Genelec at 40 Celebrating four decades of a pro audio icon Your mixes Our consoles Live depends on us www.yamahaproaudio.com
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P3 JUNE 2018 www.psneurope.com FOLLOW US ON Twitter.com/PSNEurope Facebook.com/ProSoundNewsEurope Instagram.com/PSNEurope EDITORIAL Editor: Daniel Gumble email@example.com • +44 (0)203 871 7371
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n many ways, the month of June signifies the calm before the storm for much of the pro audio industry, and indeed for PSNEurope. Yes, it’s that time of year where the live sector readies itself for an intensely busy period of massive tours, huge festivals and mammoth gigs. Hundreds upon hundreds of these events will be gracing vast expanses of outdoor space all over the continent throughout July and August, all of which point to chaotic schedules for Europe’s live sound engineers, rental companies and manufacturers. Which brings us neatly on to the matter of the next instalment of PSNEurope. Over the coming couple of months, work begins in earnest on our comprehensive summer season coverage, meaning that our July and August editions will combine to form one bumper-sized live events and festival-focused package. This will feature insights from some of the most revered engineers and executives from across the sector. All of this will be backed up by our annual PSNLive supplement, which will be taking a close look at the biggest trends affecting the world of live sound. We’ll also be hearing from some of the brightest young stars from across the live events spectrum to get their take on what the future holds for the market. But back to this issue. Our theme for June is theatre sound, and we’ve been fortunate enough to hear from a number of leading figures from across this ever-changing corner of the industry. While the pro audio industry at large has been embracing and exploring the world of immersive sound or 3D audio (call it what you will) with a collective sense of vim in recent years, it is arguable that some of the most significant technological leaps and innovations have been made in the theatre. Over the course of the next 56 pages, we hear from some brilliant theatrical sound engineers about the work they’ve been doing and the advancements they’ve been seeing, while a range of theatre-based products are put under the spotlight in our product focus. On top of all that, we celebrate 40 years of pro audio pioneer Genelec, with a close look at its history and insights from the current generation taking the business into its fifth decade. Plus, we go behind the scenes at Eurovision, take a look around the high-end studio recently installed at elite London members club Tape London and hear from a number of self-producing artists about their approaches to work in the studio. In the meantime, we wish you a happy festival season from all at PSNEurope. See you in a couple of months. n
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In this issue... People P8
P6 40 YEARS OF GENELEC A JOURNEY THROUGH THE AGES OF A PRO AUDIO GIANT
Movers and shakers A look at who has moved where over the past month in pro audio
P11 Normal Not Novelty Producer and Red Bull Studios’ #NormalNotNovelty host K-Minor tells us about the event’s recent road trip to Brighton P23 Theresa Wayman The Warpaint guitarist, singer and producer takes us inside the making of her self-produced new album LoveLaws
Report P28 PLASA Focus Leeds It was another successful outing for the northern show. We hear from those who were there to find out what sets it apart from the rest of the trade show calendar P31 Geared up A look at some of the leading pieces of equipment being put to use in the theatre
P18 TREADING THE BOARDS PHIL WARD EXPLORES THE TECH SHAPING THEATRE SOUND
P36 Liv Nagy One of the industry’s foremost up-and-coming sound engineers on the art of mixing for the theatre P38 Eamon Walsh The theatrical sound mixer talks his career to date and the best tips for getting into the sector
P45 The art of self-production Baltimore songwriting and production duo Wye Oak discuss the making of their sonically ambitious new record P36 Ann Charles The award-winning broadcast engineer reveals her top tips for a career in the studio
P26 SOUND AND VISION A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES AT EUROVISION 2018
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d&b Soundscape – and everything is a concert hall. Enveloped by sound. Exhilarating acoustics, inside and outside. Emulated with the reverberation signatures of exemplary venues. Sound coherent with the program and setting. Transforming spaces to bring completely new listening experiences. d&b Soundscape is a revolutionary audio system processor, an object positioning tool, a reverberation system, akin to a musical instrument – a tool to provide the appropriate stage for a culture – even under the open sky.
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PMC monitors take centre stage at the Mayfair club
‘The best sounding room in the UK...’ Mayfair private members’ club Tape London regularly welcomes a star-studded clientele from the music biz, which means a high quality listening experience is paramount to its repeat custom. Tara Lepore spoke to studio director Heff Moraes about why he built a recording studio within in a nightclub and how the studio’s PMC flagship upgrade is ‘funded by champagne’...
here’s the best place to build a recording studio? A key factor is location, and London seems like a good place for a UK-based facility with an international outlook to get high-profile musicians through its doors. How about acoustics? Again, another vital component, and repeat custom requires a level of sound quality that’ll ensure your clients come back again and again. For the cool factor? Labels shouldn’t matter, but when you’re providing a high quality recording experience in a truly online age,
you’ve got to have the visuals to match. Would you ever build a studio within a nightclub? In 2015, Mayfair private members’ club Tape London did, ticking all the boxes for a great-sounding, Instagramfriendly studio in a perfect location. And as part of a recent refurbishment, the central London hotspot has fitted high-end PMC monitors inside both the studio and the club’s lounge. It makes sense, really, when you consider the clientele. Tape attracts so many high-profile people in the music business on a regular basis that it’s really
important they have an accurate listening environment inside. The club regularly hosts album launch parties and encourages its punters to host meetings there, too, with the option to use the recording studio in the daytime. The club is only open three nights a week, which means having a studio slap bang in the middle of the club is a financially sound decision too - although, studio manager Heff Moraes insists that the studio’s main revenue stream is “funded by champagne”. Since opening three years ago, Tape has established itself as one of London’s top hotspots, winning the Best
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All smiles: Heff Moreas
THE PMCS ARE SO ACCURATE AND YOU CAN HEAR EVERY DETAIL. I’VE BEEN IN THIS INDUSTRY FOR A LONG TIME IT’S UNLIKE ANY OTHER STUDIO I’VE WORKED IN. THE BASS IS EXTRAORDINARY HEFF MORAES
Club at the London Bar and Club Awards and Best Late Venue at the London Lifestyle Awards in 2016 and 2017. Its central London setting means it’s a place that welcomes a wealth of rock and pop royalty to party in its basement until the early hours, from the likes of Will.I.Am, Justin Bieber, Mick Jagger and Rita Ora, plus Lady Gaga, Drake and Wiz Khalifa, who have all performed at the venue. The venue now boasts the first pair of PMC’s QB1 XBD-A monitors in the UK, with PMC BB6 monitors installed in its 150-capacity exclusive members lounge. In early 2018, the total refurbishment of Tape’s studio and club space was complete, with Munro Acoustics’ re-design featuring the high-end PMC monitors as the flagship upgrade. Moraes tells PSNEurope: “Clive [Glover, director] at Munro did such a fantastic job of designing the studio. We basically said what we want is for the monitors to feel like nearfields but perform like they do now, and he did such a great job of designing the room, that’s exactly the experience here. We do have small speakers in there but I very rarely need to use them because those PMCs are so accurate and they’re right on you, so you can hear every detail. I’ve been in this industry for a long time - it’s unlike any other studio I’ve ever worked in because of that, and the bass is extraordinary.” So why did a facility that only opened in 2015 require such an extensive studio refurbishment? Munro Acoustics designed the previous studio, but didn’t fully oversee the build, as Moraes explains: “I’ve worked on many studio designs in my career and I can tell when a builder is trying to cut a corner. The builders that were contracted in to work on the refurb didn’t stick close enough to the designs, so, for the most recent refurbishment, Munro came in every couple of weeks to make sure the job was being done properly.” He adds: “We did a complete refurbishment on the whole club, starting with the main lounge, which we extraordinarily did in 10 days with no sleep. The club is our revenue so it was our only option.” But why the decision to install nearfield monitors in the club space? Moreas explains it was the suggestion
of Dutch DJ Afrojack, who recommended PMC to Tape’s CEO on a visit to the studio one day. He took his word for it, and the planning process begun. It’s certainly paying off, according to Moraes. “I had one of the biggest hip hop artists in America performing here and her manager came into the studio,” he said. “He was from LA, a big guy, full of bravado. I said to him, This is a club in London, in England, and these speakers are manufactured by an English company. They’ll smash anything you guys can do. We had some banter, and he said he still wasn’t convinced. “So we sat down and had a listen, and within five
seconds he looked up at me and said, Give me your number. We’re thinking about installing a CCTV camera to catch people’s reactions when they first hear them. I mean, it would be a really lovely thing to have a montage of all of the people and their first responses to it, because it really is an extraordinary sonic experience. It’s the best sounding room in the UK.” He concludes: “I’ve worked with PMCs in the past but never found anyone with enough money to buy them. What’s different with this is that the room is being funded by the people buying champagne.” n www.tapelondon.com
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Pro audio movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio business over the past month…
Calrec hires Karl Chapman as international sales manager to grow global market share
arl Chapman, Calrec’s new international sales manager, has spoken exclusively to PSNEurope about his plans to grow the company’s global market share. In his new role, Chapman will focus primarily on EMEA territories. “Having worked in the broadcast sector for a good number of years, I have gained a lot of experience and a large network of contacts within the market; not only in the TV industry but radio too,” Chapman said. “I am looking to leverage this experience to further expand Calrec’s market share in my territories. This is particularly exciting following the launch of Calrec’s new Type R radio console and I’m sure I can help build Calrec’s presence in this exciting market. “I really want to get out and talk to distributors, partners and systems integrators – Calrec is expanding its international network very quickly and it’s great to be involved in these planning discussions.” Dave Letson, VP of sales at Calrec, said: “We’re delighted to announce Karl as international sales manager. With more than four decades of professional audio experience spanning many different sectors, he
brings a wealth of impressive knowledge to his role.” Chapman spent many years with Neve, Mitsubishi Pro-Audio and Amek before joining Harman
Professional Solutions in 1995. He initially worked for Soundcraft as European sales manager, eventually becoming EMEA senior sales manager for Studer.
Spain’s Lynx Pro Audio appoints Cristina Cerdeira as new marketing professional
Stephen Lamb succeeds Anthony Bailey as Midwich group finance director
VUE hires experienced engineer Shawn London as new touring sales manager
Spanish firm Lynx Pro Audio’s new marketing professional says she “wants to help develop the brand in the pro audio sector” as she works with its team and distributors around the world. Cristina Cerdeira commented: “I’m very excited about joining Lynx Pro Audio and am grateful for the opportunity to develop my skills. “I know that being here is a challenge, a place to test everything I have learned so far. I look forward to working with the team and its global distributors.” Ben Sinclair, Lynx Pro Audio sales director, added: “We are delighted to have Cristina as part of the team. We have been searching for someone with her qualities and experience for a long time and are sure she is going to add a lot of value, not only internally to the company, but also as support to all our sales network worldwide.”
AV distributor Midwich has announced that Stephen Lamb will replace Anthony Bailey in the role of group finance director. A qualified chartered accountant, Lamb will begin his new role and join the group’s board on July 30, with the outgoing Bailey stepping down to ‘focus on other interests’. Stephen Fenby, managing director of Midwich Group, said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tony for the contribution he has made to Midwich’s success over the last six years. It has been a pleasure to work alongside Tony and I wish him well for the future. “I am delighted that Stephen has agreed to join the Group and I am confident that his recent experience with growing and managing international businesses will be of great benefit to Midwich as we continue to expand our footprint across the globe.”
VUE Audiotechnik has appointed Shawn London to the position of touring sound sales manager. London’s aims include broadening VUE’s partner network and expanding relationships with FOH and system engineers. Prior to joining VUE, London was live sound and touring business development manager for Allen and Heath. He has experience with some of the most notable festivals in the world, including Lollapalooza, Coachella and the Warped Tour, and has performed FOH and monitor duties for Eagles Of Death Metal, Neon Trees, Crystal Method and Jane’s Addiction. “At a time in my career when I thought I had heard the best that pro audio had to offer, VUE entered the picture and completely reset the benchmark regarding sonic performance and versatility,” said London. “This is a dream come true for a lifelong gearhead like me.”
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Evolving with you. With a sleek new user interface, a generously expanded switching bandwidth and higher RF output power for the 500 Series, and new multi-channel functionality for the 100 Series, G4 delivers high-quality, reliable audio for musical performances, houses of worship, and theaters. www.sennheiser.com/g4
Iisalmen Sanomat archive
The Sonic Reference since 1978. Four decades ago we set out on a mission to help our customers fulfil their dreams by offering them the most truthful sound reproduction possible. Along the way we‘ve constantly been inspired, helped and encouraged by our employees, our users and our partners. So in our anniversary year we’d like to thank every single member of the global Genelec Family – past, present ... and future. Here’s to the next 40 years.
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Road trip: Last month’s session was held in Brighton
On the road
The latest edition of Red Bull Studios London’s monthly #NormalNotNovelty workshop for female engineers and producers saw the event leave the capital for a trip down to the sunny south coast. Regular host K Minor sent back this report…
ast month’s #NormalNotNovelty workshop featured a truly amazing line up, with producer and DJ AQWEA showcasing her production techniques, DJ Flava D talking about how to kickstart a career behind the decks, as well as her own career so far, and sound engineers Thea Cochrane and Lívia Nagy discussing their journeys to date. We had the pleasure of taking this event on the road, this time to Brighton, where we were able to open it up to our fellow female producers, engineers and DJs outside of our London hub. We were situated at the heart of the city in Lighthouse Arts, an organisation known for its contemporary digital culture. It’s an impressive modern space that hosted a series of interesting events throughout May. Our latest event had a slight twist, with the format changed to allow the entire audience the opportunity to hear Nagy and Cochrane discuss their work, with mastering engineer Katie Tavini hosting proceedings. Cochrane explained how her journey took her from sound engineering in university to working as part of the
sound archiving project at the British Library. This role primarily focuses on sound restoration and preservation of recordings by digitalising from a variety of analogue formats so they cannot be lost. Nagy’s journey, meanwhile, has taken an altogether different path. Although she studied sound engineering at university, her work experience took her to the National Theatre where she operates as the main live sound engineer. There was immediate interest from the audience at how diverse sound engineering can be, with many of the questions centred around how they both ended up in their respective fields. The second part of the event was split into two sections: a DJ Q&A with Flava D, hosted by Madam X, and an electronic production demonstration that I hosted with AQWEA. Hailing from south east London, AQWEA spoke about her path in the music industry so far, her trials and tribulations and her reasons for getting into production. With many of the audience members fairly new to the art of production, AQWEA demonstrated the very basics of starting a track. The audience’s excitement came
to life once they saw and heard the bare bones of her production come together, immediately sparking a surge of interaction, with questions leading to what software is best to start off with, as well as the specifics of which plugins she uses and why. Following the workshops held by AQWEA and Flava D, the rest of the evening was spent with those in attendance sharing ideas and discussing talents and personal journeys. This part of proceedings at #NormalNotNovelty nights is always special, as women who are just starting out in the audio world have the opportunity to speak with industry leaders and everyone else in between. What I personally enjoyed from this particular night was seeing just how much knowledge and inspiration the audience gained from the experience. I was constantly told how amazing the workshops were and how cool it was to be a part of something so poignant. It’s all a step in the right direction and we were very lucky to have been able to share this with the women of Brighton. n You can read our interview with Livia Nagy on P36.
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(L-R): Ari Varla and Ilpo Martikainen
The active generation Some four decades ago, two childhood friends returned home from Helsinki to a remote village in Finland harbouring dreams of a future building loudspeakers. Now, as Genelec celebrates its 40th year in the business of professional audio, the next generation is at the helm. However, the lessons of the past still remain fresh in their minds, as PSNEurope finds out…
hough Ilpo Martikainen had decided to become an entrepreneur, he had yet to settle on how. The young man from the remote town of Lapinlahti was not to be taken lightly. Earnest, thoughtful and among Finland’s most talented engineers, he had already concluded his studies and moved to Helsinki, taking up the post of managing director for a small engineering firm. The churning politics of the 20th century had delivered a post-war economic boom that could be felt in the streets of the capital. But for Martikainen, the rapid change and quick conversation felt distant from the silent forests and still lakes of his boyhood. Surrounded by the chatter and bustle of the city, he had sent for his childhood friend, Topi Partanen, with
whom he could sit for hours, uttering not a word. They had met at school, when the 15-year-old, electronicsobsessed Partanen had chanced upon a circuit diagram made by the 17-year-old Martikainen, and sought the older boy out. Having recognised one another as kindred spirits, the two embarked on an adolescent campaign of loudspeaker construction. Years later, in Helsinki, the notion of an entrepreneurial career spent building loudspeakers seemed fanciful, and so the two friends focused instead on earning a living and raising young families, while Martikainen waited patiently for inspiration to strike. They weren’t waiting long. “We were attending an acoustic seminar in Helsinki,” recalls Partanen, more than four decades later. “There
were also some guys from the Finnish broadcasting company, YLE, including Juhani Borenius, the chief acoustician, with whom we were discussing audio and loudspeakers. He told us that they were going to buy new monitors for their headquarters in the city and then, from nowhere, they asked us if we could maybe help them in designing a better monitor.” The new speakers, they explained, had to adhere to new N12-B regulations, offering a flat frequency response and room response controls. Without a moment’s hesitation, Martikainen seized his opportunity with a decisive “yes”. As soon as the men from YLE had left the room, Martikainen snapped his attention back to his old confidante and asked: “What’s a monitor?”
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The young Ilpo Martikainen
The city and the forest Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, today Genelec stands as one of the professional audio world’s most revered and recognised brands; the company’s four decades of history are filled with contrasts and confounded expectations. Embedded within the company’s DNA is the belief, dearly held by Martikainen, that a manufacturer could be based in his beloved, frequently snow-covered home of Savo, Finland, yet still export leading products to every major city on the planet. At first, the idea seemed preposterous – the initial plan to base the company in Lapinlahti had to be abandoned because, in 1978, the village had yet to adopt an automated telephone exchange. But an alternative headquarters was soon found in Iisalmi, in the basement of the building in which the Martikainen family also briefly lived. From there, he swiftly proved his point, as Genelec’s first order went to Italian broadcaster RAI (a huge order from Finland’s YLE followed soon after). The contrast that was created by that early decision still remains vivid. This month, the great and good of the audio world will assemble in Iisalmi to toast the company’s 40th birthday. To do so they will first fly from their city of origin into Helsinki, then continue with another hour-long flight to the tiny airport of Kuopio, followed by a drive of more than an hour through dense forest. Finally, they will arrive at lake Porovesi, beside which the Genelec factory sits. Upon entering the reception they will be greeted by a beautiful view over the lake, and a small, framed photograph of the company founder. Martikainen passed away in January 2017, having achieved more than perhaps even he first imagined. “No matter whether it was active monitors or something else, Ilpo would have become an entrepreneur,” reflects Genelec managing director Siamäk Naghian. “He would have found a different direction, but the end result would have been the same. It’s important to realise that Ilpo didn’t make himself into a rich man or a famous man, in fact he tried keep away from all of the attention. He was actually a very shy person. “For Ilpo it was about building this company, creating something that was about more than just himself. He did everything for that one goal, it was all for the good of the people around him.” Stories abound within Genelec of the company founder who always had time for his colleagues. “It was rare that you found Ilpo in his office, he was always in the factory, in R&D or talking with someone,” explains Sirkka Kopeli, who joined the company 23 years ago and now leads the production of the 8030. “He created a special atmosphere,” agrees Seija Katainen, a member of the team since 1991. “We were
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The Genelec factory next to lake Porovesi
like a small family.” For others, the chance to work at Genelec was literally life changing. “In October, I will have worked here for 25 years, I started in 1993,” says Marko Rönkä. “I was in the army but when I came home there was no work. The Soviet Union had collapsed and so had Finland’s economy. Then, one morning, Ilpo’s wife Annikki asked me if I could help with her car battery – we were neighbours. The next day Ilpo called me to ask if I wanted to work at Genelec. After that he would always make time to speak with me. He was like a father to me.” What began with a handful of dedicated souls, including Partanen, current chairperson of the board Ritva Leinonen and, a little later, the acoustic designer Ari Varla, soon grew to a team of 20, then hundreds more. Traditions arose that still remain an integral part of the company’s ethos, from communal coffee breaks twice a day, to group exercise sessions, workstation massages and the principle that anyone can talk to anyone. “It all came from Ilpo,” adds Kopeli. Perhaps the most fundamental lesson that still resonates through the company is that of sustainability. “When you visit Iisalmi, you can see where that comes from,” says Naghian. “In this part of the world, they realised very early on that they had to consider the regeneration of the forest, so the idea of sustainability was like mother’s milk to Ilpo – if you take one tree down, you plant another. This has been at the heart of the company from the beginning.” Once the company outgrew the basement, they
worked from the brand new lakeside factory, paid for not only by the sale of monitors, but systems integration work for the Soviet Union. “A significant revenue stream came courtesy of a contract with the Soviet Union, including a new sound system for the circus building in Moscow,” explains Lars-Olof Janflod, who started selling Genelec products in Sweden in the mid-1980s, officially joined the company in 1992, and has since served in a number of sales and marketing roles, travelling the world several times over to spread word of the brand internationally. “The early years of the company were Sirkka Kopeli quite tough, not least because we were selling active monitors – even at the beginning of the 1990s, when I visited trade shows around the world people would ask me if they could use their own amplifiers! So we needed to look for other avenues of income and in the 1980s there were a lot of opportunities to do systems integration. Another project for the Soviet Union was to design a driver manufacturer plant in Estonia, to provide the Soviets with hi-fi speakers.” Eventually, the mid-1980s launch of the 1025 was the
catalyst for a debate over Genelec’s future. It was the company’s first large main monitor, and while its audio quality drew praise from all quarters, its SPL capacity was lacking. “It led to the first Genelec distributor meeting, in 1986,” recalls Janflod, who at the time was working for the Swedish distributor, Intersonic. “It was a great speaker, no question about that, but it was simply not loud enough, so something had to be done. It sparked a debate over what Genelec should be – a systems integrator or a manufacturer of active monitors, and the latter won.” The systems integration division was sold off and in 1989 a new product emerged in the shape of the 1035A. The monitor rapidly rose to prominence in key markets such as the UK and Japan, solidifying Genelec’s international reputation. Since then the landmark products have followed in quick succession: the compact but powerful 1031, followed by the 1038, the 8000 series including the coaxial 8260, and most recently the 8331, 8341 and 8351, collectively known as The Ones. Each model has been improved with technologies
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The next generation - Pekka Moilanen (top left) with son Kaapo (bottom left) and Sirkka Kopeli (top right) with son Sami (bottom right)
such as the Directivity Control Waveguide, the Minimum Diffraction Enclosure, the Laminar Spiral Enclosure for improved low frequency reproduction, and Smart Active Monitoring (SAM™), at the heart of which is Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) software. R&D engineer Pekka Moilanen, a Genelec veteran of 27 years, began his career working closely with Ari Varla, and has watched the company grow around him. “One day the time came when I suddenly didn’t know everyone in the factory! That was sort of strange, to see a guy who worked here but I didn’t know his name. But when it comes to passing on the company’s values, I don’t think it’s down to one individual to do that, it’s the responsibility of the collective. It’s up to people like Siamäk and the family to shape the atmosphere in the company, and to us to make sure that we maintain the values and traditions that Ilpo created.”
The new generation “My mum was seven months pregnant when they moved to Iisalmi,” smiles Maria Martikainen, the third child of Ilpo and his wife Annikki. “Somewhere at home we have a photograph of me and Ari – I’m maybe one-year old, and I’m just sat next to him, on his table, watching whatever he’s doing. Genelec has always been such an integral part of our family that it’s impossible to imagine it not being part of our lives.” Though Maria and older brothers, Juho and Mikko,
are sometimes described as the new generation within Genelec, the three siblings have in fact long been part of the business, having sat on the board since 2001. Juho, the classically trained double bassist, is a brand ambassador within international music circles, while Mikko, the software engineer, works on the company’s administration systems and CRM. Maria, the Marko Ronka youngest, now occupies her father’s old office, and has taken up the mantle of his work with the broader Genelec family. These days it’s called HR, but really it’s a matter of tradition – an open door and an open mind. “Genelec has been like the fourth child in our family, so to think about yourself and your identity without it is impossible. In that sense I think it has always been clear that somehow I would be a part of it,” she reasons. She adds, however, that her father’s public image was somewhat different to her own impression. “There was one time, my mother came home from a
trip and she found him scrubbing at his shirts, because he hadn’t been able to find the clean ones in the closet! He was a wise man with deep insight… but he couldn’t find his socks.” Taking a more active role in the company has had something of a transformational effect on how Maria and her brothers view their father’s work and legacy. She first attended an AES convention at the tender age of 15, and found herself confused by the attention that surrounded Ilpo and the company he led. “In our family, even though Genelec was a huge part of us all, it was never thought of in awe,” she explains. “It was just normal. My father was very humble. We understood that the people who work at Genelec come first. So I actually didn’t know that it was such a big deal… out there.” She waves a hand at some distant place beyond the forest. Now she understands Ilpo’s legacy, and the part that she and her brothers play in it. “It is challenging, we have so many new people joining the company and with Father passing away… it can be difficult to maintain our heritage. This is always a challenge in family-owned companies, for the next generation to keep the best parts of the past. But what Ilpo and Topi and all of the others achieved was to keep on growing, keep on developing, and that is what we must also do. “There is a risk of admiring too much. For the next generation, it’s about combining our heritage with the way that we want to run this company.” Nor are they alone – throughout the company, a new generation is arriving, from acoustical engineer Juha Holm, who worked beside Ilpo in his final months, ultimately producing The Ones, to Sami Kopeli, son of Sirkka, and Kaapo Moilanen, son of Pekka. Under the leadership of Naghian, they represent the beginning of something old and something new. “If you consider the generation in which Ilpo and Topi grew up, they were the first to be raised after the pressures of the Second World War, and they felt a responsibility for the development of the country and their society,” says the managing director. “They had a very tough childhood experience, but they also felt the possibility of rebuilding the country in an entirely new way. “This new generation has a similar passion. They don’t want to be here just to copy something somebody else has done, they want to make things better. From generation to generation, if you lead the company in the right way, you can make a connection.” n
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The Bristol Hippodrome
The future of theatre sound Phil Ward investigates new layers of audio reinforcement for the theatre and discovers the latest trends in audio tech…
et’s hear it for Frank Matcham. Between around 1880 and 1914 he designed, redesigned or refurbished something like 175 theatres across Britain, most of which have come down to us as iconic landmarks, cultural treasures... and acoustical nightmares. Working for Moss Empires, he gave us London’s A-list of period venues, including The Hippodrome, The Hackney Empire, The London Coliseum, The London Palladium and The Victoria Palace – all built between 1900 and 1911. For the provincial credentials, just consider The Tower Ballroom, Blackpool. Nothing Victorian or Edwardian, it seems, escaped his attentions. Despite a hundred years of gradual – very gradual – improvement in acoustic design since those heady days of stunts and stucco, this is the hinterland of auditoriums awaiting the modern production as the industry dovetails itself in and out of them. And there seems to have been a figure like Frank Matcham for every country across Europe, meaning you can’t expect sleek Scandinavian ergonomics just because you’re no longer in Prince Albert’s back yard.
Column inches Dealing with these spaces demands inch-perfect reinforcement, and the rental-installation sector has seized upon truly sophisticated measures only in the
last few years. It’s about to get even more sophisticated, and there may even be a fusion of column arrays and ‘immersivity’ that will change the game completely. But first, let’s find out what an old technology reinvented for the digital age is doing to tackle the nooks and crannies that older systems failed to reach. Jamie Gosney is an audio system designer with Stage Electrics, the UK-wide specialist installer offering sound system design for every kind of live performance space – not least theatre. For him, the Matcham paradigm is bread and butter, with a side order of knowing your onions. “We’re currently working on a classic old Victorian theatre designed by Frank Matcham, which is a No.1 touring house but they do their own productions as well,” Gosney tells PSNEurope. “The system has to cover every level of the auditorium – stalls, balcony, grand circle, dress circle – for these productions, while allowing for the fact that a touring company will always bring in their own system. It almost has to fit into the fabric of the building so it can’t be seen, blending in with the architecture as it should do – that’s a really important criterion for me. “It also has to cater for comedy, jazz, drama and all the amateur musicals they put on each year, which means a full system able to cope with a typical theatre
orchestra. There’s a number of good products out there right now, but I’ve favoured the K-Array: it’s very discreet, really good quality… not cheap, but it does the job in hand very well. It’s powerful, and the vertical dispersion from the column is very narrow – you’re able to direct it where it needs to be and keep it off hard surfaces like the front of the balcony.” He continues: “Equally importantly, it fits into the fabric of the building architecturally and when a touring company comes in the theatre does not have to take it down. It really is a permanent installation, meaning it’s set up and tuned properly. There are certain systems you can install that might appear to do the touring jobs as well, but when the tours turn up they expect you to take it down in favour of what they have on board – even if it’s exactly the same system! Literally, I saw this happening recently at a theatre that had the same subs as were on the truck – but we were still obliged to swap them over.” Gosney can’t explain the politics behind this, but he is confident that for most purposes his new systems are keeping the customer very satisfied. “We’ve done The Bristol Hippodrome, The King’s Theatre in Glasgow and The Edinburgh Playhouse, and they’re all permanently installed theatre systems designed for whatever production they need to throw at it,” he explains. “We’re being asked to take
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down traditional theatre systems and remove all the black boxes – point source loudspeakers mounted on the prosceniums – and replace them with small, discreet columns very often covered in an acoustically transparent material that matches their housing. You actually can’t see them unless you look really closely. It’s a process we’re often being asked to do these days, and once they’re in, the reaction is always positive: it sounds great, you can’t see it – and you don’t have to take it down because it’s in someone else’s way!” With or without a big touring system muscling in, this generation of theatre sound upgrade is essentially a switch from point source to line array. “Inside these column speakers, like K-Array,” says Gosney, “is a line array in the purest sense: the ones we’re using at the moment are 1m long with eight 4-inch drivers inside them, spaced evenly apart. That creates a 10° vertical beam – the horizontal coverage is 110° – and having a beam that narrow means you can fire it down the stalls across the tops of people’s heads, right to the back beneath the balcony, and stop it hitting all the hard surfaces. From that you get fantastic stereo imaging, because you’re listening to direct output rather than reflections, and fewer loudspeakers. In Bristol, there was no need for us to put in under-balcony delays at all.” Being line array, there is also a 3dB drop-off over double the distance, as opposed to 6dB, an added bonus to the improved intelligibility. Gosney singles out K-Array’s Kobra, Python and Vyper models as particularly theatre-friendly – and the Anakonda flexible array, which literally snakes around difficult corners and edges. L-Acoustics’ Syva offers similarly narrow vertical dispersion, and Gosney is considering it for one application because of “brand snobbery” – “and because it’s difficult architecturally; most of the time they have to ground-stack, which creates sightline difficulties, so they want the same kind of discreet solution but groundstackable.” The number of column-style options is on the rise. Via one reseller or another, you could have a conversation about d&b audiotechnik’s xC Series; the Electro-Voice Sx600; Apart’s COL Series; the JBL CBT Series; the Tannoy VLS Series; Turbosound’s iNSPIRE; LD Systems’ SAT range; the FBT Vertus; Pan Acoustics’ Pan Beam; the Community E Series; and the Bose Panaray. Most, if not all of these, are networkable, which in theory places them in the line of fire of any type of DSP dreamed up by a research institution near you – including spatialisation, the sound reinforcement industry’s final front ear.
What goes surround, comes surround Now let’s hear it for Martin Levan. After establishing a successful career in the studio, Levan spearheaded a reinvention of theatre sound design with a series of innovations largely enabled by his association with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the doyen of Matcham theatreland. Speaking in The Echo, the magazine of
LOCALISATION, IMMERSIVITY AND ROOM ACOUSTICS ARE ACTUALLY THREE KEY ELEMENTS IN MUSICAL THEATRE
The Association of Sound Designers, in August 2014, Levan uttered these words: “Don’t fight the auditorium – the live sound doesn’t, and it is this very fusion that forms the sonic landscape, enwrapping the audience, enticing them to engage with the musical performance. Even without consciously realising it, the audience will sense their environment and be influenced by the acoustics. If your sound does not create harmony with that environment, the audience will hear its presentation as disingenuous and will not fully embrace it. Communication, the business we are in, is always a two way street and in order for it to succeed, requires both parties to willingly participate.” The sentiment certainly echoes the thoughts of Chris Headlam, MD of London-based theatre sound expert Orbital Sound. If column arrays are helping to sign a peace treaty with the auditorium, the new generation of immersive signal processors should be the mechanism that ratifies it. Headlam has recently invested in the d&b audiotechnik DS100 Soundscape processor, not exclusively for the Matcham footprint but very much with its typical content in mind. “The three elements to it – localisation, immersivity and room acoustics – are actually three key elements in musical theatre,” Headlam says. “It certainly addresses Martin Levan’s point about fighting the room: it’s part of the audience experience, of walking into a threedimensional space. We’re embellishing that point with a system of the kind that traditionally has been called ‘surround sound’, but which is less complicated and less
bespoke than before. “Sitting in a space and being part of the show, as opposed to having it thrown at you from the proscenium arch, is how audiences want and deserve to experience the theatre today. Soundscape, largely thanks to its Dante-based network architecture and a 64 x 64 processing matrix, gives you that right out of the box. We’re getting to the point when you can create something where the audience is inside it, rather than outside looking in – and we as Orbital can achieve that show-in, show-out.” Technically – and the adverb vibrates with knowing winks – the technique can be used with any networkable loudspeakers. “Although it’s easiest with d&b loudspeakers, because of the way the configuration files work,” adds Headlam. “It’s really a question of which is the best speaker for each particular application. Nobody covers everything. If we wanted something really transparent – almost hi-fi, with a very wide and very even dispersion – we’d go for something that doesn’t have a horn it in. At Orbital we believe that horns inherently add distortion. For 3D systems, we find that Flare Audio’s range works really well for precisely that reason: there is no horn. Furthermore, you don’t need very high SPLs.” This is a regular claim of the 3D brigade and one that should bring joy to the hearts of Levan’s disciples. By distributing the programme to more discrete outputs, each element has less work to do, can maintain greater headroom and puts less stress overall on the breaking points of the entire system. “We’ve been conditioned,” continues Headlam, “especially since line array came into theatre, to throw the sound firmly off the proscenium arch – and just about every line array is potentially over-powered for these buildings. It’s the exact opposite of the studio monitor, which is the level of precision that audiences actually expect. There are many benefits of line array – rejection of feedback, raw grunt when you need it – but we’re paying a heavy price. Martin Levan brought a studio mentality into the theatre, and we owe it to him to develop this mindset further and treat the delicacy of these spaces with the respect they deserve.”
Juke box durable If the rock and pop stage musicals of the last 20 years are mostly responsible for this proliferation of line array, it’s because they are essentially gigs. Left behind, the arrays are used for a host of other productions passing through as well, and the habit has stuck. “But in that journey,” warns Headlam, “we’ve lost track of the fact that the audience needs to be immersed – not ‘addressed’. It’s alien to being engaged as an audience. We’ve been sidetracked by the idea that if it’s a rock and roll show we need a rock and roll line array, but whereas it’s fine in a 2,000-capacity hangar like Newcastle City Hall, it doesn’t work in polite theatres.” Bobby Aitken has been a designer of theatre and
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The Divide at the Old Vic
live performance sound for over 25 years, and runs both Bobby Aitken Associates and, with partner Scott Willsallen, a blue-sky consultancy called Remarkable Projects. For him, the technological niceties have their place somewhere behind more essential artistic criteria. “The increase in the number of these spatialising systems right now is good for everyone in the market,” he says, “because it raises awareness of the whole issue and of all the possibilities. It’s what everyone is talking about. But I would say that my approach has changed 180° over the last 10-15 years. I used to be very picky about loudspeakers hitting targets, especially using short line arrays, but I’ve stopped worrying about it like that. On principle, I won’t use line arrays unless I have to. I do have to on many occasions, of course, but if I have to throw less than 20m I’ll use point source – and not worry too much! If we’re talking about a piece of lightly amplified musical theatre, getting one or two extra degrees here and there is not relevant.” With ‘360’ comes tracking, if you have a dynamic narrative and the wherewithal to get it right, and this commands more of Aitken’s detailed attention. “The last small, traditional theatre I did was The Divide, a speech and ambient music drama at The Old Vic in London,” he continues. “It was a TiMax show, the performers wore trackers and we had a surtitle board above the stage, just below the proscenium. We managed to get five KV2 Audio EX10s and EX12s up there in a line, and that was pretty much the source with a couple of boxes out wide for effects – and a small surround system for the music. With just five main sources, plus TiMax and the trackers, it was just perfect. Without the trackers you just can’t quite connect the
audio with what you can see. I don’t think people would literally walk out if it wasn’t tracked, but subconsciously you get much more immersed in the storytelling. “You don’t need to become obsessed with timing all
WHATEVER YOU’RE AIMING FOR, THE SYSTEM MUST NOT DISTRACT YOU WITH ITS PROGRAMMING DEMANDS. THE REAL TALENT LIES IN UNDERSTANDING THE STORY THAT’S BEING TOLD
the loudspeakers for a relatively static 360 production. The brain works it out pretty quickly – until the source moves and all the timings change. Then you need the milliseconds to be nailed. And for most plays nowadays the actors use radio mics a lot, and the plays are underscored, so by necessity you have to balance the speaking voices with the music and effects.” Aitken believes that if the new 360 processors are solely deployed with line array elements, using the classic proscenium arch spread, their suitability for Matcham-style theatres wanes. “If that was the case,” he says, “in most West End theatres half the audience would lose line of sight.” Apart from TiMax, his direct experience is with L-Acoustics’ L-ISA format, and it’s significant that these encounters have taken place in arenas where full line array would be the norm without it introducing the kind of ergonomic trade-offs that modern architecture ought to eliminate. For traditional theatre, it seems more likely that compromise solutions using discreet column arrays, sharing sound-zone responsibilities on the assumption that not every seat can achieve 360 Nirvana, could creep into workaday theatres in an endless game of cat-andmouse with the suspension of sound reinforcement disbelief. As in London’s St Martin’s Theatre, home of The Mousetrap since 1974 and designed by Matcham acolyte William Sprague, no one’s giving the game away. “Sound is immersive anyway,” reflects Aitken. “You don’t need to call it that. And however you configure it, whatever you’re aiming for, the system must not distract you with its programming demands. The real talent lies in understanding the story that’s being told.” n
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love & War Having attained cult status with their 2010 debut album The Fool, LA four-piece Warpaint have become one of the 21st centuryâ€™s most revered indie rock outfits. Now, co-founder, vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist Theresa Wayman is striking out on her own under the name TT with self-produced debut solo effort LoveLaws. Daniel Gumble met up with her to discuss the production process and how it feels to be starting afresh for the first time in over a decadeâ€Ś www.psneurope.com 23-25 Theresa Wayman_v4final.indd 23
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In the shadows: Theresa Wayman
wanted an underground darkness that was as clear as possible - I never like things to be too bright,” Theresa Wayman tells PSNEurope over a cup of green tea in the bar of a busy central London hotel, describing the blueprint for LoveLaws, her spellbinding self-produced debut solo album. “It’s just the nature of me.” We find Wayman, operating under the name TT for the purposes of her new record, in the midst of a rigorous schedule of promotional and live session commitments when we sit down with her on a blustery afternoon in the capital. The Warpaint co-founder and guitarist has just arrived from LA, but despite her jetlag and the intense workload that awaits, is in high spirits and talkative mood. And it’s easy to see why, given the formidable body of work she’s just signed off on. Her ambition to create the darkness and clarity of which she speaks is something she has achieved unequivocally, each track playing out over a sonic canvas as dark as the bottom of the ocean, pierced with just enough shafts of sunlight to entice its listeners inside. Throbbing electronic beats and woozy synths are intertwined through each of its 10 tracks, while Wayman’s featherlight vocals make for a mesmeric listening experience that will be immediately familiar to fans of Warpaint, yet still bears the hallmarks of a solo record. Where Warpaint’s collaborative sound has evolved around extended jams over their three albums to date – The Fool (2010), Warpaint (2014) and Heads Up (2016) – LoveLaws is unmistakably the result of a
singular vision, thematically and sonically. As its title implies, it is an album concerned with the exploration of love in all its light and shade, not only through Wayman’s lyrics but also through her approach to its recording and production. “I wanted a mood piece, something that has an internal, intimate feeling, while also being able to reach the more obvious places and crossover into a world where people who don’t necessarily listen to ‘that kind’ of music will be able to get it,” she explains. “I like making things sound fucked up. That usually means reverb, some modulation and distortion. I like finding ways of making things sound different to just a clean vocal and a clean guitar.” Recorded over the past two years between Wayman’s bedroom and Warpaint’s LA rehearsal studio, known by the band as The House On The Hill, and co-produced with her brother Ivan Wayman – two of the tracks were also recorded and produced with Dan Carey at his London studio - LoveLaws is an album that, in many ways, has been almost a decade in the making. “In 2010 I started learning how to use Logic and how to programme drums using UltraBeat,” she says. “Then someone turned me on to Geist, a drum machine I love. The workflow works perfectly for me. Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of songs in different states of completion. About a year and a half ago I was going back over everything and realised I had enough to develop into an album, so I picked out the ones I liked best and approached my brother, who is a musician and
producer, and asked if he’d like to take them out of my computer and expand them and put live drums on them. He said yes and that’s when we started the album.” Having co-produced the past two Warpaint records with her bandmates alongside Flood (Warpaint) and Jake Bercovici (Heads Up), Wayman says one of the key lessons she has learned is not to waste time “chasing the sound of the demos” and to start building up the tracks from their conception. “Demos don’t exist anymore,” she states. “On our first album we went into the studio with demos and tried to remake them, which is a really weird thing to do, in my opinion. We were just chasing the sound of the demo forever, and we were never happy with it at the end. It didn’t have that spark, that inspiration. A lot of artists feel this way. Now we always build from the demo, that’s essentially what I was doing with these songs. It’s the home studio thing that’s taken hold now and makes it possible to do anything anywhere. Now you can make a demo or start a track anywhere and then take it to a real studio and build on it.” Like many of the Warpaint tracks on which she provides the lead vocal, Wayman’s voice is often the distinguishing feature on many of LoveLaws’ highlights. Her delicate delivery on tracks such as Love Leaks and Take One breathes life into these sparsely constructed compositions, lending a transcendent quality to match anything she has put her voice to to date. Much of this is due to her tried and tested approach to vocal recording. “I record all my vocals and a lot of the guitar through
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my Apogee into a DAV preamp and then a Lunchbox, which is modelled after an API preamp – it’s a lot less expensive, but it sounds great. It’s a perfect set up,” Wayman beams. “I don’t need anything else for vocals and I feel really comfortable doing my own voice because I can work really fast. If there’s something I don’t like or I need to fix I can just go back and I don’t have to tell anyone what to do – I just know what my process is. And I feel much more relaxed when I’m in my own environment.” To capture her vocals, Wayman relied on a range of different microphones in the studio. “I mostly used a RØDE NT1,” she says, scrolling through her phone to show us a picture of the mic in question. “We got a bunch of mics from RØDE gifted to us and I never knew I even liked them, but I just grabbed one and I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, it sounds great. That set up for me with the Apogee is just golden, and you can use that preamp for the guitar as well; it really gives a nice boost to the sound. The Apogee preamps aren’t bad either. It’s perfect for someone who’s travelling; it means I can take my rig on the road. “There’s another mic I’ve started using live that I really like,” she continues, rifling again through images on her phone. “It’s a Telefunken M80,” she says presenting us with a picture of said model. “I use that on a couple of tracks on the album, but I don’t like singing that way when I’m recording for some reason. I like recording vocals really intimately. It was something I couldn’t reconcile in myself for a while because I felt like I was being false, as that’s not how I can perform live with Warpaint. But it’s how I want to perform. It’s been really nice lately just playing piano and some bass – I’ve been doing some stripped back sessions and I can really hear my voice and control it, which is so fun. I used to hate singing! It was like it was secondary to the music for me and I didn’t give it priority.” With Warpaint’s writing and recording process so heavily centred on the collaboration between each of its four components, Wayman is relishing the creative freedom LoveLaws has afforded her in the studio. “It’s so fun and freeing,” she says. “Sometimes people ask which I prefer – the PC answer is Warpaint! – but when I’m doing my own thing I get to explore more and do things I don’t usually do, and that’s really fun for me. But that’s also because it’s new and not as tried and true as Warpaint. We’ve all been doing that for so long and I’m sure everyone feels the same way.” She continues: “Sometimes when I was working on songs I’d get in a flow and put bass, guitar, drums and vocals down and it’d be too full to bring to Warpaint: it wouldn’t be fair to bring a fully complete piece and say, Add a little cowbell, girls! I know when something is not for the band and there were some songs I intentionally kept bare so that I could take them to the band. There is music on our albums that started the same way that my album was started, so there is that connection.”
Lawless: Theresa Wayman
While LoveLaws is every bit a product of 21st century methodology, from its inception to its recording and production techniques, Wayman took her audio cues from some of the last century’s foremost sonic pioneers. “Dummy by Portishead (self-produced) and Mezzanine by Massive Attack (produced by Neil Davidge) were both really big for me when I was a teenager,” she recalls. “I remember listening to them and thinking, How the hell was that made? It wasn’t like listening to a rock record; it’s not obvious. Bjork, too, with her first three albums. She was producing her own sounds from the geysers in Iceland and making songs that have all these different threads. It’s like, I don’t know what instrument I need to play but I need to get this type of sound – it could be anything.” Though LoveLaws is very much the centre of her attention at present, Wayman is keen to flex her production muscles beyond her own compositions. “I’m excited to know more about the technical side of production; I’d like to be able to record more stuff myself and get to the point where I can produce others,
too There’s a band I co-produced with my brother called Secret Garden. The singer from the band was a Warpaint fan and she sent me some of her music and I loved it. I said, If you want to take a day we’ll record you. We kept the process simple, but it was really fun.” If the process of making LoveLaws has taught Wayman anything, it’s that she has plenty more avenues to pursue as an artist, musician and producer. Many will be curious to see how her experience making LoveLaws manifests itself on the upcoming Warpaint record – currently in the early stages of development – but given what she’s achieved on her maiden solo excursion, fans of the band have much to be excited about. “I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what I want to create,” she concludes. “I get such a kick out of solving the problem of the song: feeling it, putting it out, making something and then trying to solve its puzzle. Just doing that and being able to play and figure it out on my own is, for the most part, really fulfilling. And it’s new, so I want to keep going with it. That said, Warpaint is making another album, and that’s really exciting.” n
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All photos by Ralph Larmann
Visionary sound Sennheiser’s Digital 6000 wireless system made sure contestants were heard loud and clear at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, despite the fact that mic-ing up almost 50 acts over the course of a week of live finals creates a logistical challenge like no other. Tara Lepore travelled to Lisbon to find out how to prepare for a show watched by millions across the globe...
hen we arrive at the gates of the Altrice Arena in Lisbon, there is still a week to go before 2018’s Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) final. 2017 winner Portugal proudly served as this year’s host and at the time of PSNEurope’s visit, the city is already abuzz with excitement. Posters and banners line the streets; a huge screen ready to broadcast the final takes centre stage at one of the city’s main squares; and everyone you talk to in the city has something to say about it. By the time you’re reading this, you’ll know that this year’s victorious winner was Israel, who won the competition for the fourth time in ESC’s history (the last being in 1998). Next year’s event will therefore take
place in Israel, although, at the time of going to press, ESC organisers had just warned fans not to book flights due to ongoing question marks over where precisely it will be held. But back to Lisbon for the 2018 edition, and the scale of the technical rehearsals make it clear just how huge the task of providing sound for one of the most televised events of the year really is. And, like everything that has ever gone before onstage, there’s no predicting exactly what will happen on the night. This year was no exception, as the UK’s hopeful contestant Su-Rie was interrupted by a stage invader who snatched the microphone out of her hands midway through her performance. But situations like this avoided total
disaster thanks to the capable hands of official technical supplier Sennheiser, which supplied its Digital 6000 wireless system for the event (with – luckily – almost double the amount of equipment needed onsite in case any emergencies should arise). Amazingly, three weeks’ get-in time with just three members of Sennheiser staff for the whole production resulted in an ambitious 72-hour get-out. Efficiency, then, is a word that springs to mind on PSNEurope’s tour of the arena, as Sennheiser prepped for the biggest live broadcast music event in Europe this year. More than 180 million people were expected to tune in to this year’s final, and Sennheiser’s director of customer development and application engineering,
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Volken Schmitt, was “more than confident” that the Digital 6000 was up to the job. “The transmission sounds better than ever and we have better control over the entire system, as well as having lots of features that we can remotely control,” Schmitt adds. More than 210 tonnes of kit was flown from the ceiling (with no boxes on the floor as to not block sightlines), with 1.2km of RF cable running through the 20,000-capacity arena. So how does this process work logistically? As you might expect, Eurovision is a year-round event for its technical teams, and for this year’s show (the 63rd ESC in its history) negotiations started as soon as the curtain fell on the 2017 event. Host broadcaster Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) first contacted Sennheiser in June 2017 about pairing up for the 2018 edition, and a face-to-face meeting was held in December last year. The RF system design was then drawn up in the spring, before rehearsals began in earnest on April 22. Around 120 sound engineers worked on the event, this year led by head of sound Daniel Bekerman. With 43 countries competing over the contest (only 26 make it to the final stages), it’s important that no country is seen as more important than another. Communications between the artists and the Sennheiser team are all recorded via a Pro Tools rig, “plainly because it is a political event,” comments Kevin Jungk, customer development and application engineer at Sennheiser, who worked with the wireless RF team in Lisbon. “The ESC is around 43 countries competing with each other. If any country thinks they’re at a disadvantage, they will do everything in their power to re-do their rehearsal, or have another try on stage,” he said. “This is why everything has to be really strict. There’s no preference for the host country or anyone else – everything has to be the same for everyone.
Hands-free: UK contestant Su-Rie’s performance was interrupted by a stage invader
“And as it’s Eurovision, we have spares for everything. Actually, we have spares for the spares for the spares.” All artists use Digital 6000 microphones: either SKM 6000 handhelds with MD 9235 dynamic capsules, or SK 6000 bodypacks with Sennheiser custom headmics. For wireless monitoring, 2000 series monitors played a part: Rack-mount SR 2050 IEM two-channel transmitters transmitted their signals via A 5000-CP circularly polarised antennae to the artists’ EK 2000 IEM bodypack receivers. The first thing a contestant must do before going on stage – before their mics are dressed and body packs
Sennheiser RF team Jonas Næsby (left) and Gerhard Spyra (right)
set up correctly – is check the monitor sound from their in-ears. Digico’s SD7 is the mixing console of choice for the event, with most of the 15 desks onsite bearing the British company’s name. Schmitt explains: “[The soundcheck room] is the point where the adjustment for the in-ear mix is done. From here, we take the file from each and every country and distribute it to the other mixing desks. There’s no speaker running – they only hear themselves via the in-ears. This is completely different from when they are walking into the arena through the tunnels, where we have a little bit of sound reinforcement. That’s where contestants realise, Oh my gosh, this is big.” So, what challenges arise from having such a tight rehearsal schedule with more than 40 different contestants – and hundreds of people walking in and out of the arena at any one time? RF interference is one: “Unauthorised wireless systems in the arena is the biggest challenge for us,” says Schmitt. In fact, the strict rules about what could be brought into the arena garnered international attention – wireless equipment was included in a banned list of items, which went viral on social media, including seemingly bizarre items such as handcuffs, golf balls and mugs. Another item that proved problematic for the radio frequency was an all-metal dress worn by one the contestants, added Schmitt. But wardrobe malfunctions aside, not only was Sennheiser more confident in its new 6000 technology, the wireless system’s improved workflow and the thorough preparation from Sennheiser’s teams delivered optimised sound throughout the show. By the time you’re reading this, a venue for 2019 will hopefully have been decided upon. And that there's enough time to prepare as smooth an operation as this year. n
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P28 JUNE 2018
Leeds united Something about PLASA Focus Leeds brings together the UK pro audio industry like nowhere else, discovers Phil Ward...
trade show is where those tangential, elliptical and just plain oblong relationships continue: where bases are touched and breezes are shot. Nowhere is this more plain than PLASA Focus Leeds, where the typical reading of the craic is this from Justin Grealy, FOH and monitor engineer and Soulsound tutor: “People come here from all over the country because of its location. That’s not the case with London or Glasgow, which are much more localised. And… it’s not grim up North! I’m a Nottingham lad, and I like coming here despite what happened to Brian Clough…” For the uninitiated, Clough was a highly successful football manager in Nottingham and a complete failure in Leeds, in which case the contrast with PLASA Focus is well chosen. Rob Hughes, UK sales manager at Cadac, was busy showing the new compact CDC five and the flagship CDC seven-s. “It’s one of the best shows we do,” he declared. “It has a really good quality of punter, and I think that’s because the ‘Focus’ of it is on the product. There are no big, fancy show stands – all there is to see is the people from the exhibitor and the products they choose to bring. For us, as a console manufacturer, we see that people just want to come and touch the surfaces and play with the console. That’s all they need to do.” According to Tuomo Tolonen, director of the pro audio group at Shure Distribution UK, “this is one of the trade shows we come to most regularly. People will have noticed that we’ve skipped other trade shows in the recent past, but this one is genuinely valuable. I love the fact that we can have a small, shell-scheme stand and
not have to build something big and impressive. We can just put some product on it and that’s it. It’s all about the people that come and talk to us – that’s why we love coming here”. “This show really works in the evening, when you’ve got all the different stands mingling with the visitors after hours,” believes Andy Dockerty, MD of full service rental company Adlib. “We do most of our business at this time. During the day, it’s a phenomenal opportunity to show off to all the students from all the colleges that are here, and if you come with that mindset it’s a really positive event. The fact that it’s so small keeps it highly sociable, and the fact that it’s highly sociable actually breeds business between all the various resellers, bands and punters. “We’re renowned as a very student-friendly company as well, so it’s great to see so many of them on the stands. You might arrange a few meetings to coincide with the show, but really it’s about how we might pick up the next young engineer, someone who wants to do some work experience. We have a similar experience in Glasgow, probably for all the same reasons.” On the Sennheiser UK stand, sales director for pro audio solutions Simon Holley stood beneath a simple message that said: “Evolution wireless G4: evolving with you”. He himself said: “It’s always a very good show for us at Sennheiser. We find that we’ve got the whole industry represented here; all of our dealers come and visit us; and it’s a great place to show off our product – especially this year with the launch of the evolution wireless G4 and the recent Digital 6000 system. Attendance has been brilliant and we’ve had some
really good conversations. On our calendar, this show is marked as one of the most important, worldwide.” “It gives us a great opportunity to take products to our customers in the North of England, albeit a small amount – enough to enable us to meet new people as well as old friends,” added Bill Woods, director of business development at Funktion One. “It’s convenient, relatively inexpensive and a good time of year for us: I haven’t seen anyone we saw at Frankfurt. PLASA Focus people don’t go to Frankfurt.” But it wasn’t all British: apart from DAS Audio from Spain, you could find Finland’s highly active Aura Audio – a PLASA debutant in 2014, a Glasgow regular and into a second year at Leeds. Founder Mika Isotalo regards the UK as a very important market, even as Aura strikes key deals in Spain, Portugal, Romania and Hungary. “At the moment there’s a really good vibe here,“ he commented. “Our Manchester-based rep, Dominic Stafford who owns Sixth Sound, and our Irish dealer AVL Systems are both doing really well and Leeds is an obvious rendezvous. “It’s great for networking and there are no big expectations; we’re seeing concert promoters and installers who seem open to something new, like Aura. Apparently the weather in Glasgow affected some people in January – but being Finnish we didn’t even notice it!” There was even a genuine global product launch: EM Acoustics unveiled the EMS-41, an ultra-compact addition to the EMS Series sporting a coaxial design, EM’s signature passive crossover and a “sober appearance”. Unlike Brian Clough, then. n
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ShowMatch™ DeltaQ™ loudspeakers provide better coverage for outstanding vocal clarity. ©2017 Bose Corporation.
With DeltaQ technology, new ShowMatch array loudspeakers more precisely
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direct sound to the audience in both installed and portable applications. Each array module offers field-changeable waveguides that can vary coverage and even create asymmetrical patterns. The result is unmatched sound quality and vocal clarity for every seat in the house. Learn more at SHOWMATCH.BOSE.COM
NEXT-GENERATION ARRAY TECHNOLOGY
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P31 JUNE 2018
Nexo’s ID series loudspeakers at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax, UK
Lights down, mics up Theatres - particularly older ones - are famously tricky buildings to hang audio equipment in, but new technology means the job of the sound engineer is now easier than ever. PSNEurope asked some of the industry’s leading manufacturers to put forward their best loudspeaker, wireless communications or consoles product that’s having its moment in the spotlight...
Digico: SD Range Told to PSNEurope by James Gordon, Digico managing director Tell us how the product was conceived. We were very fortunate to get connected with some of the top sound designers who were willing to share both their experiences and also their suggestions on how it could evolve to help them with the challenges they faced, as well as expand their creative options. Getting first-hand feedback from designers like Andrew Bruce, Bobby Aitken and others, along with the operators who mix the shows every night has been amazing.
What sets this product apart from the competition? We have a number of very theatre specific features, like Auto Update and Players that have been designed to help speed up the show design and also help with the multiple short notice cast changes. These dedicated theatre control functions really do make the Digico SD T Range of consoles stand out as a theatre focused tool. Why is it so important to the world of theatre audio? It gives the designers more time to be as creative as they like, as the console works with them, saving the changes automatically into their normal workflow. This is really important as sound in theatre has to be almost invisible.
How crucial is this product type to the rest of your business? Theatre is a large part of Digico and the relationships with designers and operators are an important part of the ethos of the company and R&D team. They are always coming to us with new challenges of how to do things, but generally have an excellent real world example of why they need it. Quantum 7, with its expanded processing, increased channel, buss count and output matrix is a lot to do with the demands on modern theatre, and when the T version arrives I am sure we will get some more exciting projects pushing the boundaries onstage. www.digico.biz
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P32 JUNE 2018
Shure: Axient Digital Told to PSNEurope by Marc Henshall, Shure’s senior marketing specialist, pro audio Tell us how the product was conceived. Shure is very committed to developing wireless systems designed to meet the expectations of modern productions. The journey to Axient Digital is intrinsically linked to the conception of our original Axient platform, which was designed to deliver a wireless system with zero tolerance for failure. After the success of Axient, Axient Digital was designed from the ground up with a new digital modulation scheme under the premise that RF spectrum today is increasingly crowded. Ultimately, to be a reliable investment, wireless systems must provide crystal clear audio with significantly improved RF stability and spectral efficiency. We spent a considerable amount of time talking to professionals around the world to ensure that every aspect of the product was designed to meet their demands.
Nexo ID Series
Nexo: ID Series Told to PSNEurope by a Nexo spokesperson How was the product conceived? The new Nexo ID Series products were designed to be problem solvers for the toolkits of audio system designers and installers. Its eye-catching asymmetric shape, realised in an injection-moulded polyurethane cabinet, houses a V-formation of its twin 4” drivers plus HF compression driver with rotatable horn. Using a variety of mounting options, the ID24 compact cabinet fits into almost any environment, while its ability to offer high SPL output with variable directivities enables it to ‘beam’ sound into difficult spaces. The high-frequency compact cabinets (309mm W x 132mm H, 233mm D) are complemented by two low-profile powerful subs, ID S110 (1x10”) and ID S210 (2x10”). What sets this product apart from the competition? The ID24 full-range compact speaker uses twin 4” drivers in combination with an HF compression driver, offering two preset directivity options. It has a user-adjustable horn, easily rotatable without tools by a switch on the rear panel, giving 60° x 60°, 90° x 40°, 120° x 40°, 120° x 60° (according to horns) HF coverage with the standard horn fitted. This allows HF horizontal dispersion to be tuned for the given application. As the ID24 can be mounted vertically or horizontally, this effectively gives the user four different directivity options in each cabinet. Why is this product so essential in the world of theatre-based audio? For many theatres, adding a higher number of speakers in balconies, side seating and boxes, will produce a more consistent sound coverage than
ADDING A HIGHER NUMBER OF SPEAKERS IN BALCONIES, SIDE SEATING AND BOXES WILL PRODUCE A MORE CONSISTENT SOUND COVERAGE simply building a bigger left-centre-right stack. The ID range will supplement the power given by the main PA by delivering exactly what’s typically lost in those hardto-reach corners. The speed of adding more speakers to a system for an auditorium should be faster too. The clamps are fast and secure, with a range of mounts that should fit almost any scenario. Easy to place in positions that may have otherwise been hard to include, note that the weight of a single ID24 is only 6kg, so adding them to even the most simple trussing shouldn’t impose any limitations. How crucial is this product range to the rest of your product catalogue? With the arrival of the ID Series, Nexo’s product portfolio for theatre has been rounded out. ID24 is exactly the right tool to complement the line array systems produced by Nexo – the compact GEO M6, the mid-size GEO M10, and the high-spec STM M28 – enabling us to bid for complete installations instead of tendering just the main PA. Such flexible functionality has won Nexo many new customers in the theatre and live event rental market, notably Orbital Sound, one of the largest touring theatre rental suppliers in Europe. www.nexo-sa.com
What sets this product apart from the competition? Axient Digital has several aspects that are applicable to theatre applications. The new ADX1M micro bodypack represents a breakthrough in design with a streamlined form factor for better concealment and wear. The ADX1M internal self-tuning antenna is integral to the discreet design and optimised performance. Axient Digital is a wireless system that delivers wide tuning bandwidths of up to 184 MHz across all receivers and transmitters (perfect for broad coverage and simplified inventory). There’s also ShowLink: ADX transmitters provide real time remote control of the transmitters, even when they are already on the performers. One of the key features this offers is the ability to control any transmitter parameter remotely, including the frequency – this is unique to Axient Digital. Why is the product so essential in the world of theatre-based audio? Bodypack form factor has long been an essential consideration for theatre productions. Axient Digital’s new ADX1M micro bodypack represents a breakthrough in design and performance. Shure worked directly with audio professionals in the industry to design a bodypack specifically with theatre in mind. The result is a transmitter unlike anything else on the market with a small, streamlined design, internal selftuning antenna, durable heat-resistant construction, and rechargeability with up to seven hours’ runtime. All of this combines with Shure’s Axient Digital RF performance for a product that’s worthy of the West End and beyond. www.shure.eu
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P33 JUNE 2018
Yamaha: Rivage PM7
DPA: d:screet 4061
Cadac: CDC seven-s
Told to PSNEurope by Andy Cooper, Yamaha manager, pro audio application engineering
Told to PSNEurope by René Moerch, DPA Microphones product manager
Told to PSNEurope by James Godbehear, Cadac marketing manager
Talk us through the development of the PM7? During the last five years Yamaha’s CL series has been widely accepted by theatres around the world, thanks to its networked infrastructure, compact footprint, ease of use, and great sound. Rivage PM7 was designed to fill the gap – to provide the innovation at a more affordable price.
How was the product conceived? The d:screet 4061 has been an industry standard for over a decade. It has a great-sounding miniature solution for theatre applications and is one of the most popular mics for high-end theatres in Europe.
What sets this product apart from the competition? The unique CDC high-agility ‘human interface’ combines the console’s feature set to aid workflow, allowing the engineer more creative freedom. Dual 23.5” touchscreens display the intuitive swipe-able interface. Encoders immediately to the right of and below the screens encourage the instinctive use of gesture in navigating and operating the console. Sound quality in the CDC consoles is the best of any live console – digital or analogue. Cadac’s proprietary MegaCOMMS digital audio protocol includes an extensive automatic latency management system that manages all internal routing and associated processing latency, synchronising all audio samples before summing. This produces absolute phase coherency at all outputs. MegaCOMMS also boasts a total throughsystem propagation delay, from inputs on stage to outputs – including all console processing and A-D/D-A conversions – of under 400μs (0.4 ms). This is the audio industry’s lowest latency protocol. Not only does this provide CDC consoles with a performance premium, in terms of audio, it makes them well specified for production applications demanding use of multiple channels of in-ear monitoring, where digital signal latency can be very problematic.
Andy Cooper, Yamaha
What sets this product apart from the competition? Rivage PM7 is unique in its class for a number of reasons. The hybrid mic preamps – created with the legendary Rupert Neve Designs - provide detailed sonic character with the analogue transformer emulation. Then there is the 96kHz, 32-bit network to ensure no quality is lost, even when severe gain reduction is applied. The facilities within each channel strip are also varied: a choice of four EQ styles, two compressor styles and the use of two separate insert points with four plugins per insert. What does the PM7 have to offer the world of theatrebased audio? Theatres tend to have strict requirements in the dimensions of space and time. Mixing consoles need to provide access to hundreds of channels, yet fit within a reasonable footprint and be quick and easy to control. RIVAGE PM7 is tailor made, with the reliability expected from Yamaha. 38 smooth and comfortable faders are laid on the flat surface, with two touchscreens within easy reach. The sightlines to stage were carefully considered during the design stage, to be better than most. All the network infrastructure you could possibly need to link with remote audio devices is available through TWINLANe and Dante. PM7 meets all these demands, while surpassing expectations for quality and character of sound. www.yamahaproaudio.com
What sets this product apart from the rest? The ability to go from a whisper to a very loud scream in one miniature mic is not something that all mic manufacturers can say about their products. At DPA we can because the d:screet 4061 has always been able to do this, and now it can handle even louder screams and still sound natural. Why is this product so essential in the world of theatre-based audio? The first step in the audio chain is crucial because if the sound being captured is of poor quality, you can’t save it - not in a sound studio and definitely not on a live theatre stage. If you want to give the audience a great audio experience you need to start with the best sound coming into the audio chain, and that takes a microphone that can handle whatever you feed into it. How crucial is the d:screet microphone to the rest of your business? Miniatures have been a very important part of DPA for decades. In fact, our miniatures were developed specifically for theatre applications. It is and will continue to be a crucial market for DPA; it is part of our roots. You can pretty much use our miniatures to completely mic up your theatre performance – d:screet 4061s as hidden bodyworn mics, d:fine 4066s or 4088s for headsets, if needed, and d:vote 4099s in the instrument pit, as well as the high-end d:dicate™ pencil mics like the 4011 Cardioid. With that combination you would have a fantastic sounding performance. www.dpamicrophones.com
Why is this product so essential to the world of theatre-based audio? I believe using CDC series consoles improves sound quality with even the very best PA systems – something that has been qualified by several leading theatre sound designers. CDC series consoles have an extremely low noise floor; of particular importance in low ambient noise applications like theatre, where mic channels can be left open for instance. Also in the CDC seven-s and CDC six, the external PSU can be remotely sited to mitigate fan noise. www.cadacsound.com
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P34 JUNE 2018
Sennheiser: Digital 6000
RF WIRELESS MICROPHONES - SUCH AS DIGITAL 6000 - ARE TRULY AT THE HEART OF OUR PRO AUDIO BUSINESS
Told to PSNEurope by Tom Vollmers, Sennheiser product manager for Digital 6000 Tell us how the product was conceived. We designed Digital 6000 to be a high-performance, multi-channel wireless solution that fulfills the business needs of theatres, rental companies, broadcasters and houses of worship. These needs include flexible two-channel receivers, the use of existing accessories like standard UHF antenna infrastructures and a professional lithium-ion battery solution with a 19” charger. To address the challenges of a shrinking UHF spectrum, which is especially critical for theatres in entertainment districts, Digital 6000 was physically engineered to be intermodulation-free. This means that more channels can be accommodated in less space – simply place your frequencies in an equidistant grid in the free spectrum. What are the key benefits offered? Digital 6000 shares its intermodulation-free design with the flagship Digital 9000 series and is spectrumefficient. It does not congest the spectrum with any intermodulation products, saving spectrum for other wireless applications and eliminating the need for complicated frequency planning. A third USP is Digital 6000’s reliable transmission
Meyer Sound: D-Mitri Digital Audio Platform Told to PSNEurope by John Monitto, director of business development Tell us about the product’s inception? D-Mitri is the successor to the LCS Series of audio mixing, matrixing and show control systems that Meyer Sound introduced to immersive theatrical sound in the 1990s. When Meyer Sound acquired LCS, the concept was taken to the next level in terms of channel capacity, configurability and audio quality in the development of D-Mitri. The modular concept behind LCS was extended to include a greater range of input, output and core processing options to allow theatrical sound designers essentially unlimited freedom in creating sonic effects for their productions. By integrating seamlessly with Meyer Sound’s extensive line of self-powered loudspeakers, sound designers could assign and dynamically pan discrete sounds with an ease and precision that was previously never possible.
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mode. It employs “true bit diversity”, a diversity technique that ensures a better reception quality than other techniques. For extremely difficult RF environments, we have added transmission error correction, which repairs corrupted signals, and finally intelligent error concealment. This will set in if the signal should get temporarily corrupted to such an extent that it can no longer be repaired. The error concealment employs intelligent learning algorithms to replace the corrupted part, enabling Digital 6000 to still transmit well where other digital systems fail.
How crucial is the Digital 6000 product to the rest of your business? RF wireless microphones such as Digital 6000 are truly at the heart of our pro audio business. Over many decades, customers across the globe have implemented fantastic projects with Sennheiser wireless microphone technology, and we’re very happy to be part of their creative ideas and dreams. It’s a privilege, really. Methods such as Agile Development ensure that their ideas and feedback are optimally included in the product design process. This is why you will see Digital 6000 evolving further with new customer needs and requests. For example, we recently added a Command and an audio mute function with the latest firmware update. Command functionality makes the broadcast engineer very happy – but this mode can also be used in theatres and live performances for communication between artist and sound engineer, for example.” www.sennheiser.com
What sets this product apart from the competition? D-Mitri is a complete, Gigabit network-based system that encompasses the entire audio chain, from microphone input to loudspeaker output, incorporating multichannel distribution, multichannel recording and playback, and show control automation. Working in tandem with its companion CueStation control software, D-Mitri allows sound designers to easily scale a system from small and focused to huge and complex, and create sophisticated automation or custom scripts to accomplish specialised tasks. In addition to CueStation, D-Mitri supports web based control, OSC and MIDI. Each D-Mitri Core Processor (DCP) incorporates the latest in quad-core and FPGA processing and provides complete signal processing for 72 inputs, 72 outputs, and 72 internal busses. Up to four DCP modules can be combined using a D-Mitri Core Matrix (DCM) to dynamically mix and route up to 288 inputs, buses, and outputs. Sound designers can build their D-Mitri system by selecting from five different analogue and digital (AES3) inputs and/or output modules, a GPIO module, plus two matrix modules, the WildTracks module for recording and playback, and the D-VRAS module for Constellation active acoustics.
Why is this product essential in theatre audio? The introduction of advanced cinema surround systems like Dolby Atmos has made audiences aware of the higher level of involvement possible when using immersive or spatialised sound. Increasingly, directors and producers are asking their sound designers to extend the reach of sound design to encompass the entire audience in ways never before attempted. One example would be the recent Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, where the musicians and actors roamed freely throughout the entire theatre and a D-Mitri-based system was employed to track their movements with precision, maintaining natural image localisation. Such demanding sound designs require the ability to custom tailor a solution that meets the creative concept behind that particular production. By combining everything into a single solution – software and modular hardware all seamlessly integrated – D-Mitri allows the sound designer to craft a solution regardless of the sophistication or complexities involved - the only limit is the imagination of the creative team. www.meyersound.com
Sennheiser product manager, Tom Vollmers
P35 JUNE 2018
Martin Audio: MLA Series
d&b audiotechnik: Soundscape
Told to PSNEurope by Nigel Meddemmen, Martin Audio product support engineer Tell us how the product was conceived. The multicellular range grew from the development of the O-Line micro array. We looked at using software based numerical optimisation applied to an accurate computer model of a line source array to establish the optimum array articulation, instead of a simple geometric calculation. We then adopted a cellular approach so that almost every driver can be precisely processed to achieve exactly the goals for coverage in a venue that the system technician defines. We developed a second phase of optimisation again using numerical optimisation to derive the DSP coefficients for every cell. What sets this product apart from the competition? The Multicellular range is unique in that it derives the DSP coefficients to achieve the coverage required where it arrives at the audience, completely ignoring the sound that is leaving the array. All other line-source based arrays are attempting to achieve a coherent waveform and flat response at the array, which rarely arrives at all parts of the audience with the same fidelity. A totally unique feature is the ability to optimise the system for three goals, not just for a smooth response in the audience region but also to limit spill into non audience areas and the hard avoid feature to actively reduce spill into problematic areas such as on stage behind the array or a reflective balcony front. How is this product essential to theatre audio? Theatre depends on maximising audio fidelity to totally engage the audience. A multicellular system allows coverage impossible to match with a conventional system, thus ensuring that the sound designer’s vision is delivered to every member of the audience, regardless of where they are sitting in the theatre. Many theatres hark back to Victorian times and were never designed for amplified audio and there are frequently problematic reflective surfaces that can massively reduce intelligibility. The hard avoid feature can deal with such surfaces by ensuring that coverage is directed just at the audience and away from any reflective areas. How crucial is this product to your business? It has allowed the company to develop more groundbreaking technology, such as the patented coaxial differential dispersion drivers used in the CDD, CDD-LIVE and XE stage monitor product ranges. The multicellular principal has been applied to a new range of arrays where the degree of optimisation can be scaled to suit a specific application or budget making the technology far more widely available. www.martinaudio.com
Told to PSNEurope by Adam Hockley, d&b education application support What sets this product apart from the competition? The key to any such development is ease of use. Operators and users need to be able to easily understand the concept – hence why d&b distance this product from ambiguous terms such as ‘immersive’ or ‘3D sound’, and choose instead to define what it can do from an established ISO standard for acoustics.
Nigel Meddemmen, Martin Audio
L-Acoustics: L-ISA Told to PSNEurope by Jesse Stevens, L-Acoustics application engineer How was L-ISA conceived? The L-ISA technology is a new way of processing, designing and mixing audio, and was conceived as a solution to several common issues in sound reinforcement. We can now achieve separation and clarity in the mix by objects having their own space rather than with EQ and compression. And finally, with only a frontal system, we are able to use the Pan, Width, Distance and Elevation controls of each object to create our mix in multiple dimensions. Why is this product so essential in the world of theatre-based audio? Theatre has always been an extremely difficult sound design challenge. Even the best designers must manage many moving parts, and deal with how to make it all seem cohesive. Luckily, the future is here and L-ISA technology gives designers and engineers new tools with which to create and manage a mix. Things like underscoring can be managed in a different way – allowing the band to be pushed “far away” and then brought back to the foreground instead of the band playing quieter and stripping away instrumentation. Sound effects can be placed around the venue by simply placing the object in the correct location. How vital is this product to your business? It is safe to say that in an increasingly immersive world, object-based audio truly is the future. L-ISA allows us to zoom out and look at the larger picture, rethinking how we reinforce sound for a production and putting new tools into the hands of the creatives that wield them, in the hope of breaking new ground. www.l-acoustics.com
Why is this product so essential to the world of theatre-based audio? Theatre sound reinforcement has, for the past 20 years, been obsessed with the authentic placement of programme elements such as voice, music and effects in such a way that the audience experiences the source from wherever it is placed on the stage. While some success has been achieved through the careful application of delay, level and panning, and the precise blocking of performers, it has proved impossible to address this desire reliably and consistently across the entire listening area. Soundscape was built to answer this conundrum emphatically and with ease. Soundscape’s combination of the d&b DS100 signal matrix and two optional software modules (EnScene and En-Space ) enables not only sound object positioning but also room emulation, giving a specific reverberation signature. In the current UK touring production of The Last Ship, sound designer Sebastian Frost has used both tools: En-Scene throughout the performance to place the band and up to 23 cast members across a large three-dimensional stage set; and En-Space to realistically create the confines of a medieval chapel that can then segue to a shipyard warehouse with the physical scene change. How important is this product to your business? Soundscape is one of several intriguing strings for d&b, which can be separate or intertwined. In sound reinforcement, developments in technology always drive business imperatives. For d&b this has never been at the expense of sound quality: using technology to overcome the poor application of physics in the design process, or to eliminate unwanted sound artefacts from products is simply not acceptable. The new d&b GSL-System line array exemplifies the d&b approach, where the issue of precise pattern control down into that elusive bottom octave, eschews DSP (Digital Signal Processing), solving the problem instead not just with DSP but also CSP (Cabinet Signal Processing), i.e. careful cabinet design, applying what some might call the ‘negative effects’ of physics. n www.dbaudio.com
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P36 JUNE 2018
No drama: Liv Nagy
All photos: Jamie Isbell
Centre stage Over the past few years, Liv Nagy has applied her considerable skills to a multitude of audio engineering applications, resulting in her becoming one of the most exciting young talents in the business. Here, she tells Daniel Gumble all about her burgeoning career to date, her formative years in professional audio and the art of mixing sound for the theatre…
hough her pursuit of a career in audio may not have began in earnest until her late teens, Liv Nagy was, it seems, always destined for a career in engineering. From her formative years growing up in a small town in Hungary, her fascination with hands-on, DIY projects was piqued at an early age. “My career probably started when my dad taught me to solder cables at the age of 13, and I knew this was something I would love to do later on in my life,” she tells PSNEurope. “I was interested in everything DIY and it always impressed me how my father could fix everything around the house. I’ve always enjoyed crafting and fixing things since I was a little child.” Yet it wasn’t until the age of 19 that she was even made aware of the possibility of a future in sound engineering. Despite her love of music and technology, she was yet to be introduced to the concept of audio as a career choice. “It seemed impossible for me to do it at the time - I only knew that I loved music and adored technology,” she explains. “I clearly remember the moment that started this ‘crazy’ idea in my mind that I was going to be a sound engineer; I went to a concert and sneaked up to the unattended mixing desk. The sound tech came over and we started chatting. I got to know the whole crew. They knew I could speak English on a fairly good level, so a few weeks later I got a call to see if I was interested in doing admin in English for the
company and in return they would teach me sound. I was coiling cables for a bit of course, then they took me on a tour and let me cable the mics up. Then came the day when they let me touch the mics and put them on stands. I’ll never forget how excited I was. And still am.“ PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with Nagy to find out more about her route into theatrical audio, why it differs so much to her previous roles in the studio and on the road and why she believes the theatre is a more welcoming place for female engineers… What was it that attracted you to theatre sound? In Hungary as a sound professional you don’t necessarily need to specialise like in the UK. You’re very likely to encounter live, studio, theatre and TV/ radio broadcast throughout your career. Once a dear colleague rang me and asked if I was available to do a theatre tour of The Taming Of The Shrew as an assistant sound engineer. I didn’t really know what the job entailed, but I said yes without hesitation. I’ve been a frequent theatre-goer since a very young age, thanks to my parents. I’ve always felt theatre was magical and something very special. I was ecstatic to take this opportunity. I loved every minute of it and I felt like I found my place in the wide world of sound. What projects are you currently working on? I’ve just finished the run of The Great Wave as a Sound
No.1 at the Dorfman Theatre and I’m preparing to do Sound No.2 on The Jungle that is transferring from the West End this June to the Playhouse Theatre. I was involved in this show originally when it was first performed last year. The play tells stories of the refugee crisis and the Calais camp. It is a very touching, eyeopening and valuable play in my opinion and it is an honour to be part of it. How much does theatre sound engineering differ from FOH engineering with a touring band? Very much. The equipment is similar but used differently. For example, I mixed live gigs on Digico consoles for quite a few years, but the snapshots puzzled me first when I entered the theatre. The desk is programmed very differently; I had to relearn that, and am still learning. The mic-ing is very different. In live sound the mics are super close to the sound source, while in theatre there are lots of compromises to make. Hair, wigs, costumes, sweat, choreography and occasionally water on stage affect the mic position severely. The aim is to hide the mics to avoid visibility while still achieving good audio quality. It requires a lot of creativity and problem-solving skills, which is my favourite part of it. In theatre the mic-ing is more intimate as well, so it is really important to be a peopleperson and gain the trust of every actor. The team dynamics are very different to live music. I may have
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been lucky, but I’ve noticed that in theatre the cast and crew are generally kinder to each other, more patient and more team-minded than in live sound. I don’t know if it’s the intensity and toughness of a production period that brings the team together, as everyone has to rely on each other, or if it’s something else. In live sound there is a team effort of course, but it’s more competitive. That’s what I found, at least. Tell us about some of the biggest projects you’ve worked on to date. I’ve worked on a live gig with an audience of 14,000 people. I was the on-stage sound tech of the band. It was absolutely terrifying. Amazing, and one of my favourite memories, but it was very scary to work and solve problems in front of that many people. Especially after a 4am start. My other favourite project was the recording of a movie score in a big studio. I was the assistant engineer but as a result of unforeseen circumstances I had to jump in to record a 100-plustracks session alone. I was shaking, but I remember when the orchestra started playing (and finally I felt relieved that everything was working), I actually teared
up. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Theatre-wise it’s hard to decide. My first show as a No.2 in the UK was Saint George And The Dragon in the Olivier Theatre. I loved the cast and the crew and really enjoyed the environment of a bigger theatre. The Great Wave also has a special place in my heart, as that’s my first ever show as a Sound No.1. It was very challenging, but the support I got from my colleagues meant the world to me. What are the biggest challenges you face as a theatrical sound engineer? The biggest challenge is always to make it happen, as every single production is different. Sound is not just about getting signal out of the speakers. I had to learn how to use MIDI, OSC and Dante and make phones ring occasionally. There is always something new to figure out and to learn. Also, all the departments have to work closely together and sometimes we get in each other’s way. So the challenge is to find solutions and compromises that make everyone happy. Also, especially when the work gets really intense, there can be frictions within the team. It’s very important to be
able to handle it well, get over it until the work gets done and then talk about it. Handling immense pressure is a huge part of the job and it gets harder when you lack sleep due to working hours. It’s very lucky that I love doing my job so much; that’s what gets me through the tough times. You’ve previsouly mentioned that you found women are more welcomed and accepted in the theatre world, compared to the live industry. Why is that? I’ve spent 7-8 years in live sound and approximately 2-3 years in theatre. In live sound I encountered bad situations literally every other day. Whenever I turned up at a venue to do a gig, I was always asked if I really was the sound engineer. The security and even the local sound crews would assume I was a fan who just wanted to get in the venue for free or was the girlfriend of a musician. There were many occasions when a situation like this turned into an argument and I had to make calls to get someone to contact the local people to say, Yes, today’s sound engineer is a woman, please let her in. I got many comments like “you should protect yourself from disappointment in the future and choose a more girly job” or “women would never be able to do this as well as men”, “you’ll never be good enough” or even harsher ones. You’d think this doesn’t happen but it still does. These were especially harmful at the beginning of my career. In theatre this has never happened and I find the gender balance to be brilliant across the backstage departments. Maybe because there are actresses in a play and there usually would be women in hair, wigs, make-up and costume departments, it’s naturally accepted that women are around. What are your favourite pieces of gear to work with? I love working with QLab, I find programming very exciting. I also trust Focusrite, as it’s easy to install and has been stable throughout all the jobs I’ve done. I prefer using DPA mics and Sennheiser packs, because they just work. I also like the logic of the Digico consoles and the handy colour-coding options; these help me to identify channels quickly. I love when the equipment works; it makes my life easier and I can concentrate on other things.
Inspiring the future: Liv Nagy
You are a volunteer for the Inspiring The Future Theatre campaign. Tell us a bit about that. It is very new to me, but when I heard and read about it, I applied straight away. The campaign gives opportunities to young people to learn about careers in theatres from working professionals. I would have loved this when I was young. In the first years of my career it would have made a big difference if I could talk to other women in the industry and I’d like to be that person for others out there. I really enjoy teaching and talking to young people, I try to take every opportunity to do talks and panels about sound and how I see it. I’d like to make a positive difference in the world. n
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Behind the curtain
Over the past 10 years, theatre sound engineer Eamon Walsh has been building a rather impressive CV, having worked on numerous high-profile productions in various capacities up and down the country. Daniel Gumble caught up with him to find out more about his career to date and what sets the theatre apart from the rest of the pro audio industry….
ince taking his first job in pro audio as a sound engineer with Apex Acoustics Sound Services back in 2006, Eamon Walsh has been steadily building a reputation as one of the UK’s leading talents in the world of theatrical audio. Having immersed himself in the world of sound from the age of just 16 when he took on a work experience placement with a sound hire company, he has seen his career gather pace at a rate of knots. Here, Walsh tells PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble about his favourite gear, some of the biggest projects he’s worked on to date and the most challenging aspects of pursuing a career in theatrical sound… What first appealed to you about a career in audio engineering? I have been interested in sound engineering from a young age, even before I really knew what it was! I come from a musical family and as a child used to go to shows and concerts quite often. I was always intrigued by the guy standing at the back in front of what looked like a spaceship. I had no idea what it did
but it fascinated me. While I was at secondary school I contacted a sound hire company to ask about the possibility of doing a work experience placement there. The director of the company agreed and I had a very enjoyable and memorable week there. I continued my placement over the next few weeks, tagging along and helping out where I could at different shows and concerts. I was only 16 at the time but decided this was a great way into the industry. I left school that summer and continued working and gaining experience with the company while doing a college course in sound production. I became a full-time employee a year later and stayed for a further three years before pursuing a freelance career in sound. How did you get into the theatrical side of the industry? The hire firm I first worked for was predominately a theatre sound company. They did their fair share of concerts and other projects too but specialised in theatre. When I first started there I was quite openminded to all aspects of the industry, but after seeing
what went into mixing a musical I was fairly certain that was the route I wanted to pursue. There is something about the pressure of mixing a musical that I really enjoy. You have a lot of people to please, from the sound designers to the director and the musical supervisor, and it can certainly be quite a stressful environment at times. But the sense of accomplishment after mixing a good show, especially on an opening night, makes all the long hours worthwhile. What project are you currently working on? I am currently head of sound on Shrek The Musical, which is touring the UK and Ireland. It’s a great show to mix with a lot going on at times, so it certainly keeps you on your toes. One of the challenges of this show is mic positioning. A large amount of the cast are wearing masks and hats that cover half of their face, which makes our job a bit tricky. But with some clever positioning and EQ, as well as a great team backstage keeping them in check, we are able to work around them. Also, cleaning green paint out of mics is a neverending task!
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THIS INDUSTRY RELIES A LOT ON WORD-OF-MOUTH. I HAVE GOT A LOT OF WORK THIS WAY AND HAVE ALSO FOUND SOME GREAT PEOPLE TO WORK WITH JUST BY PICKING UP THE PHONE
What are the key pieces of equipment you are using on the show? We are using a Digico SD10T with remote engine at FOH and band monitoring is all done on an Aviom system. We have around 32 channels of radio mics and are using the new Shure Axient Digital system with ADX1M transmitters. We have been really impressed with this system. They sound great and keep the cast happy with the packs being nice and compact. There is a touring sound team of three who are all trained to mix the show. This means we are fully covered with at least two people in the theatre at all times who can mix the show. Which is a good job, as Shrek is touring for around 13 months. What are the key differences between FOH engineering with a touring band and mixing for a musical like Shrek? In theatre, generally speaking, we tend to play to audiences of up to around 3,000. Obviously, the numbers can be much higher when touring with a band. In theatre, we need to have the capability of bringing the sound levels right back to underscore level without the sound image disappearing completely into to the pit. And then, within the same number, be able to push the system to a loud but controlled sound. This is achieved by keeping acoustic noise levels to a minimum, by keeping drums and percussion in booths and, where possible, taking all amps out of the pit. This isn’t the case for all musicals but is certainly the blueprint for a lot of them. Without this, often in small theatres it can become
Show man: Eamon Walsh
a bit loud and messy before it even reaches the PA. I would say theatre and touring bands are striving for the same final product, which is the best possible sounding production within their various limitations. Both fields are mixing a live band with live vocals but with different mixing practises and different expectations. Is the process of finding work as a freelance theatrical sound engineer the same as for a touring engineer? There are a few different ways you can end up working on a show. If you work with the same sound designer quite a lot, then they will often approach you about shows they have coming up. If there is a show I really want to work on, I will often contact the sound designer to express my interest. To keep things fair, a lot of shows now will require you to apply for the position. But ultimately it’s up to the sound designer who will be head of sound. And in most cases the head of sound will then have a say in who is employed in the rest of the department. In general, this industry relies a lot on word-of-mouth. I have got a lot of work this way and also found some great people to work with through picking up the phone. Talk us through some of the biggest projects you’ve worked on. One of the biggest and most unusual productions I’ve worked on was a show by Punchdrunk called The Drowned Man. This wasn’t a conventional show in a theatre with a seated audience. It was a large promenade performance over five floors at the old Royal Mail sorting office in Paddington. The audience was free to wander wherever they liked, following different performers to get their own version of the show. The clever lighting and extremely detailed set was incredible, it really felt like you were entering a different world. The scale of this show was huge. You could go and see the show 10 times and see it from a completely different perspective every time. The sound design played a big part in the production, with constant sound throughout the whole show on
timed loops so performers knew where they had to be and when. It was a massive install job for sound with every inch of the building needing covering, while being as invisible as possible. The show ran on timecode with numerous Qlab machines, also syncing up with lighting. Another show with big production values was The Pyjama Game, which ran at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London and was directed by Sir Richard Eyre. The show was very slick and had an amazing orchestra and talented cast. It wasn’t for everyone and the storyline was a little old fashioned, but the quality of contribution from every department made it one of my favourite shows to mix every night. What are the biggest challenges you face as a theatrical sound engineer? In theatre, we often memorise scripts so we know exactly which line is coming next and when to fire sound effects etc. We do this for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s much easier to listen when you’re not reading. But mainly, as we predominately use omnidirectional microphones on the cast, as much as possible we only have a mic live if that person is talking or singing, known as line crunching. We do this mostly to stop microphones phasing and also to reduce the amount of excess noise and gain in the system. This is probably one of the biggest challenges of mixing a musical. It takes quite a high level of concentration and if you let your mind wander for a few seconds at the wrong point, you can easily miss lines and find yourself in the wrong desk scene and even firing the wrong sound effect. We also can’t get into too much of a rhythm, as no two shows are the same. We need to be constantly reacting to what is happening in the present, not what happened yesterday. Another challenge we face is touring sound. We work closely with the production sound engineers who move the show and set up the PA system, so as much as possible our faders are sitting in the right place. But the acoustic difference between theatres can be huge. Trying to maintain the sound design of the show from theatre to theatre is one of the biggest and most enjoyable challenges of touring. What’s the most demanding project you have worked on so far? Every show comes with its own set of challenges, whether it’s controlling and balancing a large orchestra with an ensemble or mixing a smaller musical or play with only a few mics but hundreds of sound cues. One of the most recent challenges I’ve encountered was touring the last version of Sister Act: The Musical. As well as a core band that played offstage, we had a lot of players with radio mics on their instruments playing onstage. This threw up quite a few obstacles like being able to properly mix the onstage players in with the core band without it sounding like two different shows. Also, trying to avoid trumpets and saxophones etc. playing directly into the mics of those singing as much as possible. The cast of performers and musicians were extremely talented and very accommodating to our requests, and worked with us to achieve what was a great sounding production. n
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Coachella brings crowds to the California desert each year
Top of the bill As live sound and touring manager for Allen & Heath USA, Mike Bangs has a story or two to tell about the road. Here, he tells PSNEurope about mixing for festivals and how the adaptable dLive consoles played a key role at this year’s Coachella festival…
ike Bangs, live sound and touring manager for Allen & Heath USA, has told PSNEurope that FOH engineers working the 2018 Coachella festival were “elated” at the performance of the company’s dLive desks that were deployed across the event. This year’s Coachella festival, which grosses over $114 million and draws over 250,000 attendees annually. saw a wide range of dLive artists on the lineup, including the likes of BØRNS, Hayley Kiyoko, Nile Rodgers and Chic, Nothing But Thieves, PVRIS and The Neighbourhood. The dLive C1500 Control Surface proved to be a popular choice across the festival stages. The first rack-mountable surface for the dLive system, it comes packed in a compact frame with 12 faders over six layers, built-in audio I/O, an audio networking port and a 12” capacitive touchscreen. Furthermore, all of Allen & Heath’s dLive Control Surfaces pair with a MixRack to deliver 128 input processing channels, 16 stereo FX returns and a configurable 64 bus architecture, all at 96kHz, while providing latency of 0.7ms.
According to Bangs, the feedback the consoles received from FOH engineers onsite was one of “elation”. He told PSNEurope: “Choosing the C1500 gave many of them the ability to place their console unassisted and then simply walk away with it after the set without giving up the power and feel of the biggest mixers. Several crews choose to use S5000 for headline shows but seamlessly switch to the convenience of C1500 for festivals or fly-dates. “The ease and speed of altering workflow allows engineers to adapt to ever changing festival conditions and makes last minute additions a breeze.” In addition to traditional FOH/monitor console support with dLive, compact Allen & Heath Qu Series mixing consoles were deployed to cover a wide range of production duties. A number of Qu production desks were used across the event to play house music, while FOH consoles were swapped from act to act to support event announcement playback and carry ‘shout box’ communications for production staff across stage positions and from monitors to FOH. “It is quite common in a festival situation to have a
small format mixer to handle the ‘production’ needs during all the comings and goings throughout the day,” said Bangs. “Things like house music, announcement mics and shout speakers would generally be managed on these consoles. Using a Qu allows those components to remain live while the other consoles are being reloaded or moved.” For Bangs, the biggest challenge faced by artists and engineers at festivals of this kind are logistics. “Logistics are always the challenge,” Bangs concludes. “You are putting on a show in a place that wasn’t purpose-built for that task. Simple things like pushing gear to FOH can be arduous, as it means crossing a large patch of uneven ground. Coming from the artist’s production perspective this means having a good plan for entry and exit paired with a careful examination and editing of the equipment to be used for the performance. I will generally do at least one day of production rehearsal to give the crew a chance to optimise their setups to be quickly set and removed at the festival,” Bangs concluded. n www.allen-heath.com
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The how and the Wye Baltimore two-piece Wye Oak have been steadily honing their skills not only as artists but also as producers over the past 10 years, culminating in their genre-defying new record The Louder I Call The Faster It Runs. Daniel Gumble sat down with Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack to find out how they recorded and produced their most adventurous sonic outing to date…
ye Oak occupy something of a niche in the pantheon of two-piece indie rock outfits. The briefest of glances at some of their most prominent contemporaries - The White Stripes, Death From Above 1979, Royal Blood et al - conjures notions of sonic minimalism and raw, stripped back, grit-flecked riffola. Multi-instrumentalists Jenn Wasner (guitar, bass, synths, vocals) and Andy Stack (drums, synths), however, serve as an intriguing counterpart to the stereotypical guitarist and drummer pairing. Over the course of their past four albums, Wye Oak have cultivated an indefinable sound that is both densely textured yet embodied with a lightness of touch seldom heard in most bands, let alone those operating in the confines of a two-piece format. From the minimalist
melancholy of 2009’s guitar-driven The Knot and followup Civilian (2011), the pair have hauled their sound into territories few could have foreseen. 2014’s Shriek saw Wasner eschew her guitar in favour of densely layered synths and bass, while Stack’s kit incorporated more electronic elements than ever before. Following the release of Tween (2016), a collection of re-worked songs from the Civilian and Shriek sessions, Wye Oak once again set about reinventing themselves when sessions began on new album The Louder I Call The Faster It Runs. And if their previous efforts tested the boundaries of what a two-piece band is capable of, then this one obliterates them entirely. Bristling with enough experimentation and sonic creativity to keep the collective hands of a band four
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Two of a kind: Andy Stack (left) and Jenn Wasner (right)
times their size’s hands full, it is testament to Wasner and Stack’s skills not just as writers and musicians, but as accomplished producers, that they have managed to assemble a truly genre-defying juggernaut of a record without allowing its sheer scale and scope to get the better of it. Under less experienced stewardship, TLICTFIR could easily have boiled over into an unrestrained mass of interesting ideas without direction or discipline. Yet, in collaboration with mix engineer John Congleton, Wye Oak have successfully produced their most ambitious album to date, combining guitars, bass, synths, live drums, electronic drums and, indeed, the studio itself, to construct a towering wall of sound unlike anything else in their catalogue. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble sat down with Wasner and Stack backstage at London’s Village Underground ahead of their May 3 show to talk gear, production techniques and where the Baltimore band can possibly go from here… How did you go about starting work on TLICTFIR? Jenn Wasner: We have gravitated over the years to using our home studios as a writing tool. We both have mini studios in our houses and we work separately, so we do a lot of sending things back and forth. That’s how the writing process unfolds and in this instance we congregated twice in the same place. It’s a combination of long periods of time working independently and then short bursts of frantic tracking in the same place. Does that make it more difficult when you finally get into a room together? Andy Stack: It’s a combination. Working independently
affords us the opportunity to each do what we do best and fully flesh out ideas, like production ideas that are complete and end up being on the record, as opposed to just sketches. Often we’ll do that and then get together and create a ‘better’ version of this and very often that takes the whole thing in a different direction than you expected. It can become like demo-itis. JW: You can capture something in an initial recording that cannot and shouldn’t be replicated. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between something that could be better and something that has magic and shouldn’t be fucked with. AS: We’ve ended up using a lot of things that our egos were telling us wasn’t ‘proper’, but then we get to a point where we know it’s right, like a dinky soft synth we’ll use for a particular sound that we thought would be redone. Each of your albums has become more sonically ambitious and complex. Has the writing and recording process become more complicated as a result? JW: Songwriting by its very nature is difficult, in that it’s impossible to use the same trick to get to a new place, so you constantly have to try new things and fail repeatedly. That’s inherent, whether you’re using a guitar or a whole arsenal of studio tricks. Over the years we’ve got better at self-producing and we’ve got to a point where we can execute the ideas we have. At this point our records probably sound more ambitious because they are; because we are better at that side of things than when we started. All these tricks and skills make the songrwiting process possible for me. Finding
that inspiration is like a drug, you constantly need a little bit more to get you to that place. AS: It’s like trying to climb the same mountain but from a different place. Has the evolution of your sound happened naturally, or are you constantly looking to break the boundaries of what a two-piece band is? JW: That’s just a result of being the kind of people who want to use all of the tools available to us. AS: That’s been our MO from the very beginning. Even our first record is very textural and has a lot of layers. It’s just that our toolkit has expanded and we’ve got better at expanding the palette. Tell us about your home studio set-ups. AS: We started incorporating Ableton into the live show about four years ago after Shriek. That was a Pro Tools album and hardware synths, stuff like that. Then Ableton came into the live show and has slowly crept its way into the writing and production process. A lot of the stuff on this record started in Ableton before eventually migrating to other platforms. A lot of stuff on the record started by playing around with electronic live processing of drums, these hybridised acoustic and electric kits that became the beds we would each write to. This is the first time we did anything that way. JW: It was the first time I ever tried to write a song around an existing drum track. The first song to hit with that process was Lifer. That drum track was pretty
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complete. I chopped it up a little bit and layered in the main synth part… it was whatever patch I had opened on the Prophet 6 I’m borrowing from a friend (Nick Sanborn from Sylvan Esso) and the song completely opened up from there. This was like building from the top down rather than from the bottom up. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with Universal Audio, so we both have Apollos in our home studios. I still use Ableton for live stuff and creative noodling but for the most part I use Pro Tools. And a ton of the synth stuff on the record is from the Prophet 6 because it’s just so versatile. And I have a Juno 6 that I use a lot too. My set up is really bare bones, but it’s mostly for overdubbing guitar and vocals. AS: Over the last 10 years or so we’ve kept our recording rigs pretty tight and mobile. There’s been three or four albums or collaborations with other people where I’m literally in the back of the van editing mixes while we’re on tour. It’s just so limited so you work out what works for you in the box. Tell us about the mics you used on the record. JW: I have a 414 that I use for room stuff and guitar and I have a Mojave 201 that I use for my voice when I’m just tracking. It’s the mic I used for the record Civilian, but now I just use it for whatever I’m doing around the house. For this record I used a RODE NTK, which I really like, it had a lot of nice body to it. AS: We have a bunch of Shure mics we’ve used for micing drums on the last couple of albums. JW: We tour with our entire mic package because we run our own in-ear mixes from stage, so the mics we rehearse with are the mics we have on stage, that way our in-ear mixes are saved and relatively consistent. AS: We don’t have a monitor engineer, we tour in a van, so we have all these micro choices we have to make about how we can make touring affordable - we have to think about luggage weights and stuff like that. For this tour we were so considerate down to every last pound and inch of our luggage to make sure we could fly and bring the full production we wanted to bring.
AS A SCRAPPY, SELF-TAUGHT CREATIVE MUSICIAN THE THINGS I FIND MOST INTERESTING ARE THINGS THAT SOUND ORIGINAL AND ADVENTUROUS AND BREAK RULES RATHER THAN FAITHFULLY ADHERE TO THEM
JW: Because pulling off these songs live is so complicated there is no way to do it without building the show in this very specific way. We have to have in-ears and we have to be able to set up very quickly in any situation. We can’t always have a three-hour sound check to rebuild our in-ear mixes, so if we have to throw and go at a festival we can at least have the stability of roughly mocked up in-ear mixes we can start from. We have constructed the set this way because we are not at a point in our career, nor likely will we ever be, where we’ll always be playing in venues that are equipped for the kind of band we are, so we have to think creatively about how to make it work in a variety of scenarios. Tell us about the challenges you face playing these songs live. AS: The biggest thing is that we’re now playing as a three-piece - with bass player Will Hackney - which we’d never done before, and we’d always made these records without any preconception about what the live performance would be and then adapted the music to the show. In the past we were able to figure out ways to pull it off where it still felt organic, dynamic and fun. This time we felt that the sounds, the layers and the general approach to these arrangements were not going to work for us as a two-piece. In that sense it’s been a revelation. It’s opened up the songs and we can have more of a traditional band dynamic rather than always walking a tightrope.
Would you introduce that third person into the studio? JW: Probably not. We have a musical chemistry that’s coming up on 15 years, so we need to throw another set of opinions into the mix. If we reach a point where we think it’s not working and we need something new then sure, but we’d probably just call it a different band. Do you see a point where you’ll revert back to a more traditional approach and both just go into a room together with a guitar and a drum kit? AS: I would love that. Music is not like a constant ascent; it’s not like creativity is always bigger and bigger and bigger. You have to be able to go small and create something out of that. JW: It would be an interesting challenge. What were the records that first made you acknowledge sonics and the power of production? JW: The Dreaming by Kate Bush. I had never heard anything like that before. It was an introduction to the idea of using the studio as a sonic tool in and of itself, as opposed to it being a place just to record instruments. There is so much weird shit going on; she was using the Fairlight earlier than a lot of pop musicians and incorporating a lot of crazy samples and stuff that sounds nuts. Also, Arthur Russell. Even though the majority of music we know of his was released posthumously and are all demos really, they just drip with originality and creativity and gorgeousness. AS: Arthur Russell is not ‘good’ sounding, but the records sound amazing, and it’s a testament to his instincts, it’s not about high fidelity or anything like that. There are high-end producers I love but I also think of people like Phil Elverum and Deerhoof who produce all their stuff. Those records sound unmistakably like those people; they make really bold choices in the studio. JW: As a scrappy, self-taught creative musician the things I find most interesting are things that sound original and adventurous and break rules rather than faithfully adhere to them. But it all depends on the record you’re trying to make. n
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P49 JUNE 2018
The future of radio If you are new to the industry or know a budding audio professional who’s looking for a specific directon, broadcast engineer and radio producer Ann Charles has only good things to say about the broadcast engineering sector. The skills you already have in sound might open up a whole new professional path, and “no - it’s not like being a sound engineer”, as she explains...
roadcast engineering is one of the most creative and flexible jobs in the audio industry – and yet there is a shortage of people taking up the role. Broadcast engineers work in radio or television. They are responsible for the whole transmission chain – making sure that programmes are able to be produced in a studio, and then sent to viewers and listeners around the world via transmission networks. If you are one of the 90% of people who have enjoyed listening to a radio programme in the last week, you can be sure that a broadcast engineer was involved at some stage of the process.
Radio star: Ann Charles
What is a broadcast engineer? Let’s clear up one confusion: in the context of the radio industry, broadcast engineers and sound engineers do not have the same role, although there are overlaps. Broadcast engineers have a deep knowledge of TV and radio, sound and electronics. They maintain equipment, plan for large events, troubleshoot when things go wrong and ensure the radio/TV network is future-proofed by advising on the station’s technical upgrade plan. Sound engineers focus purely on producing sound in a studio, and perhaps developing advanced audioediting skills such as mixing bands or creating imaging for station jingles and promos. Most broadcast engineers are able to mix live sound but they are also responsible for ensuring the broadcast makes it to air and planning for how the signals will be sent to the listener. In addition, they may be in charge of large equipment and project budgets. Because of this huge responsibility, senior engineers will often be on a station’s management team. The good news is that if you are already interested in sound, you have some of the essential skills needed for this career already.
Range of specialisms All broadcast engineers need to understand how signals get from a microphone through the studio infrastructure and out to the transmission network. If you are used to following signal flow on a sound desk, it’s a similar idea – just scale it up. However, engineers tend to develop their own areas of expertise, too. In the UK, engineers usually specialise in either working for radio stations, or for transmission providers.
If you like being in a live studio environment, enjoy working to tight deadlines and can solve problems under pressure, then station work might be for you. Alternatively, if you have a head for heights, enjoy working in all weathers and have a strong bladder (essential if you are climbing up a tall mast), then maintaining transmitters and towers may be more you thing. Curiosity is useful, either way.
Range of skills It’s also possible to specialise further still. Perhaps you enjoy playing with the latest gadgets and are the kind of person who runs the beta version of software on your laptop for kicks? If so, then there are broadcast engineers who specialise in R&D (research and development) – ensuring that audio has a place on devices that haven’t been invented yet. There is also a need for those with software development skills to create apps for stations and develop the programmes presenters and journalists use behind-the-scenes. If you are the kind of person who has already got the Christmas shopping sorted, then a technical-specialist project manager role might be for you – engineers are involved with everything from upgrading one piece of equipment to multi-million pound projects for new radio station buildings.
Getting started There are many routes into a career in broadcast engineering. You may already have an electronics or sound-based degree. If not, then the BBC runs paid apprenticeship schemes at college, university and postgraduate levels. There is also Radio TechCon, which is the UK radio and audio industry’s technical and engineering conference. The event showcases a range of different broadcast engineering topics, ranging from visualising studios for under £100 and understanding AoIP, to running solar-powered radio stations in warzones. It’s a great way to meet new people and get a feel for the industry (full disclosure: I’m one of the organisers). Finally, nothing beats experience and transferrable skills. If you have helped out at a student or community radio station, run sound desks for bands, been a radio set up your own podcast, you will have some skills on which to build. You don’t have to have come from a ‘traditional’ background to consider a career in broadcast engineering. The UK is one of the world leaders in this industry – is 2018 the year you will come to join us? n www.radiotechcon.com Listen to our interview with Ann and other prominent women in the industry on the PSNEurope Women in Audio podcast on iTunes and at www.soundcloud/psneurope
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P50 JUNE 2018
EERA-defining: Anna Lena Bruland
Beginning of an EERA Last year, EERA, aka solo artist Anna Lena Bruland, released her stunning debut album Reflections Of Youth to much critical acclaim. Daniel Gumble caught up with her and co-producer Nick Rayner backstage at London venue The Lexington to discuss the record’s unique sonic identity and the benefits of having its co-producer taking up FOH duties on the road…
n a low-lit backstage room at North London venue The Lexington PSNEurope finds Anna Lena Bruland – better known as EERA – and co-producer of her brilliant 2017 debut album Reflections Of Youth, Nick Rayner, in chatty, affable mood. In just over two hours time, EERA will perform to a sold-out crowd with Rayner handling FOH duties. For now, though, they are settled in to tell us about the recording and production process of one of last year’s most exciting debut releases. Combining raw, guitar driven rock with ethereal, minor key soundscapes, the central themes that course through the record are reflected sharply in its sonic DNA, at once delicate and powerful; shimmering and snarling. Within the first few songs of EERA’s live set, it becomes immediately apparent that having Rayner behind the desk at FOH is a bonus that many artists
would readily sacrifice limbs for. As the record’s coproducer, his understanding of the album’s dexterous sonic palette proves invaluable in not just replicating the feel of the track’s on the live stage but also in augmenting and expanding upon them in a way that unveils new dimensions to each and every song – stompers like I Wanna Dance become monolithic, while the likes of album highlights Living, Watching You and the title track feel intimate and hypnotic. Over the course of our pre-show conversation, the pair discuss their approach to recording, production influences and the challenges of taking Reflections Of Youth on tour… Where did you record the album? Nick Rayner: We recorded in Pembrokeshire, SouthWest Wales in StudiOwz, which is a fairly vintage-
focused studio with a control room, live room and a separate drum booth. It has a great selection of vintage drum kits, great mics and a lovely Cadac J-Type recording console. How closely did the two of you collaborate on the recording and production process of the album? NR: Anna Lena started the process with her demos, beginning the pre-production phases on her own, figuring out the direction she wanted to take the record and honing some ideas down. From there we pretty much jumped straight into the studio and started working on the rest together. Working on refining the sound, and seeing what we could do to take it further. EERA: I’m lucky to work with Nick and also with my bandmate Allister Kellaway, since they both understand
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P51 JUNE 2018
which specific sounds I’m trying to achieve. I try to get them as close as possible to where I’d like it to sound with my very limited gear at home before I bring all the ideas in to the studio.
Sonic Youth: EERA
How long did the whole process take? NR: The album was recorded over maybe six months. We initially spent 10 days in StudiOwz in Wales, in two five-day runs where we were allowed constant access to the studio, so we weren’t running regular days and frequently went on until 2am-3am. After that we continued working on a few tracks out of my home studio in West Cork, Ireland. Did you have a specific approach to recording the album as a whole, or did the process vary? NR: We approached the record in a very open manner, with few preconceived notions. There was the foundation Anna Lena had laid, and from there all we had discussed was that we would like for the record to be as sparse as possible, every part to have a specific purpose and place and to try not to fill it with anything unnecessary. Each song did end up getting its own treatment; every time we started a new one all of the mics came down, everything was reset, and we started fresh. Then we focused on which drums would be right for this song, what kind of guitar sound we were going for, which amps we should we, whether to record the band live or track separately... EERA: For this record I wanted to try to avoid adding too many layers of sound, and rather make sure that each part had a strong purpose for the song. Each song had a very natural development. Were any songs particularly challenging or difficult in any way? NR: The first thing we did when we started in the studio was to track Living, which we decided to go for with guitars and drums live together. Previously, we hadn’t had the opportunity to record the band in a live context and in some recording sessions both Anna and myself had struggled with really gluing the band sound together, but as soon as we finished Living it was very obvious what had been missing. EERA: The majority of the recordings evolved quite naturally and easily. I brought in around 12 songs, where the purpose was to go with the ones we felt were the strongest. As soon as we started to record we quickly realised which ones to keep and which ones were the so-called throwaways. Talk us through the main pieces of studio kit you used. NR: Almost everything we did in StudiOwz went through the Cadac J-Type, a transformer-less British console, except a few things that went through some Neve 1073s and a Universal Audio 610 preamp. The core selection
I WANTED TO AVOID ADDING TOO MANY LAYERS OF SOUND, MAKING SURE THAT EACH SONG HAD A NATURAL DEVELOPMENT AND THAT EACH PART HAD A STRONG PURPOSE
of mics we used were probably the Coles 4038 ribbons, Gefell UMT70 condensers, and some various vintage and modern dynamic mics. Everything found a place somewhere, for example the vocal on I Wanna Dance went through the 4038 as Anna’s voice was quite sibilant and we knew it was going to get sent through a bunch of distortion, so the ribbon helped smooth out the top end of Anna’s voice prior to the distortion. One of our most used effects would have been a Roland Space Echo SRE-555, which is definitely one of my favourite delays. Quite often stuff got routed out to the space echo regardless of whether it was going to be delayed just to get some of the sound. The main synth that we used on the track Wise Man was a Juno-106, we sent it to the space echo and overloaded the pres on it and recorded the wet signal of the tape delay, then moved it back in Pro Tools and muted the dry signal, you can also hear the tape splice on it.
Tell us about your sonic influences. Who are the producers that have shaped the sounds you look for in the studio? NR: Before the recording we had discussed the work of PJ Harvey and John Parish, and I have always enjoyed John Congleton’s work with St. Vincent and Angel Olsen. But once we were in the studio, none of that came to mind and we just went with what we were feeling. EERA: I never think of which producers I like. I rather think about which records I love the sound of and the all round feel of a record. I knew that I wanted to make an album that wasn’t too slick and that had a lo-fi feel to it. As well as producing the album together you have also toured with Nick as FOH engineer. How beneficial is it to have the producer mixing the sound onstage? EERA: This makes a huge difference. Nick knows exactly how we’d like the live sound to be, so it makes me and the band very relaxed, which creates a very positive atmosphere on stage. Nick also controls all the delay vocal effects I use throughout our set, which makes the performance a lot less stressful for me; one less thing to think about. Will you continue working together? EERA: Right now I’m focusing on writing as much as I can and getting the new demos ready. But the musical connection that Nick and I have is very strong, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up working together again in future. n
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P52 JUNE 2018
Sound and vision
In each issue, we publish the best pro audio pics shared on social media in the past month. From gig pics to get-out selfies, studio shots to product close-ups, the industryâ€™s online community is thriving and we want to share the great work going on. Want to be featured next month? Tag @psneurope on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Erwin H @ehaudio (sound engineer) I think weâ€™re gonna get on just fine... @AvidLiveSound and some @L_ACOUSTICS Kara - tasty
Lynx Pro Audio @Lynx_Pro_Audio Check out our installation at MYA Club in Valencia (Spain). Would you love to be there? #CultureofSound
Pioneer Pro Audio @PioneerProAudio This weekend, the XY Series was centre stage @EDC_ LasVegas. This years line-up also included the XY-3B & XY-2
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Follow us on Twitter Instagram Facebook @psneurope
@adamdickson Was a pleasure to be back here again with @capital_sound. Great crew, good food and a wicked PA. Until next time
Martin Audio @MartinAudioLtd Our new SX218 subs with Capital Sound Hire and Michael McIntyre at Birmingham Arena last week #SubwooferSunday
@digico.official #DigiCo #sd7 with Kyle Hamilton @neversleepprod for the #tdechampionshiptour in Chula Vista
@djcavemanla Brought out my @qscaudio KW153s today
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P54 JUNE 2018
In with the New...
Adlib Audio director, Dave Kay, and senior engineer, Ian Nelson, spoke to Daniel Gumble about the company’s recent investment in Outline’s Newton audio processor and why ‘nothing else comes close to it’ in today’s pro audio market...
ast month, Liverpool-based rental firm, Adlib Audio, made its first investment in Outline, taking stock of its recently launched Newton multisource audio processor. Designed to offer major operational advantages to users, combining new ‘WFIR’ (patent pending) filter technology, multi-format audio signal routing, simultaneous multiple standard conversion and digital signal synchronisation in a single 1RU chassis, it has certainly caught the industry’s attention, not least that of Adlib director Dave Kay and senior engineer Ian Nelson (pictured). Here, the pair talk us through why they see Newton as a game-changing product and just how much of an asset it is likely to be for Adlib’s portfolio…
Why was now the time to make your first investment in Outline? Dave Kay: We have searched high and low to find or develop a unit with a manufacturer that would become a comprehensive matrix and the only thing that came close was the [discontinued] Lake DLP.
What appealed to you about Newton? And how do you think it will benefit your offering? DK: We were looking for something versatile and simple to use, but no other solution had enough I/O to offer that level of versatility. To gain enough I/O, this involved complex cabling to daisy chain smaller units over different digital formats and there wasn’t a time- aligned matrix preset that had been developed by a manufacturer for their product to use them in this way. Secondly, no other alternative had a redundant PSU –
WE WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING VERSATILE AND SIMPLE TO USE, BUT NO OTHER SOLUTION HAD THAT LEVEL OF VERSATILITY. NOTHING HAS COME CLOSE TO WHAT THE NEWTON UNIT CAN DO DAVE KAY
FOH with a large I/O rack to be able to take input feeds from multiple consoles, but this ties up hire stock and takes up space at FOH, which is usually at a premium.
How much of an asset will Outline be to your product portfolio? DK: In the past, the easiest, but not cost effective, solution for a festival matrix mixer has just been to use a mixing console or DSP core to take the role of the matrix mixer, but this takes up essential space at FOH and also ties up valuable inventory. We can now achieve this with a 1U rack unit.
What are your immediate plans for Newton? without dual PSUs this would make the matrix mixer the weakest link in a festival audio system. The Newton has got this too. The Newton’s 18×16 matrix and its huge amount of I/O possibilities are the major factors that attracted us to the unit, but the ASRC and SRC on each matrix input is also a big advantage. This, coupled with the multiple levels of input redundancy, is something we had been searching for for a long time. Nothing has come close to what the Newton unit can do. Plus it has a comprehensive routing system so it can also be used as a standalone format converter. Ian Nelson: We have struggled to find anything that can handle a relatively big matrix but operate simultaneously on multiple time domains, with automatic input redundancy fail over. There are devices that will do these things but generally not in one box – historically we have had to add a third mixing desk at
IN: Its immediate role will be as our festival matrix device, but we see far-reaching potential for Newton devices to operate as system processors, format converters and beyond. We have been beta testing a demo unit for around two months and the first outing will be a big Scottish festival where we expect to see multiple guest consoles, in addition to our own A&B system house consoles. DK: Over the summer we are proving the concept of using Newton as a matrix mixer and working closely with the Outline team to refine the feature set.
Will you be looking to increase your investment in Outline? DK: Yes. After rigorous testing in the summer’s harsh festival conditions, we will certainly look to add more units to our inventory. ■
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In this month’s issue of PSNEurope, we celebrate 40 years of pro audio giant Genelec with a close look at its history and insights from the...
Published on Jun 1, 2018
In this month’s issue of PSNEurope, we celebrate 40 years of pro audio giant Genelec with a close look at its history and insights from the...