entry into professional sound came when Bob Collum, a friend who ran the audio department at Philadelphia film laboratory Calvin de Frene, offered him an assistant’s job. David Lynch had worked with Collum on some of his student projects, but when it came to his short film The Grandmother (1970), he was told he would have to work with Splet. “There’s this guy, about six foot two, as thin as a string, with this haircut that’s... just goofball!”, the director recalled in the book Lynch On Lynch. “David was horrified by the sight of Alan,” confirms Ann Kroeber, Splet’s widow and partner in the effects library Sound Mountain. “But they had an incredible collaboration.” The two men shared a strong interest in sound, particularly winds and industrial rumbles, clicks, hums and hisses. All these feature on Lynch’s debut feature, Eraserhead (1976), and help create the sense of an unreal reality. Ann Kroeber, an innovative sound recordist in her own right, observes that part of Splet’s genius was bringing about a change in the way people experienced movies through audio. “Sound effects used to be added to fill,” she says. “There would be birdy tweets, footsteps and doors closing. Nothing really dramatic. Alan discovered that sound effects could have an incredibly emotional impact on us. It’s a different experience from music, which takes you out of the film. Effects bring you into the film and make you more involved.” Winds held an overriding fascination for Splet, who recorded extensively at Findhorn in Scotland, capturing what Lynch has described as “beautiful, lyrical winds”. He also devised new ways of recording wind, as Kroeber witnessed.
“He would put the mics where you wouldn’t expect, so you could hear the winds in a certain way. He thought it was important to capture the wind hitting an object or crossing a door or windows or through trees.” Practicalities like properly protecting and baffling the mic were not forgotten, although, as well as using Schoeps mics, he sometimes broke with convention and used small lavaliers. Kroeber says of his attitude to life in general: “He fought conventionality always.” New techniques were also developed for recording animals. On The Black Stallion (1979), Splet designed a harness that fitted over a horse’s head, placing a mic on its belly and close miking the hooves. “Those sounds, the intensity of the hoof beats, added to the drama of the race,” explains Kroeber, who worked on the film with Splet. “You’re more involved with the horses than if they had just been recorded as they went past.” This work won Splet an Honorary Academy Award for its sound effects. He and Kroeber learned of this while they were in England shooting The Elephant Man (1980) with Lynch.
Kroeber says he was delighted but stunned and decided not to attend because he thought it would detract from his current project. On awards night, the host of the show, Johnny Carson, started a running gag about Splet being on his way. When it was clear he wasn’t going to appear, Carson famously said: “First George C Scott doesn’t show, then Marlon Brando and now Alan Splet.” Kroeber notes that if Splet had just turned up to receive his award nobody would have really noticed him. Sadly, like many innovators, Alan Splet’s importance has been somewhat overshadowed since his death in 1994. Both Kroeber and Lynch continue to protect his legacy, while the strangeness and invention of his work can be heard in films as diverse as The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (1988), Blue Velvet (1986) and The Mosquito Coast (1986). The masterclass, however, remains Eraserhead. Doing away with a standard sound effects library and making an original set over 63 days has more than a touch of genius - and madness - about it.
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respect Achievements should be honoured and built upon. Advancements come not from dismissing the past, but from embracing it so fully that the next step forward becomes an obligation to continue the journey already begun. No rejection, simply respect.
By Daniel Gumble
orever synonymous for his production work with Manchester post punk icons Joy Division, Martin Hannett played a pivotal role in shaping the sounds emanating from the north west of England back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Though he was credited as an original partner and director with the now legendary label Factory Records and has worked with a wide range of artists, including the likes of New Order, Durutti Column, Magazine, John Cooper Clarke and Happy Mondays, the two records to which he is most inextricably bound are Joy Divisions only two studio albums Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (1980). If the combination of frontman Ian Curtis’ haunting baritone and sombre lyrics, bassist Peter Hook’s impossibly melodic basslines, guitarist Bernard Sumner’s discordant textures and drummer Stephen Morris’ metronomic pounding beats weren’t enough to mark Joy Division out as something unlike any other band around the time, the impact of Hannett’s otherworldly production style was enough to rocket them light years ahead of anyone else in the game.
Whereas most punk bands of the time sought to recreate their live sound on record, Hannett’s ability to hear beyond the sound of four lads playing in a pub resulted in two records that, to this day, sound like no album made before or since. Despite his unique talent for bringing new sonic dimensions to bands used to primarily working in a conventional rock’n’roll set up (vocals, guitar, bass and drums), his presence upon the Manchester scene started to diminish as he suffered with drug and alcohol problems. Following years of addictions, Hannett sadly passed away at the age of 42 on April 18 1991 due to heart failure. Yet, while there is no telling what he could have achieved had his life not been cut so tragically short, the work he left behind continues to influence and inspire. To find out more about Hannett’s revolutionary work in the studio, PSNEurope caught up with Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook for an insight into what it was like to work with a true audio genius… What were your first impressions of Martin when you started working with him? He seemed much older and very knowledgeable. We were completely in awe at Cargo Recording Studios when we first met to do Digital and Glass for Factory Records. We did not know anything… so basically he had carte blanche to do what he liked. I must say, he did a great job. But some credit must go to his studio engineer and owner of Cargo Studios, John Brierley, who was a fantastic engineer and great punk music fan who know the studio inside out. This enabled Martin to go ‘MAD’ trying any trick or idea he could come up with. Was it immediately apparent you were working with someone who would later be credited with pioneering studio production techniques? No. His thirst for knowledge and imagination knew no bounds – the sign of a true maverick. All great producers, in my opinion, don’t know what they are doing...they just do it! Arthur Baker is another great example.
Peter Hook (picture by Al De Perez)
How crucial was his input to the longevity of the work you produced with him? He did without doubt put the icing on the cake that was Joy Division. He made the LPs sound slick, professional and very grown up, giving them lasting appeal. And the proof is the absolute high regard those records are held in, even now in
2017. By the time we got to New Order, the very chemistry that drove him, drove him to drugs and drink and his inevitable downfall. Very sad. Are there any particular memories of working with Martin that really stand out for you? He was a slave driver, obnoxious, sarcastic, obtuse, never satisfied. Arrogant, driven, always knew you were wrong, difficult to work with. Perfect for a Genius! What was it that made him such a visionary producer? Do you remember any unusual techniques he employed in the studio? His attitude, and the great songs we gave him to work with. Without them he would have been nothing. Well that’s what I think anyway! Me and Barney [Bernard Sumner] learnt absolutely tonnes from him and the things we saw him do, things I use even now when I produce. And no, I am NOT telling you the secrets!
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Few things bring us together like sound. The abstract beauty of orchestrated notes, the resonant power of a finely articulated speech can connect people like little else. Audio-Technica is devoted to facilitating
connections through the creation of the finest audio products, bringing people closer to sound and, through those sounds, closer to each other.
Arthur Baker: Photo by Fiona Garden
By Kevin Hilton
ampling and remixing are now so well established in the music business and accepted by the record buying or downloading public that it seems ridiculous they were ever considered original or revolutionary. But when samples and remixes first hit the dance scene, Arthur Baker and other producers were seen as pushing the boundaries by using clever studio engineering and what was then cutting edge technology. Part of the skill in any sampled or remixed recording is knowing the music and what will get dancers on the floor. As with many of the big names on the scene today, Baker started out as a DJ in his native Boston. Working in a record shop also gave him access to different styles of music; from early ‘70s rock he moved into Philly soul and then disco. “I had a good education,” he told Studio Sound in 2000. Baker made the move from DJing into production through an engineering course at Intermedia Studios (later Synchro Sound when it was owned by pop-rock band The Cars) in Boston. This helped lay the foundations for the mainstay of his career - remixing - but also exposed him to the studio technology that would help him create a new genre. The roots of remixing lie in reggae and the dub scene of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Taking
a song and making something new by adding effects or different beats crossed over into disco and pop during the ‘70s. By the ‘80s the club scene was demanding longer and more danceable versions of current tracks, leading to the phenomenon that was the 12” remix single. Baker worked with remix pioneer Casablanca Records and moved to the home of disco, New York. Here he worked with New Edition (Candy Girl), Afrika Bambaataa and the Sonic Soul Force (Planet Rock) and produced the killer 12” version of Rockers Revenge’s take on Eddy Grant’s Walkin’ On Sunshine. Under his own name he released Breaker’s Revenge, which he also produced, arranged and mixed. “I was a DJ/producer who got into remixing,” he said. There is the impression that remixing is purely a technical process, imposing studio effects and rebalancing through the desk on a piece of music. Part of Baker’s skill was combining his musical knowledge with his engineering abilities. This showed itself on his remixes of Bruce Springsteen’s Cover Me (1984) and Dancing In The Dark (1985), the first time the Boss had allowed someone to work on his songs without his involvement. Baker described these as “pre-technology” work, as they pre-dated Pro Tools. “The Springsteen remixes were more a musical
production, based on arrangements, than a technological one,” he explained. As time went on, record companies expected numerous remixes to suit different markets and clubs, but Baker said he always tried to keep the integrity of a song. “I love doing remixes because it’s a test.” Producing a remix that stands up in its own right is undoubtedly a talent, but not an uncommon one. Baker’s claim to genius is in taking the process further and using technology and an encyclopaedic knowledge of music to create a composite that took on a life of its own. Put The Needle To The Record (1987) - credited to Criminal Element Orchestra and produced by Wally Jump Junior - was the first cut ‘n’ paste single, although released after M|A|R|R|S’ Pump Up The Volume (which sampled Baker’s production). Baker had heard many of the tracks he sampled - including Prince’s Kiss and Looking For A New Love by Jody Watley - played by DJ Gail King at the Red Parrot Club in New York. Put the Needle To The Record was made possible by technology but, because of the times, was more involved than it would be today: “We did it before looping, just using an Akai sampler. Nobody had done it before, using drum machines, click tracks and vari-speeding to keep everything in time.” Genius is always in the idea, but sometimes also in making something work.
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As an innovative transducer company celebrating more than 50 years of audio excellence, Audio-Technica has always been interested in more than just manufacturing products that capture and reproduce sound. We are determined to
go beyond the status quo to obtain new levels of audio excellence that, in turn, will become the new levels for us to surpass.
BENJAMIN BAUMZEIGER BAUER (1913-1979): Inventor of the Unidyne HISTORICAL
Ben Bauer in his office, Huron Street, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1945
en Bauer, born Benjamin Baumzweiger, began his career in 1932 when he received a degree in Industrial Engineering, before pursuing an electrical engineering degree at the University of Cincinnati. Around the same time, Shure Brothers Incorporated of Chicago, Illinois, was offering a work co-op programme through the University of Cincinnati; an opportunity that Bauer took full advantage of, alternately working for Shure and attending school. After graduating in 1937, he was hired by Shure as a full-time acoustical engineer. His first
major contribution was the development of the first unidirectional (cardioid) microphone that employed a single transducer. Utilising a patented Uniphase acoustical system developed by Bauer, Shure launched the Uniplex crystal microphone, model 730A, and the iconic Unidyne dynamic microphone, Model 55, in 1939. Over the following years, Bauer spearheaded a wide range of innovations at Shure, such as its disc-cutter designs, phonograph pickups, and the moving-coil pistonphone used for microphone calibration work. During World War II, he worked
on the development of speech communication equipment for the Armed Services. One of these devices was the battle-announce microphone used during and after the war by the US Navy, as well as the throat microphones that were widely employed in fighter and bomber aircraft. After World War II, Bauer was appointed VP of engineering at Shure Brothers Incorporated. In 1957, Bauer parted ways with Shure to join CBS Laboratories in Stamford, Connecticut, as head of audio technology development. There, he led a crack team of engineers who focused
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Genius!3 on stereo LP discs, magnetic recording, and other equipment to improve the audio quality of recorded music. One of his research efforts resulted in the development of a loudnesslevel indicator, a device used by the Federal Communications Commission and others in monitoring broadcast programmes. Thirteen years later in 1970, his team developed the SQ-quadraphonic matrix system, which, in 1977, was judged by the Federal Communications Commission Laboratory to be the best of all matrix systems tested. Bauer was subsequently made VP and general manager of the CBS Technology Center at Stamford in 1975, where he directed research and development in areas of advanced television, high-density recording, audio systems, and audio reproduction. Further to his pioneering work in airborne sound, Bauer made several significant contributions to the field of underwater sound, including underwater directional communication systems for divers, directional gradient hydrophones for Navy sonobuoys, and a hydrophone calibrator. Upon his death in 1979, his name appeared on more than 100 patents that included the fields of microphones and transducers, sound transmission, audio processing for recording and broadcasting, acoustic measurements and calibration, sound recording and reproduction, and quadraphonic disc technology. The Unidyne In 1939, the original Unidyne became the first in Shure’s 55 Series. Using the proprietary Shure ‘Uniphase’ acoustical system, the Unidyne was marketed for broadcast, public address, recording, and two-way radio. It was sold in three configurations, each with a different impedance option. The Model 55A was low-impedance for broadcast applications; the Model 55B was medium-impedance for public address and recording applications; and the Model 55C was high-impedance for two-way radio applications. Bauer first started developing the microphone in early 1937 with the primary objective of creating a unidirectional microphone using a single dynamic element. Before the Unidyne, the most common way of creating a microphone with a cardioid response was to use an omnidirectional element, combined with a bidirectional element in a single housing. When the outputs from both cartridges were properly combined, the result was a cardioid pickup pattern. Other directional patterns could be obtained by altering the relative balance of the two cartridges with a multi-position switch. However, these early dual-element unidirectional microphones weren’t without their drawbacks. Their size tended to be large and unweildy, making consistent performance
L-R: B. Bauer, M.A. Cope, J. Berman, and S.N. Shure meet in Mr. Shure’s office, ca. 1943.
Model 555, ca. 1940
difficult to maintain. As the omnidirectional and bidirectional elements did not possess the same frequency responses, the resulting frequency response and polar pattern were irregular and difficult to control. Bauer addressed these issues by employing a single element, understanding that if a single element was exposed to sound only on its front side, the result was an omnidirectional pattern. A bidirectional microphone would result if both sides – the front and back – were exposed to sound. With these concepts in mind, Bauer realised that if he could partially block the back side of a microphone element, in theory he would achieve a response between an omnidirectional and a bidirectional, which would be cardioid. His research led to the Uniphase acoustical system, which was used in Shure’s first single element microphone, the Uniplex, and later in the Unidyne. Bauer’s Unidyne was configured with an acoustical network of front and rear openings that enabled sound waves to reach both sides of the microphone’s diaphragm. The sound waves reaching the diaphragm from the rear had a longer path, and produced a time delay between the sound entering from the rear and sound waves striking the front of the diaphragm. By varying the acoustical resistance in the rear openings, Bauer was able to achieve a cardioid, a supercardioid, or a hypercardioid pattern using a single element, and the first unidirectional dynamic microphone became reality.
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Reaching beyond, obtaining new heights, achieving a higher level of listening. This is what drives Audio-Technica in the creation of our transducers and audio solutions. It is a perpetual quest to produce a sound experience that
transcends expectations and gives listeners the deeper connection to their music.
Published on Oct 13, 2017