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ULTRA-COMPACT MODULAR LINE SOURCE Packing a 138 dB wallop, Kiva II breaks the SPL record for an ultra-compact 14 kg/31 lb line source. Kiva II features L-Acousticsâ€™ patented DOSC technology enhanced with an L-Fins waveguide for ultimate precise and smooth horizontal directivity. WSTÂŽ gives Kiva II long throw and even SPL, from the front row to the back, making it the perfect choice for venues and special events that require power and clarity with minimal visual obtrusion. Add to that a 16 ohm impedance for maximized amplifier density and a new sturdy IP45 rated cabinet, and you get power, efficiency and ruggedness in the most elegant package. www.l-acoustics.com
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P3 MARCH 2017
DAVE ROBINSON Editor Contributors: Kevin Hilton, Marc Maes, Phil Ward, David Davies, Marc Miller, Mike Clark Wes Maebe, Steve Harvey PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS To subscribe to PSNEurope please go to www.psneurope.com/subscribe-tonewsletters-digital-editions should you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org Please note that this is a controlled circulation title and subscription criteria will be strictly adhered to.
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Cover image: Billy Anderson records the first sessions at DAFT
TEC AWARD WINNER 2017: MICROPHONE PREAMPLIFIER
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did chuckle when I read producer Wes Maebe’s guest column this month. Wes bemoans those artists who think that a mastering session is there to salvage the original aesthetic of the composition, lost somewhere in the workflow with all the tinkering and tampering. In one particular episode, says Wes, “it took everything in the mastering tool arsenal to get close to what the artist was hoping to achieve.” Therefore, admonishes the be-hatted one, “If you’re recording, give the mix engineer amazing multitracks to work with.” What a contrast to what Monsieur Jarre has to say: “I could never think about sending my mix to a mastering engineer who is mastering on his own. My mastering engineer is part of my team.” He goes on: “You can change so many things through mastering. I was going into the machine and saying, wow, the mix is different. So I finalised my mixes through the mastering process to be sure that what I was going to get was exactly what I wanted to hear. The mastering is part of the mixing process.” Who’s right? They both are. It’s horses for courses. A chacun sa place, as Jean-Michel might put it. Wes is on p12, JMJ (and his très sexy Moog) are on p26. You might have thought, with the calibre of the Oxygène-ated one, the late, great George Michael’s mastering engineer Tony Cousins (oops, mastering crops up again) and Roni Size in the issue, I’d be spoilt for a cover star. Yes and no. I mean, how could I resist that magnificent tattooed left arm of producer Billy Anderson?! On a serious point, there was no question that DAFT Studios would not be the lead story. What Stijn Verdonckt has achieved out there in the Belgian countryside is worldbeating. We’ve followed his progress, both in the mag and online (and we LOVED the makeshift Insta-Vinyl recording tram last year) and finally, the facility is up and running. Billy was the first producer in there – hence his star presence. DAFT starts on P30. Finally, I wanted to mention how I was reminded of the power of radio last month. Hearing the final broadcasts by Steve Hewlett on Radio 4, as he began to lose his fight with cancer: just, wow. Brave, heartbreaking, uplifting. Only radio can do that. n
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P4 MARCH 2017
In this issue... P52 AMPING UP THE FORCES BEHIND THE OEM MARKET
P34 GEORGE MICHAEL MASTERING ENGINEER TONY COUSINS ON THE METICULOUS SINGER
P58 RONI SIZE FROM THE KID WHO GOT EXPELLED TO PIONEERING POWERHOUSE
P46 VLADIMIR COSMA LAWO HELPS HIGHLIGHT A 50-YEAR CAREER
6 The transformation of the old BBC TV studios begins 7 Winners from the MPG Awards 8 What happened at ISE – show review 12 Vocal channel: Wes Maebe 14 Movers and shakers: industry appointments 18 PSNTraining: what’s on 24 The strategic position: JoeCo 36 FEATURE: Good acoustic design
22 New products 42 FEATURE: Religious broadcasting 52 FEATURE: Trends in the amplifier module market
26 Electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre on his latest album 30 New Belgian studio DAFT 34 George Michael’s mastering engineer on the late singer
40 Woody Harrelson is ‘Lost in London’
46 Vladimir Cosma on tour with Lawo 48 APG on the frontline with Al Di Meola 50 The full 360 degrees on KLANG
57 Hither and dither 58 Q&A: Roni Size
www.psneurope.com 04 Contents FIN.indd 1
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P6 MARCH 2017
Television Centre prepares for September return The old BBC TV studios in west London are part of the UK’s cultural heritage and, after some doubt about their future, are being redeveloped for the 20th Century. Kevin Hilton reports on the plans for the new facilities
A computer generated image of the what the new TVC site will look like Television Centre back in the 1960s he Tower of London. The Houses of Parliament. St Paul’s Cathedral. All historic London landmarks that give the capital much of its character and tourist appeal. More recently these have been joined on the skyline by the London Eye and the Gherkin and Canary Wharf office buildings. But other, equally historically or culturally important edifices have been demolished – Earls Court Exhibition Centre is a notorious example – or, like Battersea Power Station, left to rot before eventual regeneration. There were fears Television Centre (TVC) in White City, west London faced a similarly uncertain future. Opened in 1960 as the BBC’s Artist’s impression of a production office associated in the studios main TV production facility and management Of the original eight studios, base, the characteristically circular building – designed TC (Television Centre) 1, 2 by architect Graham Dawbarn, who apparently based and 3 have been retained the shape on a question mark – was home to many and refurbished. The other of the broadcaster’s most famous and highest rating five were demolished. Scott programmes for over five decades. Talbott, a sound supervisor From the 1990s onwards, the BBC was under with BBC Studioworks who pressure to cut costs, and TVC, as a prime piece of real knew the old TVC well and will estate on the outskirts of central London, was always a be working at its successor, likely candidate for sale and redevelopment. The formal says anyone familiar with the decision to do this was made in 2007, coinciding with layout of the former building the BBC’s commitment to move many of its shows and will not immediately recognise the new arrangements. have been made: Studer Vista X digital consoles will operations to MediaCityUK in Salford. “The orientation of the galleries has swung round by go into the sound galleries of TC1 and TC3; the audio In 2012 TVC was sold to property development 90-degrees,” he says. “They are all now facing the same area of TC2 is to receive an existing Vista 5 that had company Stanhope PLC for £200m. It was vacated a way towards the studios.” previously been used at studios in Bristol for game year later, with the majority of studio production moved Talbott explains that the original studio shells are show Deal Or No Deal. to either MediaCityUK or Elstree, where BBC Studios and being reused, while the associated technical areas for BBC Studioworks has an established operational Post Production - now rebranded BBC Studioworks – sound, lighting and production have been remodelled. method and layout for its audio galleries As well as has been using both its own studios and sound stages “The acoustic treatments are the same,” he says, “but the main Studer production mixing system, these at Elstree Film Studios. the door seals have been replaced. Because there will areas feature a submixer for sound effects and other Stanhope planned apartments, offices, a leisure be residents on site there is an issue with noise. But the additional sources. This is known as the ‘grams’ desk, centre and a hotel for the site but it was also decided studios are sound proofed and although the housing which, up to now, has been a Studer OnAir 3000 console. that television would continue to be part of a location is fairly close there are two levels of acoustic spaces TVC will have the recently introduced Glacier modular, with such a long connection to the medium. That within the building. We’ve done numerous checks and customisable control surfaces. The grams area, which commitment is now becoming a reality, with a ‘new’ tests because we want to be good neighbours.” will be standalone, with its own operator, will also offer TVC due to reopen in September. While construction The installation is in the final stages of planning. two CueLogic SpotOn playback machines and a Pyramix continues on the site in general, the studios are now Talbott says: “The studios and galleries were being digital audio workstation.The TVC studios will be approaching completion and equipment has been rewired and, (at the time of writing,) almost ready for supported by a post-production department. n selected for installation in the coming months. the technical fit-out. The main audio equipment choices www.bbcstudioworks.com
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P7 MARCH 2017
MPG reveals 2017 award winners It’s the fourth major win for producer Paul Epworth, while David Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti wins in two categories, writes Sarah Sharples
or the fourth time in his career, producer Paul Epworth received the top accolade at the Music Producers Guild Awards by winning the Producer of the Year Award for 2017. Epworth, who previously won the same award in 2010, 2013 and 2015, was nominated this year for his work with Adele, The Stone Roses and Usher. Accepting the award, Epworth humbly declared: “I’m a dreadful musician – but I’m not afraid to try.” The MPG Awards 2017, which took place at Grosvenor House, London, also saw American producer Tony Visconti honoured with the Award for Outstanding Contribution to UK Music. It recognised his impact on the UK music scene over many years thanks to his groundbreaking work with artists such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan and T.Rex, The Moody Blues, The Manic Street Preachers and Morrissey. Visconti also received the MPG’s 2017 gong for International Producer of the Year for his work on Bowie’s last album, Blackstar – itself a winner in the UK
Album of the Year category. The Awards also honoured producer and DJ Roni Size with the Inspiration Award. His unique approach to music production marks him out as a true pioneer, while his ability to create fresh sounds and styles has given electronic music an entirely new direction. Reprazent, the drum’n’bass collective Size founded in the mid-1990s, saw their New Forms LP win the Mercury Music Prize. The 350 guests were also treated to a performance by Size (see p58). Tony Platt, MPG Awards managing director, says: “Every year it becomes more and more difficult to find superlatives to describe the fantastic array of talent honoured during our Awards event. It is impossible to overstate the contribution these people make to our industry. The next few years will present many new challenges but with this level of creativity and inspiration to call on, we are well placed to face them.” n www.mpg.org.uk
Four time winner, Paul Epworth, picks up the UK Producer of the Year, award again
Mastering Engineer of the Year, Mandy Parnell
Breakthrough Engineer of the Year, Manon Grandjean, with Genelec’s Howard Jones
Full list of winners
UK Producer of the Year, sponsored by Prism Sound Paul Epworth Outstanding Contribution to UK Music, sponsored by PPL: Tony Visconti Recording Engineer of the Year, sponsored by AMS Neve: Richard Woodcraft Mix Engineer of the Year, sponsored by Solid State Logic: Tom Elmhirst Mastering Engineer of the Year, sponsored by SADiE: Mandy Parnell UK Album of the Year, sponsored by Universal Audio: David Bowie – Blackstar UK Single Song Release of the Year, sponsored by Shure: Radiohead – Burn The Witch Re-mixer of the Year, sponsored by Kazbar Systems: Matthew Herbert Breakthrough Producer of the Year, sponsored by Novation: Andrew Hunt Breakthrough Engineer of the Year, sponsored by Genelec: Manon Grandjean International Producer of the Year, sponsored British Grove Studios: Tony Visconti Self Producing Artist of the Year, sponsored by Spitfire Audio: Tarek Musa (Spring King) Studio of the Year, sponsored by G-Technology and Jigsaw24: RAK Studios The A&R Award, sponsored by AIM: Toby L and Tim Dellow (Transgressive Records) The MPG Award for Inspiration, sponsored by Audio Note: Roni Size Special Recognition Award, sponsored by Rupert Neve Designs: Rupert Neve
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P8 MARCH 2017
Show review: ISE 2017
Beating the ISE crush! Battling crowds and new products were all features of this year’s show
SE 2017 saw almost 1,200 of the world’s leading AV equipment vendors and service suppliers showcase the latest technology. Registered visitor attendees to ISE were at an all-time high at 73,400, which represented an 11.7 per cent increase over the 2016 edition. A number of new products were launched at the show. Astro Spatial Audio unveiled its new SARA II Premium Rendering Engine. The 3U, rack-mountable SARA II brings the creative possibilities of object-based 3D sound to the live entertainment and installation industries, plus room acoustics and stage tracking features. Boasting a redesigned fascia with a 2.8” touchscreen display, the hardware includes refinements such as ultra-low noise cooling, redundant on board SSD drives and up to 64 MADI or 128 Dante configurable network pathways, all of which are assignable to at least 32 audio objects. Audio-Technica debuted two new Dante-enabled ceiling-mount microphone solutions. The company’s complete ATUC-50 digital discussion system was on display for the first time. The ATND931 Dante six-inch gooseneck microphone and ATND933 Dante hanging microphone are both available in a number of configurations, including black and white colour options and a selection of three polar patterns (cardioid, hypercardioid and MicroLine). Audinate, developer of the industry-leading Dante media networking technology, celebrated key adoption
Rob Allan, Avid’s senior market specialist, was giving demos of the VENUE S6L
milestones with more then 350 manufacturers having now licensed Dante, an increase of 75 since this time last year. In addition, the company announced that there are now over 1,000 different commercially available products on the market, including interface cards, that have integrated Dante. This represents a nearly 50 per cent increase from ISE 2016. Avid had its VENUE S6L on show with a ‘beta version’
of a software update for theatre applications, after consulting with hundreds of sound designers working in the industry. It will officially be launched later this year. Loudspeaker brand Electro-Voice – part of Bosch Security Systems – unveiled the latest member of the X-Line Advance line-array loudspeaker family: the X12-125F flying subwoofer. It is a dual 15” system and equipped with high-output EV-engineered transducers
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P9 MARCH 2017
BEST OF SHOW WINNERS
EM Acoustics Operations director Mike Wheeler with the ESP Series
delivering 9600 W output. The company also presented the first wave of products presented under the X-Line Advance banner includes the X1-212/90, a compact 12” vertical line-array loudspeaker system, the higher-output X2-212/90 full-range element for larger applications and the X12-128 dual-18” subwoofer. EM Acoustics selected ISE as the launch forum for their brand new ESP Series of compact, selfpowered, multipurpose loudspeakers for a variety of live applications. The range currently comprises three models: the ESP-8 and ESP-12 loudspeakers, both with coaxial designs for true point-source performance, and the ESP-15S compact reflex subwoofer. K-array presented its new full-range speaker line, Domino. The compact stainless steel speakers with plug and play capabilities do not require presets and can be driven by any amplifier and are suited to applications from intimate restaurants to live concert settings. The new line consists of three speakers: the KF26, the KF210 and the KF212. L-Acoustics unveiled Syva, a new format, high-power speaker system which features six medium-frequency and three high-frequency speakers in a J-shaped progressive curvature format. The “groundbreaking” transducer arrangement (called ‘segment source’) produces an H/V 140° x 26° (+5/-21°) directivity pattern that is “optimised for exceptional surface coverage and 35 metres of throw”, says the company. A new name in pro audio made its debut at ISE – LARQ Systems from Norway, a new venture for the long-established audio specialist company, Fjeldbekk AS. The initial range from LARQ Systems consists of three product series; the Display Loudspeaker Series, the Contractor Series of mixers and mixer amplifiers and the Mini Series ultra-compact electronics. The Display Loudspeaker Series includes the Monitor 10, a versatile micro-cube wall/ceiling-mount satellite
NewBay’s ISE 2017 Best of Show Awards for PSNEurope were given to Bose Professional, MC2 Audio and Yamaha Pro Audio. Bose Professional won for its ShowMatch DeltaQ array loudspeakers, which feature fieldchangeable waveguides. DeltaQ array technology improves sound quality and vocal clarity by providing selectable coverage patterns that direct more sound energy to the audience by allowing directivity, or “Q,” to vary with each array module. The loudspeakers are available with 5-degree, 10-degree or 20-degree vertical coverage which allows J-array, constantcurvature, or DeltaQ array configurations. MC2 Audio was recognised for its Delta Series Processing and Network Audio Amplification, which combines new technology power amplification with the highest definition of XTA DSP. Powerful
L-Acoustics head of communication Mary Beth Henson and sales manager Tim McCall with the Syva, a new format, highpower speaker system
loudspeaker, the Monitor 20, an ultra slim display loudspeaker for integrating with interactive boards and LCD screens, and the Monitor 60P, a full range installation loudspeaker. The DisplaySub6 subwoofer is designed to combine with the Monitor 10 to produce a flexible full range system. The Contractor Series consists of the LARQ CS41M, a 4 mic/line mono mixer/ combiner, the LARQ CS120M 4 mic/line 100V/120W mixer amplifier and the LARQ CS250M 4 mic/line 100V/250W mixer amplifier. Listen Technologies introduced ListenTALK, a mobile, two-way communication system that makes it easy for groups of two or more people to listen and talk with the push of a button. The pocket-sized device enables clear,
processing features such as FIR filtering and Dante Networking work alongside unique enhancements including 4 local + 4 aux DSP channels, meaning a single Delta DSP amplifier can control a stereo 4-way system with no external processing. Yamaha was awarded for its ultra-compact loudspeaker, the VXS1ML. A major innovation is the marrying of a brand new, specifically-developed large diameter voice coil and ultra-compact 1.5” full-range driver, which deliver a frequency response of 180Hz ~ 20 kHz and uniform dispersion of 170 degrees, both horizontally and vertically. Karl Christmas, Yamaha senior product specialist says: “The ISE this year has been one of the busiest trade fairs that we’ve exhibited at for quite some time. Winning the PSNE Best of Show for the VXS1ML was icing on the cake for the whole Yamaha team.”
The colourful Genelec stand with Feng Hanying from the China office
secure, collaborative communications with the largest range of any existing portable FM technology – up to 100m. Meyer Sound went ‘Facebook Live’ in the John and Yoko suite at the Hilton Amsterdam to launch their ‘Summer of Love’, celebrating 1967 – the year the couple went on their first date at a Berkeley hi-fi shop to hear The Beatles seminal, psychedelic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Throughout 2017, to celebrate their love, and the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the Meyers will visit key customers, host exclusive curated eventsat the company’s Berkeley, California campus, in the San Francisco Bay Area, around the US and world.
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P10 MARCH 2017
Show review: ISE 2017
Helen and John Meyer in the John and Yoko suite with a personalised loudspeaker gifted from John
The company also gave a sneak peek of the new LINA Compact Linear Line Array Loudspeaker at the show. Nexo unveiled the new GEO M10 line array, a high-output sound reinforcement system for longthrow theatre and live music applications, and twice as powerful as its sister GEO M6 compact line array launched two years ago. The M10 takes its name from the single 10” neodymium LF driver, paired with 1.4” HF titanium diaphragm HF driver. Powersoft, the Italian power specialist, presented the Quattrocanali Series, with new four-channel amplifier platform of three models, following the launch of its eight-channel Ottocanali series at the show two years ago. This completes the Powersoft Installation Series
that includes Duecanali (2-channel) and Ottocanali (8-channel) series. RCF showed the HDL6-A active line array module – the system features two 6.5” woofers for a solid bass reproduction plus a high powered 1.7” voice coil compression driver mounted on a 100° x 10° waveguide to deliver high definition vocal and an impressive dynamic. The MZ 8060 was also launched, a versatile and electronically advanced digital mixer/preamplifier designed on a powerful DSP platform. Also new at ths show was the DPS 604X 4-channel Class D power amplifier, with inbuilt crossover, designed specifically for subwoofers. Renkus-Heinz introduced the new C and T Series’
Meyer Sound’s Pablo Espinosa introduced LINA at ISE
A furry speaker on the Harman stand
of professional loudspeakers for installed and live sound applications. C Series models will be available in amplified (CA Series) and passive (CX Series) models, in black or white finish. The CX42 ‘stairstep’ loudspeaker, an updated version of the company’s CFX41, will only be available in a passive design. It also launched the next generation of its TRX Series: both powered (TA Series) and passive (TX Series) models, with redesigned HF and LF drivers. Shure announced new partnerships with Cisco, Crestron, Polycom, Biamp, QSC, Symetrix, Yamaha, Audinate, Chief and others, with configuration and set-up guides to embedded plug-ins that provide native control and audio integration. The company also revealed two of Shure’s digital wireless systems – ULX-D and QLX-D will be available in 1.5 and 1.8GHz spectrum formats and it has expanded its Centraverse Installed Sound Microphones line by introducing two additional gooseneck condenser microphones, the CVG12D and CVG18D. Stage Tec presented an IP-based console, which performs extensive control tasks – the ON AIR flex. It is freely configurable and adapts easily to suit individual requirements. The system consists of three components – audio processing, control elements and control logic. Yamaha Commercial Audio launched two new ultra-compact installation loudspeakers – the VXS1ML speaker and VXS3S compact subwoofer. Measuring 62 x 62 x 82mm and weighing just 0.16kg, the VXS1ML mini satellite Lo-Z (8Ω) speaker features a brand new, specifically-developed large diameter voice coil. ISE 2018 takes place at the RAI Amsterdam on 6-9 February, 2018. n www.iseeurope.org
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35 Years xy
d&b is 35. Karen is d&b. Karen Wefelmeyer is Director of Human Resources at d&b. She joined this year. “With d&b it feels like being part of the show. It’s a mix of energy, professionalism, humour and drive.” In 35 years d&b has evolved from a small garage venture to a worldwide standard in professional sound systems. It’s people like Karen who make this story possible, and just that bit different from the rest.
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P12 MARCH 2017
Don’t fix it in the mastering
W WES MAEBE
is a freelance recording, mixing, mastering and live sound engineer
e’ve all heard of “Let’s fix it in the mix”. However, most recently I’ve been coming across “Oh you can do that in the mastering!” far too often. As an engineer who covers all three areas, recording, mixing and mastering, Inever rely on the next stage to fix potential problems. Some people may call this approach oldschool, but I’m all about getting it right at the recording. If you feel something doesn’t sound right when you’re laying down tracks, work on getting it right there and then. It can be as simple as moving a microphone an inch, changing the actual mic, altering the recording chain or even swapping out the instrument. When you deliver your multitracks to the mix engineer, they should be able to just push up the faders and get a clear idea of where the track stands. They also should not have
to worry and spend valuable time on dealing with messy crossfades, bad edits and clicks and pops. Mastering engineers often get asked to lift out the vocal, bring up the guitar, deal with the bass and so forth. And that’s fair enough as long as artists understand that what we can do to a stereo mix has its limits. When you bring up the frequency range of an instrument, you’re inevitably going to affect other instruments within that area at the same time. The point I’m making is that, in addition to getting it right at the recording stage, you also have to employ the same tactics when mixing your material. If something isn’t quite there with the mix, you’ll need to deal with it in the mix room. So what brought on this little mastering rant? I recently worked with an artist who was forced into a mix situation where they were never happy with the results. They
were not in a position to get to the mixes they wanted so they ended up with me trying to salvage the situation. It took everything in the mastering tool arsenal to get close to what the artist was hoping to achieve. The approved master got there through a lot of tweaking, but this situation should never have happened. The individual components in the songs were severely compressed and the mixes in turn were hyper-compressed, resulting in a woolly, un-dynamic delivery. Bottom line: take pride in your job at any stage of the production. If you’re recording, give the mix engineer amazing multitracks to work with. If you’re mixing, deliver a spotless and exciting mix for the mastering engineer to work their magic on. In the words of the amazing, three times Grammy-winning Bob Katz, the best master is the one you didn’t have to do anything to. n
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STATE-OF-THE-ART WIRELESS COMMUNICATION SEE RIEDELâ€˜S NEXT STEP AT
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P14 FEBRUARY 2017
Movers and shakers
New boss at ASL Intercom as de Bruyn and McLohon bow out Former company heads retire, make way former theatre engineer with impressive track record
SL Intercom, a Riedel Communications company, announced the appointment of Wil Stam (right) as managing director. Effective from 1 January 2017, Stam has been entrusted to lead the ASL team in building market share and strengthening the ASL brand in worldwide AV markets. ASL, then a team of around 10 people, was acquired by Riedel Communications late last summer, news of which was revealed at the IBC 2016 show in September. ASL was established in 1985 by Eric de Bruyn, who has now retired from the company. Sales and marketing director Susan McLohon, who for years was very much the customer-facing part of ASL, has also retired, it has been announced. ASL products include digital and analogue intercom systems for event production and broadcast, as well as live sound, theatre and fixed installations. The company’s flagship ASL FLEXUS intercom system allows multiple standards – Dante/AES67/AVB and RAVENNA – to coexist in a single system.
Eastern Acoustic Works has named Louie King as marketing and communications manager. King is tasked with managing EAW’s worldwide marketing initiatives including advertising, branding, communications and digital marketing. Prior to joining, he served as director of marketing at the Brain Injury Association of MA. eaw.com
Adlib has appointed Tony Griffiths as head of special projects. His focus will include theatrical mechanical engineering, acoustic treatments and solutions. He has additional experience in unique fabrics for performance, production and installations Most recently, he was a director at fabric specialist J&C Joel. www.adlib.co.uk
The new MD began her career as an audio engineer for theatre production in the Netherlands, most notably serving as head of the audiovisual department at the acclaimed Muziektheater Amsterdam. Stam worked as a project manager for Klotz Digital in Asia and Australia, and she held various executive roles in sales and operations management with Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup Australia. There, she managed the startup and incorporation of Stagetec’s Australian office and successfully established an international partner business in Asia and Australia. “With Wil Stam, we have an experienced executive with extensive knowledge of international sales and operations,” said Jacqueline Voss, manager of corporate development at Riedel Communications. “It’s an honour to lead ASL’s outstanding team of professionals,” said Stam. “As as part of Riedel Communications, we have access to a broad array of R&D and marketing resources to help drive new developments and reach more clients.” n www.asl-inter.com
Powersoft has appointed Karl Kahlau as executive director of a new division responsible for the Deva family of products. Previously, he was regional sales account manager. The strategy for sales to cover vertical markets including professional audio, AV integration, safety and security and access control, has been designed as a hybrid approach www.powersoft-audio.com
Genelec has welcomed international sales director Ole Jensen to the company. He most recently led the world-wide distribution of Dynaudio Pro, but has also worked at Yamaha and TC Group. He will develop and support Genelec’s international network of sales partners and distributors within the professional sectors. www.genelec.com
David Lois has been hired as sales manager for broadcast products at German system integrator Broadcast Solutions. He will be responsible for growth in the products division. Previously, he was sales manager at AEQ-KROMA and was responsible for projects in Russia, Turkmenistan and the Sochi 2014 Olympics. www.broadcast-solutions.de
Genelec has also hired sales manager Jonas Olsen. A veteran of some 20 years, he was with TC Group, where he led AV installation sales, having previously worked within the rental sector. He is expected to significantly strengthen the company’s already strong profile within AV. Both he and Jensen will be based in Denmark. www.genelec.com
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Compromise is not an option when everyone is counting on you.
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Digital 6000 utilizes groundbreaking technology from our flagship Digital 9000. Dependability is guaranteed by our renowned Long Range transmission mode and proprietary audio codec. Digital integration is seamless with AES3 and optional Dante output. Monitoring and control of the two-channel receiver is at your fingertips, with an elegant, intuitive user interface.
Discover more: www.sennheiser.com/digital-6000
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Movers and shakers
De Pauw is new FACE of chief commercial officer will be responsible for further developing the AV hardware, software and services
am De Pauw joins the Foundation for Audiovisual Commerce & Engineering (FACE) to oversee the company’s professional and project divisions. De Pauw (right) will be responsible for commercial strategy and joins FACE’s board of directors, alongside CEO Karel De Piere (left) and CFO Youri Benoit. De Piere comments: “For years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with highly qualified people at FACE and together we’ve set a remarkable growth path. In order to keep the same pace we felt that we were understaffed at the executive directors level… Sam’s experience in
the industry, skills and knowledge will allow him to lead our teams to further develop our AV hardware, software and services offerings and align our internal resources to meet the company’s commercial and strategic objectives.” De Pauw continues: “The company has a solid structure, experienced personnel and is well reputed in the EMEA distribution and installation markets. I’m convinced that all necessary ingredients to implement additional synergies and continued business development are present.” n www.face.be
QSC has appointed Christophe Anet as product specialist, EMEA, for the company’s professional division. He will provide demonstration, training and education as well as pre-and post-sales technical support. www.qsc.com
Lesley Marr has joined Molinare as director of operations. She will oversee the operational efficiency of the company’s technical services. She is a board member of the IBC Conference Committee. www.molinare.co.uk
Simon Fell, director of the European Broadcasting Union Technology and Innovation Department, has been elected chair of the World Broadcasting Union Committee. He will serve a two-year term in the role. worldbroadcastingunions.org
Mega Audio has strengthened its staff with Florian Kresse, the new business development manager Pro Audio/DPA. His role should open up new markets and customer groups. He comes from Meyer Sound. www.megaaudio.de
OHM (UK) has named Kaushal Garg as its new director of sales for Middle East and Africa. He will be responsible for overseeing all sales activities in the regions. He began his career at Bose and has also worked at Harman Pro. www.ohm.co
Jim Mack has joined the Ashly Audio team in Webster, New York as CEO. He will help expand business in existing markets and forge paths into new markets. He served as CEO at PreSonus for seven years. jamindustries.com
DEALER NETWORK Audio-Technica will act as exclusive UK distributor for Portuguese brand Artnovion’s range of acoustic treatment products. Based in Paços de Ferreira, near Porto, Artnovion designs and manufactures absorption, bass traps and diffusion products, as well as offering insulation solutions for pro audio, residential and architectural applications. Audio-Technica previewed the company’s offering at the Music Production Expo in Milton Keynes, with Alexandra Bischof – Audio-Technica marketing manager, distributed brands – saying: “We were delighted with the reception that the Artnovion products enjoyed at MPX. Their innovative design and striking looks received a lot of positive comments from visitors and we look forward to building the brand in each of the markets it’s involved with in the UK.” www.audio-technica.com www.artnovion.com SCV Distribution has revealed a new partnership with pro audio outboard manufacturer Lindell Audio. Tobias Lindell, CEO says: “The work SCV has done with Focal over the past years has been inspiring, and we want to be a part of a team with such driving force. Our new and improved product range fits perfectly with the SCV palette – I’ve been friends with Ian Young for a long time and it’s now time to join forces and bring to market the best value 500-series lunchbox products money can buy!” SCV will bring the new line-up to the UK and Germany, including Lindell’s 500-series power racks, which have received a design overhaul. The 506 and 510 Mk II incarnations include feed switches for each channel, enabling users to mix one channel into another without the need for extra cabling. Plus, users now have the choice of XLR or 25-pin DSub connectors on the rear of the chassis in order to cater for all scales of studio workflow. Lindell have also announced their Retro-Series line comprised of three studio preamp and processing models built for the 500-Series format. Ian Young, head of sales (Pro Audio) SCV Distribution, comments: “A production revamp on the existing Lindell 500 series units coupled with the new release of the limited edition Retro-Series modules make it an extremely exciting time to begin our partnership.” www.scvdistribution.co.uk www.lindellaudio.se Synthax Audio have been appointed the UK and ROI distributor for the Californian microphone manufacturer Lauten Audio. As well as sales and marketing, Synthax Audio UK will provide service and support. Dave West, Synthax Audio UK’s marketing manager says: “We have always been big fans of Lauten Audio. In a market that’s full of mics trying to emulate vintage classics, Lauten have focused on building clean, original sounding quality microphones.” Lauten Audio founder, Brian Loudenslager adds: “We share a similar vision and approach to the importance of communicating with the customer and knowing that ultimately, they are our greatest asset. Synthax Audio UK has the in-depth practical experience and technical knowledge to properly educate the professional audio consumer on the value and importance of Lauten Audio microphones to their creative process.” www.synthax.co.uk www.lautenaudio.com
www.psneurope.com/business 14-16 Appointments v1SSDR FIN.indd 2
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
P18 MARCH 2017
Sonnox and Avid’s collaboration for plug-in training
BY SARAH SHARPLES
Sound Technology Soundcraft VI Series Letchworth Garden, UK www.soundtech.co.uk
Yamaha CL & QL Series Consoles Reading, UK www.sflgroup.co.uk
April 3 - June 30
Live Sound Technology London, UK www.britanniarow.com
HiQnet Audio Architect Letchworth Garden, UK www.soundtech.co.uk A new partnership with Sonnox and Avid has been created to provide the opportunity for future musicians, engineers and producers, to fully understand the seven plug-ins within the Elite bundle. The Sonnox Elite Plug-ins Fundamentals Course provides participants with a thorough and practical understanding of how the plug-ins can be used to solve universal real world audio problems. The course will significantly help student’s transition to the professional world and can be
quickly and easily included alongside existing Avid courses. Divided into seven parts, the course is short and focused. Students are provided with full and clear illustrations with examples of practical sessions throughout followed by an online test. Student course materials are available from the Avid store. Course leaders and teachers can also commence training. n www.sonnox.com
dBs Bristol invests in SSL BY SARAH SHARPLES
Windmill Lane to host Prism Sound’s first 2017 training BY SARAH SHARPLES
Mic to Monitor, Prism Sound’s educational seminar tour, is heading to Ireland in May. Aimed at music production students, hobbyists and professionals, these free seminars aim to dispel the many myths surrounding the recording process. The events answer questions such as what makes great gear great, what does it take to become a successful and in demand audio engineer, how do recording professionals tackle different aspects of their productions and how is a hit sound achieved? The course will take place at Windmill Lane
Recording Studios in Dublin on May 25 in association with Big Bear Sound. It will be supported by manufacturers SADiE, GIK Acoustics and PMC Speakers. The guest speaker for the event is producer and engineer Rob Kirwan, who has worked with many artists from U2, Depeche Mode, Editors, Bell X1 to Local Natives. Kirwan produced and engineered the self-titled debut album by Hozier, which reached No.1 in the Irish Charts, the US Top Rock Album Charts, US Top Alternative Album Charts and US Folk Album Charts. He also had a No.1 hit on the UK Album charts in 2016 with The Hope Six Demolition Project by PJ Harvey. Kirwan, who is regularly in the running for the Choice Music Prize in his native Ireland, believes that his key role as a producer lies in the skill for identifying elements that make an artist sound individual, then enhancing those elements. He will talk Mic to Monitor attendees through some of his mixes and reveal how he gets his signature sound. The seminar will also feature presentations from all three supporting manufacturers and the topics discussed will range from audio hardware design, recording techniques and how to get the best from your studio. n www.prismsound.com
The dBs Music Bristol Higher Education centre added another control room and live room at their central Bristol campus and chose the SSL Duality as the flagship console. Meanwhile, dBs Music Plymouth replaced a control surface with the SSL AWS 924 Delta and Pro Tools HD, with the addition of both Quested, Genelec and ATC monitoring. dBs Music technical manager, Matt Bernard explains: “The requirements were for high quality analogue consoles which effortlessly integrated with a variety of DAWs, allowed sophisticated analogue routing and processing, combined with control surface functionality and automation system.” Bernard says they were impressed with the new Sigma automation plugin. “Both the AWS 924 and Duality have been put to great use since being installed and are already some of our most booked rooms with students carrying out a range of degree based projects,” he says. “Feedback from staff and students has been great and they now have the ability to compare and contrast the SSL AWS 924 to a Neve Genesys in Plymouth, and the SSL Duality to a API 1608 console in Bristol.” Managing director, Nigel Burt adds: “The desks will be used in group teaching sessions but also, most importantly, be constantly available for individual bookings." n www.dbsmusic.co.uk
www.psneurope.com/training 18 20 Training FIN.indd 1
35% more compact, 100% dLive Experience next generation digital mixing with the full power of dLive’s 96kHz XCVI processing core, intuitive Harmony UI and DEEP embedded plugins. Now in an agile new compact class.
3 new Surfaces + 3 new MixRack sizes Includes 19” rack mountable C1500 surface 128 inputs / 16 FX returns / 64 configurable busses Dante, Waves, MADI + Optical option cards Full dLive ecosystem - apps, software, expanders + remotes
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Completed ICMP/Tileyard studio will enhance student openings BY DAVE ROBINSON The new Tileyard-based studio designed exclusively for ICMP students has come online. The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, based in Kilburn, has spent the last few months working in partnership with the hugely successful King’s Cross media hub to create a “class-leading” recording facility and production room on the ever-growing Tileyard ‘campus’ (to date: 70 state-of-theart music studios and 100 media-related businesses have a home there). The finished ICMP studios are based around Logic Pro, Pro Tools and Ableton DAWs, and Novation and Focusrite controllers and interfaces, respectively. Monitoring is by ADAM and Yamaha. There is a live room, isolation booths, iMac workstations for everyone and a spacious lecture classroom.
The arrangement with Tileyard extends to students having access to mentoring programmes via Tileyard’s community of industry professionals and a range of other support and networking opportunities. Paul Kirkham, chief executive at ICMP, says: “Our innovative and exclusive partnership with Tileyard provides our students with unique opportunities to study in and engage with an immersive industry environment, building their networks amongst some of the music industry’s biggest names. “We are therefore delighted that this new facility is now available to our students, and it represents another step in our constantly developing and deepening relationship with Tileyard.” n www.icmp.ac.uk www.tileyard.co.uk
RAVENNA teams with Genelec to Mingle on the ISCE networking courses host AES67 education event BY SARAH SHARPLES
BY SARAH SHARPLES
An event hosted by RAVENNA at Genelec’s London demo facility in Scrub’s premises, explored AES67. The evening kicked off with an introduction from RH Consulting’s Roland Hemming who provided an overview of audio networking in general, adoption levels across the industry and some examples of the types of projects that rely on audio networking. He then handed over to ALC NetworX’s RAVENNA evangelist, Andreas Hildebrand who explained what AES67 is, how it works, the close relationship between AES67 and RAVENNA, and why AES67 is important in today’s increasingly connected environment. Hildebrand followed up with a live demo of an AES67 system using a Cymatic Audio uTrack24 multitrack recorder/player, an ARG switch, a Grandmaster clock from Sonifex, a RAVENNA Virtual soundcard and the Genelec 8430 IP speakers. After demonstrating full interoperability amongst all RAVENNA-enabled devices running AES67-formatted streams,
a Dante device (an AOIP box from Infomedia) was added to the setup and, with the help of the freely available RAV2SAP converter, Hildebrand showed streams running back and forth between the RAVENNA and Dante eco system. Hildebrand says: “We were oversubscribed but people came anyway, and then stayed on to chat to us and ask more questions for well over an hour afterwards, so we’re delighted. We will definitely be putting on more of these events in the future.” Howard Jones, international project manager for Genelec, adds: “The size and quality of the audience shows just how significant IP has become in the world of audio.” Hemming agrees: “It was all the more gratifying as we had a really high profile audience with heads of production from TV companies, national radio, post production, live events and installed sound. There is clearly a desire and a requirement for this type of education...” n www.ravenna-network.com
Learn how networks operate and how to configure devices to connect to them with new ISCE courses. As more AV devices become network enabled, people need to ensure that they are up to speed on network technology, so ISCE is presenting two courses on the topic. The first is about the principles of networking and will be held on March 22, where people can learn about the underlying technologies that drive a network, how to connect devices to them and how to identify and overcome common problems. They will also learn what information they need to obtain from and supply to IT
departments to join AV devices to an existing network. The second course is on advanced principles of networking March 23, where people can learn the principles and technologies used to create high performance data networks with the robustness and reliability required for networked audio. Both courses are presented by networking expert, Mark Faulks and are being held at Highfield Park, Hampshire, which is a five minutes drive from M4, jct 11 or take a train to Reading or Hook. For motorists, there is plenty of free parking. n www.isce.org.uk
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8-CHANNEL AMPLIFIER PLATFORM
SIMPLIFY YOUR MISSION CRITICAL AUDIO SYSTEM
Redundant Dante™ and output routing GPO, remote on/off swithc and MAIN/AUX input select In-depth network and remote control Redundant power supply 8x8 Input / Output matrix Highest level DSP with multi-stage signal processing Suitable for mixed lo-Z and 70/100 V loads Up to 1500W per channel @ 4Ω
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AATON DIGITAL CANTAR MINI
What is it? Based on the CantarX3, but with 16 tracks instead of 24, a reduced number of inputs and outputs, resulting in a considerably smaller size and a more lightweight unit – just 2.8kg with two batteries on board – almost half the weight of the X3. Details: Like the X3, the Mini also has the indispensable tilting display, it uses the same batteries, and is compatible with the add-on mixer panel Cantarem2. And another thing… Ultra bright large swiveling display panel, visibility optimised for shoulder work or cart and auto adjust brightness. One large rotary selector for easy operations in any situation. On board ten channel sliders plate with magnetic linear assignable sliders. Direct access to monitoring and set-up functions through dedicated buttons. www.aaton.com
HK AUDIO / KÖNIG & MEYER
What is it? HK Audio’s range of pro audio systems are benefiting from a range of accessories made by König & Meyer. The first available product is the Stereo Stand Add-On option for the compact LUCAS NANO 600 series systems.
What is it? A new version of the current subwoofer LAs418. Housing two long excursion and very high power 18” drivers, it has been designed to offer ultra-low frequencies at a very high SPL delivering precision and punch at incredible pressure levels.
What is it? The company expands this four model lineup with the introduction of the new CPD4800.
Details: The set consists of two König & Meyer adjustable tripods, two speaker cables with Neutrik speakon connectors, and a carry bag.
Details: The cabinet volume with optimised port tuning featuring extremely high peak-to peak excursion capability, is capable to deliver true sub performance down to 24Hz at -10dB. Providing low frequency resolution and a maximum SPL of 143.8dB in a 94kg, front loaded, bass reflex enclosure.
STEREO STAND ADD-ON
And another thing… Gabriela König, CEO of König & Meyer, says: “We are proud to be collaborating with HK Audio. Together, our companies have over 100 years of tradition and experience in the music business, with both brands being synonymous in their respective sectors for sophistication and high-quality, innovative products.” www.hkaudio.com www.k-m/de
And another thing… It can be deployed in either standard or cardioid configuration using the parallel wired Neutrik NL4 conector on the front of the subwoofer. next-proaudio.com
Details: The 2U Class H amp delivers an earth shattering 4800 watts when bridged into 4Ω., the company says. Weighing in at only 23.5kg the CPD4800 also has the best weight:power ratio in the series. It also has a practical front panel design with its removable air filters, venting and robust construction, as well as a limiter switch, thermal protection and power on/off muting. And another thing… CPD4800 also includes the familiar parallel, stereo and bridge mode switching found in the rest of the lineup. However, around the back, the CPD4800 now features the addition of 5-way binding posts to ensure easy installation into many types of setup. www.wharfedalepro.com
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NEUMANN KH 80 DSP
What is it? The company’s first studio monitor with digital signal processing, which has been designed as an ideal monitor solution for recording, mixing and mastering in project, music, broadcasting and post-production studios. Details: A two-way active bi-amplified monitor, which features a DSP engine with network control, a Mathematically Modeled Dispersion Waveguide, an analogue input and an extensive range of mounting hardware. And another thing… With the upcoming Neumann.Control software, in the future, the new KH 80 DSP will be able to fully calibrate itself to the room. This can be performed either automatically (precision alignment), with some simple questions (guided alignment), or adjusted with complete flexibility using the built in 8-band fully parametric equaliser (manual alignment). www.neumann.com
What is it? This is latest push by the German loudspeaker system manufacturer to improve third party integration. Integration with MediaMatrix allows system designers to achieve high performance d&b sound in installation applications that require detailed, customised remote control (such as in the recent Amsterdam ArenA installation, shown here).
What is it? A reinvention and evolution of the company’s CF/CFX Series, the C Series loudspeakers are a cost-effective solution for theaters and performing arts spaces, houses of worship, multiuse venues and public spaces, where quality sound, high performance, and superior pattern control are essential, the company says.
What is it? A new format, high power speaker system which features six medium-frequency and three high-frequency speakers in a sleek J-shaped progressive curvature format. It is suited to corporate events, fashion and trade shows, as well as for sound reinforcement in amphitheaters and performing arts centers.
Details: It makes a complete d&b sound reinforcement system completely interoperable with the MediaMatrix networking approach. It follows plugins for the QSC Q-SYS control system and Beckhoff automation and control technology.
Details: Incorporating the latest generation of Complex Conic Horns, with updated drivers to provide clean, natural sound and tighter pattern control.
Details: The groundbreaking transducer arrangement called segment source produces an H/V 140° x 26° (+5/-21°) directivity pattern that is optimised for exceptional surface coverage and 35m of throw.
PLUG-IN FOR THE PEAVEY MEDIAMATRIX
And another thing… The new plug-in provides control parameters to adjust the mute status, levels, power On/Off, and alter the AmpPreset. www.dbaudio.com
C SERIES LOUDSPEAKERS
And another thing… C Series will be available in amplified (CA Series) and passive (CX Series) models. The CX42 stairstep loudspeaker, an updated version of the highly acclaimed CFX41, will only be available in a passive design. C Series will be shipping in spring 2017. www.renkus-heinz.com
And another thing… It can be accompanied by the Syva Low high power subwoofer or Syva Sub infra extension to achieve a 142 dB max SPL. It can be wall- or pole-mounted, as well as flown, or used alone with its baseplate. www.l-acoustics.com
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P24 MARCH 2017
The strategic position: JoeCo
Francis Duggan and Joe Bull, outside the Cambridgeshire HQ
Black and Blue and found all over JoeCo has launched a new digital recorder, the Bluebox. Dave Robinson talks to the company’s founder, and his rising star colleague, about a colourful future
oe Bull: a familiar name and face from the UK-based DAW community of the last couple of decades. Long before he formed JoeCo Bull was an essential cog in the SADiE development machine – but that tale is for another time. The engineer and businessman parted company with SADiE around the time the business was sold to Prism, so he could create a brand in his own image. With his nascent JoeCo operation, Bull began working on designs for his multichannel recorder, the ‘Blackbox’, in 2008: the original BlackBox Recorder was shown at the NAMM show in 2009, and working models shipped a few months after that. “The first unit was an unbalanced analogue unit (the BBR1U), for plugging across unbalanced inputs on old analogue consoles. We then got asked to do balanced analogue, for the US market mainly; then they wanted an AES version, an ADAT version… Soon it was obvious that there was a huge need for a MADI recorder that was as simple as the Blackbox.” That meant recording on 64 channels simultaneously rather than 24. “We did some research and realised that if we tweaked that, and changed this, a simple- to- use MADI recorder was a very achievable product with our technology.” This was 2011. “It was at the same time that I first started talking with the guys at Audinate about
Dante,” he continues. The now-ubiquitous networking technology was still in its infancy back then. “I realised that because the requirement for MADI and Dante were going to be pretty similar, what we tried to do was try to combine the R&D efforts for both products at the same time, so we could bring them out [almost simultaneously].” Bull reckons JoeCo was probably about the tenth company to implement the Dante protocol: the Australian company reported its 350th adopter at the ISE show. “They were the first company who were designing [for] pro-audio over IP who really understood the importance of clocking. If the master clock fails, then you’ve always got something that can take over like that,” he says, clicking his fingers. “Dante always seemed to have a professional approach, so you don’t lose anything if the audio clocking goes.” For the unfamiliar, the function of the Blackbox Recorder is to capturemultichannel audio in the live environment. Simple as that. The basic 24-channel unit works up to 96kHz, across all channels. “It isn’t an overdubbing recorder, it’s not a replacement for a Studer A800,” emphasises Bull. “It’s designed specifically for live applications, [where] all of the channels go into record simultaneously. There’s no onboard storage: the rationale being, just as Studer
never supplied built-in tape, you need your own a hard drive or memory stick.” To illustrate what’s possible here: Bull reports that on MADI BBRs, the maximum data writing rate is 74Mbits per second. USB 2.0 has a bandwidth of 480Mbits per second as standard: so there’s no danger of buffering here. Bull’s reference to Studer and recording on tape is particularly relevant. “Provided you had a 24-track 2-inch tape machine, and you could line it up, you could play it anywhere in the world,” he notes – something he learned from his early, pre-SADiE years at SpaceWard Studios. Hence, it was Bull and audio engineer Mark Yonge who campaigned vigorously to establish a high-quality, transferrable file format for use across all DAWs and similar devices. That format, Broadcast WAV (BWF or BWAV) was established in the late 90s and adopted by standards bodies such as the AES not long afterwards. The format was implemented in SADiE systems, and many rival DAW manufacturers, convinced of BWFs effectiveness and convenience, followed suit soon after. “So when I came to establish JoeCo, that was a critical thing: the recorder’s got to be able to record BWFs so it can be played back on anybody’s system.” Bull’s ‘universal format’ approach has no doubt aided the success of BBR sales. Total units shifted, in
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all formats, is somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000, he suggests. A lot of JoeCo’s clients are reluctant to promote the devices; Bull lets slip that a ‘worldrenowned Utah-based singing ensemble’ bought 10 units five years ago, and forbade him to mention the sale. “Then DiGiCo published a story about them, and our Blackboxes were all over the pictures, so I guess it’s OK now…” JoeCo has also seen an increase in sales of the multichannel playback version – the Blackbox Player, which takes the form a software update for existing BBR units. It’s good for museums, theme parks and the like, but useful in particular for bands/performers who require some ‘live assist’ (whisper it: backing tracks) to bolster their sound. Other places you may have spotted a Blackbox or two in the rack include the Jimmy Fallon show in the US, the World Cup stadia in Brazil, at the Sochi Olympics, even on the BBC’s Bake-Off. All in all, then the penetration and reputation of the BBR has given the company enough profile and a broad enough user-base to push forward with its latest launch – the Bluebox. This evolution from the original device was proposed by Joe Bull’s colleague Francis Duggan. The 28-yearold has been primarily involved with production management, R&D and demoing the gear at trade shows for three or four years – but will be taking on a more strategic role in future. “Customers have said in the past, it would be good to have products that could be used as an audio interface in the studio,” explains Duggan. “A lot of the people who use our gear go out and record a band or choir, then bring it back to the studio. And now Bluebox can be used in that studio environment.” The fundamental difference between the Black and the Blue, as it were, is that the latter can be used as an audio interfacing device in a studio environment, as well as a recorder – so it can connect up to your DAW. A back-up feature means “you can press record at the start of the day and just forget about it”. Bluebox started shipping around IBC time last year: the flagship model, with 24 channels of mic-pre, is around £4k (“Because its got 24 channels of mic-pres, and decent mic-pres aren’t cheap.”) Then at NAMM, JoeCo launched the BBWR24B – a more affordable version of the unit without the integrated mic-pres (£1,300-1,400). Bluebox represents a new chapter for the company, agree the pair. “Our bestselling product throughout history has been the BBR1B – the balanced analogue version of Blackbox – so we’re viewing this as the next step for Bluebox. It’s got things like ADAT compatibility and word clock; it’s a thoroughly professional solution but at a price point where semi-pros can start to enter the JoeCo ecosystem.” That’s how the company is planning to – and, more importantly, beginning to – grow: pushing into new markets but keeping the same principles of quality and attention to detail.
Francis Duggan shows off the Bluebox Workstation Interface Recorder
To that end JoeCo products are built offsite, but rigorous design and testing is undertaken at JoeCo HQ, a workshop and office located outside Cambridge. All those expensive pre-amps, for instance, are bespoke to JoeCo. “We’ve been designing analogue electronics for about 35 years, so we know a thing or two about it!” he laughs. Bull calls on his development diaspora here, old collaborators from the SADiE days: ‘Daff’(Simon Widdowson) in Cambridge, and the Sintefex software team (whose designs have been adopted by the like of Focusrite in the past) in Portugal. “In terms of electrical and mechanical design I’ll have the overall idea of what we want the product to do – we’ll then discuss it as a group – I’ll do the mechanical design and the circuit board layouts. Daff does all the detailed electronic stuff , then from Portugal we’ll have the latest version of the software so we can pull the whole thing together. “For the build etc, we subcontract it out. It’s all to UK companies: I’ve looked at using overseas subcontractors but I don’t, a), for the numbers we’re making, b), I’d rather keep the jobs in this country.” Many of the subcontractors are local if a meeting is required anyway, he adds. Meanwhile, Duggan will be taking on a bigger role at the company, developing current sales partners while addressing territories where sales have been small to negligible. “I’m taking a look around the world and building relationships with our current sales partners, helping them to improve their sales, while looking for new partners,” says Duggan. In terms of territories, the USA has been the most successful, through Full Scale AV, responsible for around 35-40% of total sales. There’s still work to do in Europe, and “though we have some partners in Asia, we have a lot to do over there too,” says Bull. “The UK is good for us too, but it’s a home market.” A politics graduate, Duggan also has practical interests in DJing and recording bands, both live and
in his home studio. “I knew the industry relatively well before I came to JoeCo,” he states. For 2017 and on, then, JoeCo is expanding its horizons: exploring new possibilities with a proven track record (no pun intended) and, dare we say it, a certain swagger. With Duggan shifting his involvement up a gear too, and more surprises in store, the future for Joe Bull is not just Black and Blue: it’s very, very bright too. n joeco.co.uk
Do we need another recorder?
Duggan and Bull share a joke
PSNE: There are critics who say, we don’t need your stuff, because there are certain onboard/ system-compatible recording technologies available already: Pro Tools and the like. Ultimately, does that not worry you? JB: We’ve seen that all the way along. Some of the manufacturers are pouring, ooh, tens of pounds into their systems [laughs]. PSNE: You haven’t spotted anything that’s an immediate threat? JB: There’s always a threat. People will always plug things in to their laptops and be happy with a cheap solution, right up to the point it falls over. Which it always does. That’s when Bluebox comes in!
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Jarre with Moog 55 modular synth Photo credit: Tom Sheehan
Jean-Michel shares The electronic pioneer was at NAMM to receive an award from synth-maker Roland, ahead of his second nomination at the Grammys. Steve Harvey explores production and process with the 68-year-old
ver his 45-year career, French electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre has racked up some impressive feats: an estimated 80 million albums sold; a Guinness World Record for the largest concert attendance (3.5 million in Moscow, 1997); and becoming the first Western musician to play post-Mao China. This year, he added another – his first Grammy nomination in the category that he pioneered. Jarre was also a pioneer of the personal studio in France. “When I started in electronic music, I probably had the first home studio in my country. In those days, the professional studios had glass, and the sound engineer [was like] God on the other side of the window. But for electronic music, you need to be your own sound engineer.” This is not Jarre’s first Grammy nomination. That was for Rendez-Vous in 1987, in the Best New Age category; the Best Dance/Electronica category was not introduced until 2005. (Update: on the night, the gong went to Flume for Skin.) Jarre’s third album, Oxygène, propelled him onto the world stage in 1976, charting in the top 10 worldwide, and putting him at the forefront of the Seventies’ synthesiser revolution. The album reportedly went on to sell over 15 million copies, and Jarre was soon playing ever more spectacular outdoor shows, celebrating Bastille Day in France, the seventh millennium in Egypt and Moscow’s 850th birthday.
Jarre in the studio with his SSL AWS 48-desk. He still has his Studer tape machines too!
“From those days, my home studio became bigger and bigger, just because I had more and more instruments,” says Jarre, at the Roland booth during the 2017 NAMM Show, where the manufacturer presented him with a
Lifetime Achievement Award. “Now I have a fairly big facility outside Paris, where I have production rooms and a mixing room with lots of keyboards and synthesisers.” Jarre employs the best of the analogue and digital
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Artwork cover for the recent Electronica collaborative album
Jarre: “I used to be a Pro Tools guy for a long time, but I really fell in love with Ableton Live” Photo credit: M Kuenster
worlds. “I have analogue gear, from the Studer 24-track to a Studer 2-track and a Sony digital,” he says. “I have an SSL AWS 48-input console. It’s a very flexible desk for recording, with very good sound.” But while he has also made the transition into the DAW paradigm, for last year’s releases – the Grammy-nominated Electronica 1: The Time Machine, Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise and Oxygène 3, timed for the 40th anniversary of the first volume – he switched platforms. “I used to be a Pro Tools guy for a long time, but…I really fell in love with Ableton Live,” he reports. “It became my main DAW. I did some tests, bouncing down the Pro Tools stems and Live 9. The bounce on Ableton 9 was, for me, better and more transparent. The quality is fantastic and it’s so flexible.” Electronica is Jarre’s look back at the history of electronic music and features collaborations with artists that have inspired him – and no doubt also serves to introduce him to the new generation of EDM fans. Collaborators range from Vince Clarke, John Carpenter and Gary Numan to M83, Gesaffelstein and Little Boots. The first album includes a collaboration with the late Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream: Zero Gravity became the last track the fellow synthlegend was to record, and Jarre dedicated the Electronica 1 album to his memory. For the project, Jarre followed two principles. “I really wanted to share the creative process face-to-face. These days, so many projects are based on the idea of sending
files to people that you never talk to or meet. The second principle was to conceive a piece of music in function of the idea that I had with the artist. When we met, I had a kind of demo, obviously leaving enough space for them to express themselves.” He notes, “With Hans Zimmer, we ended up with over 100 tracks. I could never have done that with Pro Tools unless I was stuck in my studio with the rack and everything.” The projects were recorded at 48kHz/24 bits. “What is important is going from 16 to 24 bits; that’s the big difference, rather than the difference between 48k and 96k. Just take great care with how you record and mix and your levels.”
I REALLY WANTED TO SHARE THE CREATIVE PROCESS FACETO-FACE. THESE DAYS, SO MANY PROJECTS ARE BASED ON THE IDEA OF SENDING FILES TO PEOPLE THAT YOU NEVER TALK TO OR MEET
The mastering process took six weeks, he continues: “I did the mastering in my studio from the session, not from the bounce.” By mastering to stereo back into the machine from the live session, he adds: “I saved one generation.” The experience was a game-changer: “I won’t go back to mastering a stereo mix. “If you have too much low, for instance, when you master the final mix, you are affecting the low frequencies of the whole mix, where most of the time, your problem is coming from one track. “Also, I could never think about sending my mix to a mastering engineer, who is mastering on his own. My mastering engineer is part of my team.” The process was long and deliberative because, he says: “You can change so many things through mastering. I was going into the machine and saying, ‘Wow, the mix is different’. So I finalised my mixes through the mastering process to be sure that what I was going to get was exactly what I wanted to hear. The mastering is part of the mixing process.” This year marks another first for Jarre: his first ever North American tour, in May. “It’s a fairly ambitious project, with three of us onstage and 50, nearly 60 instruments. We have 256 outputs. It’s quite challenging for the front-ofhouse engineer. Visually, I’ve devised a stage design based on 3D, but without glasses. We’ve already done 50 arena gigs in Europe and it has been fantastically well-received.” n jeanmicheljarre.com
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The huge live space, as viewed from the control room on the first floor
DAFT, and smart with it
DAFT Recording Studios is a genius example of what a modern and client-friendly recording facility should look like, says Marc Maes
fter 18 months of research, planning and building, a new residential studio has risen from nothing in the tiny Belgian village of Gerómont, 24km west of the German border. The brainchild of Stijn Verdonckt, the DAFT site includes spacious recording facilities and a 14-room lodge. The story begins in late 2015, after seven years of studio management at La Chapelle and GAM studios, engineer and producer Verdonckt decided to invest in a new project. Backed by years of experience and an extensive network of clients, brands, engineers and bands, his plan was to build what is now one of the country’s biggest recording facilities. He needed an accessible location. Gerómont seemed ideal: set in the Belgian Ardennes close to both Germany and the Netherlands, the village is within two hours’ drive to Brussels, Antwerp and Cologne.
The ‘Manufacture de Malmédy’ umbrella was founded to finance the two buildings on the site, with investment fund Meusinvest and private investor Jean-Marc Bricteux joining majority shareholder Verdonckt. Management of the operation is handled by ‘Anothersound’ BVBA. Verdonckt started building the studio at the end of 2015. In order to maintain contact with his target clients, he brought in creative projects such as the ‘insta-vinyl’ tram studio (see PSNEurope March 2016). As planned, DAFT Recording Studios hosted the first trial recording session at the end of last year, and become fully operational in January 2017. The thinking was ‘big’ from the word go: DAFT offers a huge 220sq m, 8m-high main hall – making it one of the biggest recording wood rooms in Europe – plus four additional recording booths, and a spacious control room featuring the country’s first Rupert Neve 5088
console. “The whole studio was built as a box-in-box construction, offering plenty of daylight throughout,” explains Verdonckt. (A vast window looks out over the Ardennes forest, for example.) Dutch company AudioWorkx came onboard to assist with acoustic design. Verdonckt says: “We covered all the walls with a variety of Akotherm noise absorption materials and 3.60m high wooden panels with moulded 3D triangles to avoid parallel surfaces.” A new Rupert Neve Designs 5088 discrete analogue mixer is the centrepiece of the 70sq m control room. “Stijn was on the lookout for a new large format console,” says Filip de Vos of (Rupert Neve Designs Benelux distributor) Jukebox Ltd. “The new 5088 console, equipped with 5051 and 5052 compressor and mic pre-amp modules, offers an incredible sound. The desk has been completely designed by Mr. Neve himself. Its single-sided circuit topology and transformer-
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DAFT driving force Stijn Verdonckt behind the Rupert Neve 5088 console
coupled inputs and outputs produce 10dB more headroom and a [huge] dynamic range. But it’s a pure A to Z audio console, without features like ‘total recall’ and with less automation than, for instance, the [SSL] Duality.” Verdonckt admits that the new 5088 console was more expensive than a secondhand desk, but he’s convinced that the excellent sound will attract new clients. And of course, he expects it to be more reliable. Like the analogue recording desk, all of the control room’s equipment is transformer-driven. “We’re probably the country’s only studio where every piece of equipment has its own transformer,” continues Verdonckt. “And that’s what you hear: we’re in a completely new building and there’s no interference, extremely high signal-to-noise ratio, no buzz or whatsoever. We have galvanic (complete) isolation throughout the building: there are no earth loops, the
whole system is completely balanced.” A major draw to the facility will be the impressive collection of vintage backline gear, instruments, microphones and so on, made available through Ives Mergaerts’ KICK APS rental operation. Verdonckt and Mergaerts are old friends. “We have formed a strategic partnership that will continuously be expanding our existing inventory from now on,” Verdonckt says. Hence, there are some rare pieces in the outboard inventory: a hand-made Oram Sonics mastering EQ, a hand-made JoeMeek vintage compressor, four Pultec EQs, a Klark Teknik spring reverb, AMS reverb and delay, and Lexicon PCM reverbs and more. “Thanks to our partnership with Kick APS, we have been able to put this fabulous line-up together,” enthuses Verdonckt. DAFT hosts a Pro Tools HDX system, a required standard in a modern recording studios. In addition, the control room is equipped with a direct recording
vinyl cutter. “It’s nice to hand out a genuine vinyl copy to bands who come to mix here,” says Verdonckt. “We add a ‘material object’ to what we do. In these days of streaming, it’s a nice extra for the band, who, in the past, left the studio with a master-tape copy.” The control room’s main monitors are B&Ws new 800D3 series, powered by a Lab.gruppen C16:4 4 x 400W amplifier: Verdonckt says he’s never heard speakers offering such high definition and yet so natural sound. “You even notice small imperfections in existing recordings, allowing us to work pretty much in detail, while maintaining a natural and agreeable sound, and that’s what counts.” However, he remains faithful to his favourite Quested S8 speakers as nearfields. “But producers are free to bring in their own main and near field enclosures if they want to – flexibility is key here,” he adds. On top of everything, Verdonckt has paid utmost
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Some of the backline amps and combos available for performers
Hard metal act Amenra’s Levy Seynaeve adds more bass in the January 2017 recording sessions
attention to the comfort of studio clients. “Our baseline for the studios is ‘Welcome home’. Instead of bringing the studio to their home, as many do today, we bring home to the studio, to assure artists can give the best of themselves during their stay.” In addition to a top-floor penthouse with bar, kitchen
and four bedrooms, Verdonckt built a 14-room lodge next door. The house bar, wellness area with indoor pool and a fully fledged cinema room can either be used for leisure, but also for bursts of creativity, writing sessions, pre-production and suchlike. “We used over two kilometres of Van Damme cable, Cat-6 and coax cabling
and over 180 patch points to link up the recording area with the control room, the top floor residence and the guest house, allowing bands to work from almost any room in either building.” Despite the substantial investment, Verdonckt decided not to raise the studio rates in comparison to La Chapelle. “We want to continue working with our existing clients,” he underlines. “I’d prefer a fully booked studio maintaining affordable rates rather than doubling the rate and have seven recording days per month. Today, nobody’s seen or heard the studio and we’re booked up solid until the end of April. People trust in what we do and the quality we stand for.” Kicking off quickly in the new year, the first recording session at DAFT was with dark metal band Amenra and US producer Billy Anderson, cutting an album before their world tour. “This is the result of 18 months of building and supervising, but in the end, I’m convinced that the unique combination of the studio’s location, acoustics, control room, console and outboard gear – all top notch quality – will bring DAFT Recording studio to a higher level,” states Verdonckt. “I can’t wait to start working in the studio myself!” n www.wearedaft.be www.jukeboxltd.be
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‘”George was a delight to work with…” From 1984 single Careless Whisper to 2004’s Patience LP, the late George Michael frequently called on the services of Tony Cousins. David Davies spoke to the renowned mastering engineer about the late singer/songwriter’s “extraordinary attention to detail”
espite the passing of numerous musical icons, esteemed songwriters and muchloved session players during the previous 12 months, the death of George Michael on Christmas Day still seemed especially cruel. Aged only 53, here was a musician who – after years of relative silence – was apparently on the verge of a major comeback and who still seemed to have so much more to give. Whilst the affection for his work as part of Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley is obvious and undeniable, it is likely to be his solo music – from 1984’s debut solo single, Careless Whisper, through to 2012’s orchestrallyenhanced Symphonica – on which his long-term reputation resides. Although he engaged the help of many different collaborators during those years, one of the stalwarts was Tony Cousins. Subsequently a founding and enduring member of the Metropolis Mastering team, Cousins was employed by The Town House when he first encountered Michael on the session for Careless Whisper. “He was extremely polite – as he always was – and shy,” remembers Cousins. “And there was a very evident interest in the process of mastering and getting the best possible result.” After the disbandment of Wham! in 1986, Michael began his career as a fully-fledged solo artist, with his “extraordinary attention to detail” becoming increasingly acute. This was certainly evident on 1987’s Faith album; self-produced by a multi-instrumentalising Michael, the LP spawned six top five singles and went on to sell 25 million copies worldwide. Most of the early Michael mastering sessions were attended by the artist, says Cousins, who notes that there was no doubt that the singer was “a perfectionist in the recording studio, which meant that there was rarely a great deal to do when it came to mastering. He had a deep understanding of production and studio processes. And he was fascinated by it all.” After a spectacular opening chapter, the first half of the 1990s proved challenging for Michael. Whilst second solo album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 wowed critics, it was less successful commercially, and was followed by an extended stand-off with his label Sony (a process that – although unfruitful in court for Michael – arguably paved the way for artists from Prince to XTC to object to what they regarded as unfair deals). Fortunately, the late ‘90s were more productive, and after working in a non-mastering capacity on
’96’s Older, Cousins undertook the extensive task of mastering new, old and previously unreleased material for 1998’s double-disc compilation, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael. “That was a big project, as there were a lot of different sources drawn from across a long time period,” says Cousins. But he “was given the time by George and his management to really do a great job on it and make sure that there was a consistency soundwise across the material. I was really pleased with the end-result and a lot of the masters went on to be used again on [subsequent best-of] Twenty-Five.” The association between musician and mastering engineer continued through to 2004’s Patience, which proved to be Michael’s final full album release (notwithstanding a set of orchestral reinterpretations, Symphonica, in 2012). “Once again, the tapes that arrived were meticulous and really required very little work. That’s not to say that I wasn’t making changes here and there, but they were relatively minor – and that’s a testament to his fastidiousness [in the recording studio],” says Cousins. The extent to which Michael had been recording prior to his death is still yet to become fully clear, as is the amount of archive material that may or may not be left in the vaults (or, indeed, deemed worthy of release). But like the rest of us, Cousins – whose recent projects have run a particularly diverse gamut from a boxed set based around The Verve’s Urban Hymns, to a 100th birthday album by Vera Lynn that re-sets her original vocals in fresh orchestrations – already has the chance to reflect anew on what was a substantial catalogue. “George did create a major body of work, and [although there were extended hiatuses in his career] that should be remembered,” says Cousins. “He was a great singer/songwriter who used fine musicians to get brilliant results, and it was a delight to have had the chance to work with him on so many occasions.” n www.metropolismastering.com
Tony Cousins in his mastering suite at Metropolis Studios
George Michael’s death on 25 December 2016 was mourned by many. Photo credit: Caroline True
One legendary single and three legendary albums, mastered by Cousins
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Business feature: Good acoustic design
A typical White Mark post-production fit-out: a Dolby suite at Factory in central London
The crest of a wave Phil Ward talks to David Bell, managing director of acoustic design specialist White Mark
n open letter to the trade published towards the end of last year set a challenging agenda for everyone involved in the recording, mastering and post-production sector. It was signed by: Richard Boote, owner of AIR Studios and Strongroom; Ivor Taylor, director of Grand Central; Ben Mason, technical director at sound design studio 750mph; George Apsion, who runs Kore Studios; and White Mark’s David Bell. In other words: a brace of formidable Londonfocused pro audio heavy-hitters. This agenda, quite clearly aimed at generating more debate on the subject, singled out the education sector for its critique of standards in acoustic design and the obvious knock-on effect on audio quality. As a result, the signatories believe, subsequent generations of recording engineers, producers and sound designers grow used to an alleged deterioration. But the wider implications for every realm of studio activity come under scrutiny as David Bell, talking exclusively to PSNEurope, expresses his concerns about diminishing responsibility. The signatories pointed to a growing number of cases in which remedial action is sought from them by users of newly built or refurbished educational facilities. Despite huge budgets, some of these users remain dissatisfied with
acoustic performance and eventually turn to experienced operators like White Mark to address the issues. Acoustics, the signatories argued, appear to be neglected when a publicly funded institution relies solely on routine architecture and construction for projects that should at the very least recognise their intrinsic sonic purpose. The perception, they insisted, is that specialist acoustic design is beyond the public purse – even though the costs admitted by anxious clients are frequently much greater than a service such as White Mark would charge. Needless to say the signatories have called for new regulations and better practices than those encouraged by the current de facto handbook in the public sector: BB93, or Building Bulletin 93 – Acoustic Design of Schools – A Design Guide, a document derided by Bell and his colleagues as a foundation for any crucible of professional careers. “One of the problems throughout the provision of audio facilities is the devaluation of the studio as an acoustic environment – in favour of the purchase of equipment, and other things that you can see on your capital balance sheet,” Bell says. “Despite the money spent on educational facilities, BB93 specifies the absolute minimum. Because the procurement methods of the big purchasers are based on a design-build approach, the lowest bidder will win the
Decoy, the mix studio David Bell built for award-winner Cenzo Townsend, deep in the countryside
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IF YOU GET THE ACOUSTIC DESIGN RIGHT, WHAT YOU HEAR IN THE STUDIO IS WHAT THE WORLD WILL HEAR IN THE CINEMA, ON THE TELEVISION, ON THE RADIO OR ON WHICHEVER MEDIA PLAYER YOU SELECT
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contract based against the specification – and there isn’t one, really.” If isolation and acoustic performance are dangerously under-specified in education, the consequences for students are clear. But the problem is more widespread, according to Bell. “A similar approach is being taken by the national broadcasters,” he says, “who are producing rooms of extremely diverse capabilities. Whereas at one time BBC Engineering’s Guide To Acoustic Practice was held up rigorously, or perhaps in Europe the IRT [Institut für Rundfunktechnik] specification, we now seem to be forgetting the importance of basic things such as the isolation between different areas where acoustic work is undertaken, but not related to each other.” Post-production has a further ‘layer’ of protection in the shape of Dolby Laboratories, which maintains licensed facilities in every major media hub. “But their level of control is advisory only,” Bell points out, “and the licences are more difficult to obtain because the main focus is on the Dolby Atmos format, which demands higher specifications in the first place. The issue is that if the licences are more exacting and demanding, which is a good thing of course, facilities may be less inclined to attain one. It means that there’s another criterion for quality slipping by the wayside.”
Pride “One of the things we pride ourselves on is that you can record something in one of our
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Business feature: Good acoustic design
studios, and take it to any one of our other studios, and it will sound very similar, Bell continues: “And if you take it from one of our studios to a cinema it will also sound representative – albeit in a room 25 times larger. Essentially, if you get the acoustic design right, what you hear in the studio is what the world will hear in the cinema, on the television, on the radio or on whichever media player you select. It’s not something that the engineer will have to predict by having to adjust the mix one way or the other.” At the very least, working environments should be balanced across the frequency range and in reverberation time; and isolated properly from their surrounding environment. “What’s going on,” asks Bell, “when there’s a sign in the reception area that says something like ‘please keep quiet while the red light is on’? Really? In reception? What’s happening is that the prime movers in the purchasing community are allowing practices to be dumbed down because these specifications are becoming less important, and are not being used as a design standard.” Cost-consciousness is a strange thing. On the one hand, it’s clear that no sensible person would embark on a commercial project without setting a budget. But once corners have been cut in one department, any disproportionate expense in another soon begins to look extravagant: if you think you can build a studio for £20,000, anybody that charges over £20,000 for any individual dimension is quickly priced out of the market. On top of that, acoustics is widely considered to be the kind of expensive luxury that remains out of the reach of many users, like that boutique noise gate that cannot be justified. “At least 50 per cent of the clients we enter into discussions with begin by telling us how highly recommended we are by Wave, or 750MPH, or Grand Central… but that they ‘cannot afford to build a Rolls-Royce’. But it doesn’t cost that much more to do it right, and if you don’t you’ll end up spending the money anyway. You have to follow Building Regulations, otherwise you’ll be obliged to fork out again to put something right. Well, the same applies to acoustic design. If you don’t make it a priority because of a perceived unattainability, you’ll soon find that it’s a false economy.” Others prioritise equipment, or certain types of equipment, because it can provide a very visible badge of honour on a competitive platform. But the number of admiring glances is diminished if your Rolls-Royce is parked on a scrapheap, and if that’s a Park Lane sounding metaphor let’s Soho it up a little: Pro Tools 12.5 HD with surround and over 32 hardware inputs, sitting in an inadequately isolated room, is pretty much the proverbial fur coat and no knickers.
Panels Bell also points out that the burgeoning industry for portable and remedial acoustic treatment products may have its place, and it is demonstrably popular, but it cannot be made responsible for curing the fundamental ills that can beset a facility on a basic architectural level. “I’ve seen
The Dolby Atmos room at post house Wave in London
plenty of acoustic treatment panels all over a perfect cube, so you’ve taken out virtually every frequency, but you still have an impossible room mode to deal with. We had to take two-thirds of the acoustic treatment away, and asked our old friend [acoustic specialist] Matt Dobson of Exigy to measure the system and move the monitors into a position that would work. In the end, I don’t think we charged anything! “Having removed a large section of acoustic treatment, and moved the loudspeakers to a position verified by accurate, professional measurements, it would have cost this client a lot less if he’d approached us in the first place. I’ve also known people, having orientated the desk one way, complain that the door was in the wrong place instead of simply re-orientating the desk.” Faced with such a rising tide of corrective consultation, it’s refreshing to hear of an undoubted success story in the annals of modern studio construction. Cenzo Townsend is the MPG Award-winning producer and engineer behind countless hits, and where once he might have been an habitué of Olympic and elsewhere he now runs his own studio, Decoy, at home in Suffolk. White Mark was the acoustic designer. “As a total design it all makes sense,” reports Bell. “The initial control room didn’t need isolation because he’s at least 600m-800m from the nearest dwelling, and otherwise basically in a field. Bass absorption was unnecessary because it leaks out through the lightweight walls, so we did some low-mid and mid-frequency absorption and some mid to high diffusion – fantastic. “He then built a live room and another satellite control room, so we floated the live room and fixed the second control room on a separate slab down at the other end of the building. The isolation works perfectly: he can use each room independently, including a second, smaller live area that was added later. The requirement was there to do it properly, and the acoustic treatment was created for the
room, not afterwards. Check out the ‘log-fuser’ – a large circular array of kiln-dried logs at one end of the live room…”
Workshops What the signatories would like to see in general, and Bell – a lecturer, Companion and degree-ceremony regular at the LIPA teaching institute – in particular, is more workshops and more stringent licensing by the various industry bodies and associations that become involved in the construction of audio studios in the normal course of events. “Students are the future,” says Bell. “I don’t know how you can teach microphone techniques in a room that sounds like the reception of a bank. If you close-mic a drum kit and then pull it back, it won’t sound any different if the reverberation time is two seconds. How do you teach Foley? You either close-mic and then use artificial reverb; or you use the natural acoustics of the room and tweak them to sound like the dramatic setting required. You won’t perceive the difference in those techniques if the room is flawed to start with. “I would love to arrange a series of seminars on this topic, involving studio owners, educators, acoustic designers and others. I really care about these standards and, before I retire, I’d like to think we could do something about them.” In contrast, when White Mark built a facility for Arbeitsgemeinschaft Rundfunkanstalten Deutschland (ARD) in London the specs were understandably rigorous, with the German clients exhibiting a friendly rivalry and a teasing desire to avoid ‘sounding like the BBC’. This, however, was the banter of peers, a professional competitiveness as opposed to a targeted critique of UK standards. It also reveals that even the most accurate measurements fail to achieve a universal sound, and that cultural preferences always take precedent in what could be described as the ultimate showdown between art and science. Can this confidence return? n www.whitemark.com
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Broadcast Writer-director-star of Lost in London Woody Harrelson on the street location with actor Ade Oyefeso and boom operator Steve Pritchard
Finding it in London Technical crews are often asked to perform the impossible. Woody Harrelson’s semi-autobiographical film Lost in London called for massive logical planning and plenty of RF and other connections, as Kevin Hilton reports
any writers and artists have based work on a traumatic episode in their lives as a form of catharsis. Actor Woody Harrelson has done this by writing a screenplay based on the 2002 incident when he was arrested during a crazy night in London. The difference is he then decided to perform the script live on location, streaming to cinemas in a production involving a single-take camera shot and multiple microphones and radio receivers. Promoted as the world’s first live feature film, Lost in London was screened on 19 January to 550 cinemas in the US and one, the Picturehouse independent screen in the UK capital itself. Harrelson, who directed as well as starred as himself, appeared in several online trailers promoting the venture before the event and wondering at the wisdom of his choice. Vicki Betihavas produced the live staging of Lost in London and says other production executive had
to be convinced that it could be performed and ‘broadcast’ live: “Woody was always going to film it live and I was asked whether it was possible. I thought it was ambitious and although there was the thought that they could never do it live, I knew in my heart it could work.” To make this feeling a reality Betihavas consulted wireless system specialist Broadcast RF. “They sent their guys out on a reccie, because without the RF link it wouldn’t work,” she says. Nick Fuller, Broadcast RF’s project manager for the production, went round the 14 proposed locations in central London looking for suitable receive positions. Eventually 54 antennas were set up, with a Domo HD transmitter built into a transmit backpack connected to the Alexa Mini, which was handheld for 100 minutes by camera operator John Hembrough. Tim Fraser, head of sound on the project, and his audio number two, Simon Bishop, worked out sound could “hitch a ride” on the video uplink by being
embedded into the video stream from the camera. “To do this we added some audio kit to the rucksack on the grip’s back,” Bishop explains. “We had an Ambient TinyMic on the camera and three channels of radio mic receive in the sack. The foundation of the audio set up was a series of hubs that would handle the dialogue at specific locations, with the output going to a main control room manned by Fraser at the Central Saint Martins (CSM) art school in Holborn. The primary hubs were the bag hub, the van hub and the restaurant hub. The first of these was a mobile rig run by recordist Geoff Price, who heaved a Sound Devices 688 mixer-recorder, a SL6 radio mic rack, expander fader module, additional RM receivers and “a good few transmitters” around on a Dedleg support. “Geoff was always close to the camera and sent it a mix of various sources,” Bishop says. “Sometimes it would be from another hub and at others he could mix directly the radio mic packs on the actors. Geoff
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Head of audio Tim Fraser running the main dialogue mix on Yamaha consoles
was a bit like a mobile telephone exchange, routing the feeds from other mixers to the camera.” Fraser adds that this arrangement meant there was always only a “short hop” to the camera for the feeds. The van hub was built into a Mercedes Viano minibus with Ian Sands at another SD688, with a CL12 controller, Zaxcom Nomad FP8 fader panel, SL6 rack and assorted radio mic receivers and transmitters. “I was looking after anything with wheels,” he explains. This included following a Volkswagen camper, two London black cabs and a police van, which all played a part in the comedydrama and were fitted with hidden mics and mag mount antennas. The third hub was based at a restaurant, from where Simon Bishop also covered a nearby theatre and adjacent street. “I brought in a rack of eight Sennheiser receivers and some extra aerials and combiners and we fed them up the fibre from the theatre to the restaurant, where I could mix those two locations and the street,” Bishop comments. Equipment at this location included an Allen & Heath GLD80 mixer with two expander boxes to give 40 inputs and 20 outputs, a 12-channel rack of Sennheiser receivers, Audio Ltd EN2 link transmitters, Lectrosonics Rx wireless receivers and a Sennheiser in-ear monitor transmitter. Because the first 25-minutes of the ‘broadcast’ took place between the theatre, the restaurant and the connecting street it was decided Bishop would mix the dialogue from his position. Main mixing responsibility then passed to Tim Fraser at CFM, where three sets had been built for scenes in the police station, including the front desk, interview room and a cell. Fraser mixed on a Yamaha QL5 console, which Bishop says was partly chosen because it allowed for delay to be dialled into the signal and so sync up incoming feeds. “The delay was the main problem,” Fraser acknowledges. “We couldn’t predict what it was going to be. We thought maybe 0.6 to 0.7 seconds but it ended up at 720 milliseconds via the camera. That was coming through the Alexa Mini encoder, with the embedded signal going into a Cobham transmitter. The delay meant it was difficult to do neat crossfades.” The dialogue mix was sent to the Red TX mobile
Audio team in the Red TX mobile studio (left to right): grams op Ollie Nesham, Holophone effects boom op Rohan Igoe, recording engineer Steve Massey and dubbing mixer Tim Summerhayes
studio, parked round the back of CFM. Here Tim Summerhayes added effects and music – composed by Antony Genn and Martin Slattery of The Hours and performed live in the truck – and, as Vicki Betihavas observes, acted as a re-recording mixer in a film dub. One scene featured pre-recorded dialogue by Bono, who, as on the real night, spoke to Woody Harrelson via his mobile phone while the actor was under arrest in a police van. The U2 singer’s ‘part’ was played in line by line from a QLab Go Button app by sound assistant Sara Sanchez, who had to lie on the floor of the van. There were approximately 30 actors with lines in the film, most of who were on Sennheiser wireless mics. These were supplied and rigged by Terry Tew Sound and Light Hire. The four boom operators on location also worked wirelessly, using Audio Ltd gear
to link to the appropriate hub. Something as unpredictable as a live film was bound to have its glitches but these were relatively minor, including a radio mic that Fraser describes as sounding “RF-ie” and some echoey spaces on the opening scenes. As a DVD release is on the cards all the dialogue was recorded for future remixing. Price and Sands laid tracks on to their SD688s, while Fraser and Bishop used Sound Devices PIX970 multitracks, using Dante and MADI connections respectively. Fraser concludes that if he ever had to do something like this again he would do the same, only with a few tweaks. The question is whether anyone else as unconventional as Woody Harrelson is around to do it. n www.red-tx.com
Woody Harrelson plays a scene on the police station front desk set with Peter Ferdinando as the duty officer, while camera operator John Hembrough and boom swinger Loveday Harding look on
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Religion on the radio Philip Stevens takes a look at how specialist broadcasters carry out their work
nscribed in Latin above a sculpture of The Sower on the iconic Broadcasting House in London’s West End are the words “This temple of the arts and muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors of Broadcasting in the year 1931, Sir John Reith being director general. It is their prayer that good seed sown may bring forth a good harvest, that all things hostile to peace or purity may be banished from this house, and that the people, inclining their ear to whatsoever things are beautiful and honest and of good report, may tread the path of wisdom and uprightness.” From its very early days, the BBC has seen religious broadcasting as a significant part of its mandate. But that has been just a part of both the Corporation’s television and radio output. More recently, there has been an explosion of radio stations whose sole purpose is to proclaim the Christian message. (Of course, other religions are catered for by similarly dedicated radio outlets.) “Premier began in 1995 as an AM London-only mixed format Christian radio station – the first analogue religious broadcaster in the UK,” states Dave Rose, programme director at Premier Christian Radio. “In the last 21 years, we have expanded to become a national digital broadcaster, with two additional channels – Premier Gospel is a digital gospel music station for London, and Premier Praise (our newest service) is a national digital praise and worship music station. All three of our stations broadcast live online 24 hours a day.” Premier is based in Westminster from where it operates three live broadcast studios, and three additional production studios. Rose continues: “Premier Gospel and Premier Praise is virtually 100 per cent produced in house, with a mix of general and specialist music programming. Premier Christian Radio airs about 40 per cent of externally produced programming – largely a result of Bible teaching from around the world, especially the US.” Where those programmes come from outside sources, the station accepts WAV and very high quality MP3 files.
Choice of equipment “For production purposes, we have recently begun moving over to Axia Fusion consoles. We made that choice because we want to be as flexible as possible, both in terms of inputs into the studio – we have a large news department so need a range of outside sources – but also in terms of moving the three stations around
From Germany, ERF Today broadcasts over satellite and digital radio, and two Internet radio stations.
Automation plays a huge role at IRRS. Much of the equipment is custom designed and built in-house
the studios depending on their needs,” says Rose. Premier has opted to use Audio-Technica AT4033ASM microphones and a Burli system for recording. Burli is also utilised for basic editing, with Protools being the choice for more advanced work. “Burli, as a news system, is also used by our news team – so it makes sense for us to use one system in the studio, where possible,” adds Rose.
The news team source, write, and record their own Christian news and Christian angle on breaking stories. Premier also subscribes to IRN/SKY news, who provide some audio packages that are incorporated in to the bulletins. RCS Zetta is used for studio playout across all three of Premier’s outlets. “Where we cover external activities such as church services and conference we tend to use either Comrex
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or Skype for those events. We don’t have a location vehicle, and using IP/Internet systems give us the maximum flexibility to be able to broadcast from most places,” explains Rose.
Nexus makes widespread use of shortwave for its broadcasts
The way ahead So, what does Rose see as the biggest changes in religious broadcasting in recent times? “Across most radio – and indeed media – we are seeing increased fragmentation of audience as choice for consumers increases. Religious broadcasters face this too, as we deal with the competition of online music services, devotionals and teaching.” With that in mind, how does he view the future of such broadcasting? “I think we will need to ensure we are offering a unique take on what we do – something they can’t get anywhere else. It’s also possible, as the West moves in a more secular direction, we will face more challenge as to the nature of our beliefs, our broadcasting and our organisation,” Rose comments. “But we do have a unique programming mix that is available to anyone around the world online, so we encourage everyone to check us out!”
A view from Germany ERF Medien, which started operations in 1959, broadcasts from a studio centre in Wetzlar, near Frankfurt, Germany. As far as radio operations are concerned, the media group began broadcasting over shortwave from Radio Monte Carlo in February 1961. Three years later, programming was using a medium wave frequency. Broadcasting over satellite started in 1994. “Today we have two programmes over satellite and digital radio, along with television broadcasts and two Internet radio stations,” explains Thomas Merz, the group’s media IT expert. “We have two studios for TV, and six for our radio productions.” Merz says that its output is mainly produced in-house. It also operates its own location vehicle for recording about 40 services each year in various churches, plus special events for both TV and radio. “For audio recording on location, we use a software based solution, synchronised for independent TV and radio recording. We have Rocknet stageboxes which take the split analogue-microphone signals,” explains Merz. “The control – gain, phantom, routing – is software controlled. From the Rocknet we take a MADI Stream and record via an RME Interface in our Samplitude Laptop. This multitrack recording is then edited in our studios.” Within the studio facility, a mixture of Soundcraft RM1d, Vi4, Vi2 and Studer OnAir1500 consoles are installed. “We carried out a number of tests on various consoles, and found these to be very reliable,” says Merz. He continues: “We use mainly Rode NT-2A microphones in the studios, while for street-Interviews
our preferred options are Sennheiser MD421 and AKG C900. For music and service recording, we have quite a range from AKG, beyerdynamic and Neumann. Where radio microphones are needed, we work with the AKG DMS700.” For recording and editing, ERF has selected Magix Samplitude and Seqouia in combination with RME Audio interfaces. “We have been using Magix for a long time now – and the service works fine. RME Interfaces are great and the Metering Software Digicheck saves us a lot of equipment in the studios,” says Merz. Playout is handled by CAPS 2 from EELA Audio.
Developing opportunities “We are seeing an increased use of IP technology, but if a good non-IP system fulfils its purpose, then we see no reason to change it. Having said that, for the studio links, all routes are working on AoIP – with the exception of our on-site FM transmitter,” explains Merz. IP is one change that will continue developing, but what does Merz see as the other significant changes that are on the horizon? “Technologies are allowing more ministries than ever before to produce material for broadcasting. Social media is a great platform for this and with those opportunities, broadcasting is no longer regional, but worldwide,” he says. “In a complex and fast world radio is having like a renaissance. It is simple, you don’t need an account or username and so on. In combination with a good on-demand and Internet offer radio is a great opportunity for us.”
Relaying religion “With the help of a few friends, I created IRRS Globe Radio Milan on FM in 1979, when I was 19, and studying
at the University of Milan,” explains Alfredo E. Cotroneo, CEO and founder, NEXUS-International Broadcasting Association. “NEXUS is a non-profit association of broadcasters and programme producers, that we founded in 1988. NEXUS-IBA operates European Gospel Radio for Christian programme producers, and IPAR (Intentional Public Access Radio) for secular news and cultural programmes. NEXUS is a Latin word for link, and we aim at being the link between content producers and listeners, by means of radio, TV and Internet. We are offering our media – shortwave, satellite, internet – to those who do not have stations or technical facilities (or are not technically minded) to be able to broadcast on their own.” Cotroneo himself built the original FM transmitters and antennas, starting with 5, 15, then 50 and 300W. After that, he bought a 1,500W commercial transmitter when companies started producing them commercially in Italy. The IRRS (Italian Radio Relay Service) name was registered at that time, and describes the original idea of a relay-station, rather than a conventional radio station with its own studio and programming. “At that time the only way to receive international news was as a shortwave listener, (or with) magazines and newspapers. Of course, there was no satellite and no Internet, so I managed to establish contacts with the transcription services of several foreign radio stations,that sent us programmes in English on cassette tapes. I originally built the automation in 1979, using a Sinclair Spectrum computer, digital I/O interfaces and a bunch of Sony MTL-10 cassette players.” The station was sponsored by a few Christian programme makers (Family Radio and La Buona
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Technology feature Studio 1 at Premier Radio in London
The coverage of Nexus’ AM transmissions
Novella Broadcasts), and later by the BBC. In fact, the BBC installed a satellite dish later in the mid-1990s, and that provided the means to transmit real-time news into greater Milan.
Beating the jams “In 1988 we got a special deal with the Swiss PTT, and acquired one, and later a second, 10kW PEP Siemens Shortwave transmitter, capable of operating in fully automated mode from 1.6 to 21MHz,” says Cotroneo. “We received enthusiastic reception reports from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, and of course, we crossed the Iron Curtain into Eastern Europe - with none of the jamming that others such as the BBC and Voice of America experienced. Today, we relay a great many Christian programmes produced in the USA, mainly in English, German, Spanish and Russian.” Being a relay station, there is no studio, as such, with all transmissions being handled by automated equipment. Cotroneo continues: “Around 1990, I imported the first digital audio boards - Windows and soundblasters were not yet available - and built an alldigital radio automation system using PCM cards under MS-DOS. This enabled us to duplicate cassette tapes into PCM digital audio files on removable hard – later optical – disks, and carry them to the station on a weekly basis to update the local computer used to feed audio and automate our transmitters.” Cotroneo reports that the FM station in Milan was sold and shut down in 1998, a move which helped the operation to refocus on shortwave. “We have not yet used DAB, but we started offering satellite radio and TV to our members, as well as AM in 2011,” says Cotroneo. Today, IRRS uses high power shortwave transmitters by agreement and licenced by several countries in Europe. The power ranges from 100 to 300kW with the main target audiences being in Africa, India and China.
“In some of these areas shortwave is still a viable and only means of reaching people, especially with news and Christian messages,” explains Cotroneo. He adds that the station started streaming on the Internet in 1995 as a beta tester of RealAudio – making IRRS among the first to pioneer the technology. At that time, he realised the ongoing potential of radio and TV over the Internet and started developing his own technology called WorldDirector. The aim was to build a globally distributed CDN (now a globally distributed cloud) to deliver audio streaming from several data centres in Europe, US and Asia. This technology is now used by a sister company, Wornex International, to provide advanced cloud servers, by aggregating several cloud providers. “We still follow the same old idea of relaying other organisation programme material,” declares Cotroneo. “We accept programmes in MP3 format, uploaded to our servers or, occasionally, on compact disks and real time Internet or satellite feeds. In addition, we use an all server-based scheduling software, based on an artificial intelligence engine, that I custom-designed and still maintain.” With his unique operation, how does Cotroneo see religious broadcasting changing over the next few years? “While most US organisations are involved in broadcasting within their own country, we are mainly focused in other areas such as Europe, Africa and Asia. US broadcasters are mainly involved in finding sponsors among listeners, and we make it very clear from the beginning that any international broadcast must have a truly missionary spirit. This is extremely important, if a US Christian organisation wants to engage in international broadcasting.”
French language Financed by media activities, partnership and audience
donations, RCF (Radio Chrétienne Francophone – French language Christian network) reaches an audience of over half a million. Founded in 1985, the network now operates over 60 stations and 250 frequencies in France and Belgium. In May 2016, the Liège station underwent an upgrade, which included three new studios built around Axia PowerStation console engines serving Axia Element consoles, and a fourth – designed for production and interviews is equipped with an Axia virtual mixer. Other equipment includes AudioTechnica microphones and Genelec 8020 series studio monitors. The interview rooms share an analogue Eela Audio EA915X telephone hybrid, while the on-air studios use a digital Telos ONE plus ONE hybrid, all of which is under the control of the Axia console. To make provision for future ‘visual radio’, RCF selected DAVID Systems Turbo Player play-out software, with Sound4 IP Connect. At the same time, RCF Liège introduced a compact mobile kit which is used for outside broadcasts. This configuration comprises an AETA Scoopy+ HD and an integrated 3G card holder which allows direct mobile network access alongside an ISDN connection. Other components in this lightweight unit include a Yamaha 01V96i digital mixer, a Tascam DD-CR 200 CD reader, Audio-Technica microphones and beyerdynamic DT790 headphones, DI boxes and cabling. One wonders if Sir John Reith, quoted earlier, would be pleased with the harvest that has been borne since 1931? n www.nexus.org www.audio-technica.com www.avid.com www.riedel.net www.soundcraft.com
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Lawo router scores on film music tour The Nova37 hybrid router played a key role in the undertaking of last month’s Vladimir Cosma concert tour, linking up mixing consoles and stagebox via the RAVENNA protocol, notes Marc Maes
acked by a 60-strong symphonic orchestra and choir, multi-award winning composer, violinist and conductor Vladimir Cosma has recently highlighted 50 years of career with a concert tour. Romanian-born Cosma, 76, is looking back on a huge repertoire of film scores, operas and symphonic works. While he is perhaps most famous for legendary French movies such as Rabbi Jacob and Le Grand Blond avec une Chaussure Noire (The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe), he also composed symphonic music and military and concert band music. Cosma played four dates in Toulouse, Geneva (Switzerland), Rouen and closing in Lille. For Lawo’s live sound specialist Hervé de Caro, this big production live tour was an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the Lawo Nova37’s abilities to provide optimal solutions for live sound reinforcement. He found the inspiration for the router in houses of worship… “Actually, the idea for a router was meant as a solution for the churches in the United States – during the service, they very often use three consoles (FOH, monitor and broadcast). By linking these three elements on a Nova router, everybody gets access to all pre-amps, microphones and exchange buses and audio data,” de Caro says. “The Cosma concerts premiered the use of a Nova37 router on tour.” The audio configuration during the four symphonic concerts consisted of a Lawo mc² 56 console as FOH and a mc² 36 as monitor desk. “The Nova37 is equipped with eight RAVENNA/AES67 and eight MADI I/O’s. Every component connected to the Nova37 is automatically shared with the other work stations in the network. The Nova37, in its key role establishes automatically the tie-line connections when FOH and monitoring share busses and mic preamps. All connections are available directly in the signal list of each console, so the user has just to patch his necessary resources and doesn’t need to worry about the work done automatically by the Nova37,” explains de Caro. “The Lawo-consoles connected to the Nova37 router can, in the cloud, distribute and receive 128 channels. Connected via the RAVENNA-gate, the engineer can either opt for 256 channels in the cloud, or 128 channels and another 128 spare channels for redundancy.”
The Lawo mc² 56 console as FOH
De Caro says that, for this specific show, he opted for maximal redundancy throughout the whole system. “The Nova37 stores everything in the cloud,” he continues. “The two monitor buses, the two FOH buses and the two Dallis stage box buses – all 128 I/O and redundancy.” The fact that all components are shared allows the FOH engineer to configure and send sub-groups directly from the FOH console to the monitor position without one single cable, all connected via RAVENNA and the Nova37. “The FOH engineer makes premixes for violins, celli and contrabasses - the monitor engineer then decides, via the incorporated one-touch rights management system, which musician gets to hear a specific monitor mix,” comments Martial Alix, monitor engineer (earning his ‘Lawo driver’s licence’ during the tour). “I particularly appreciate the flexibility of the mc² 36’s touch-screen operation, the user-friendly faders and of course, the pristine sound. To make sure that all of the instruments get the same sound colour, we used two types of identical microphones, placed at the same
height, for the orchestra, avoiding any difference in sound by mixing various brands.” De Caro underlines that the mc² 36 was not specially developed for monitoring. “But a future version of the console could contain a dedicated control section, exclusively designed and elaborated for monitor engineers – leaving the option to use the mixing desk for either MON or FOH assignments,” he predicts, adding that Lawo appreciates feedback from live engineers reporting ‘from the field’ resulting in developments like a cue-list and the option to control inputs via multiple VCA’s. The audio configuration for the French Vladimir Cosma tour was supplied by major French rental house Dushow and consisted of 2 x 12 flown Meyer Sound Lyon line array cabinets, 2 x 4 Meyer Leopard speakers on stage and 2 x 3 Meyer Sound 1100-LFC subs. Monitors were all L-Acoustics eight 12XT side wedges, eight 8XT as front monitors and an additional pair of 12XT wedges on either side of the conductor’s stand in
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System engineer Jean-Philippe Bonichon
Composer, violinist and conductor Vladimir Cosma
front of the orchestra. System engineer Jean-Philippe Bonichon was particularly happy to work with the double Lawo set-up. “I had the opportunity to work with a Lawo mc² 56 some time ago for the production of a musical – it was a superb experience and that’s why I’ve decided to continue with Lawo for this more acoustic production. The mc² is the Rolls-Royce amongst mixing consoles, with top notch components, a genial dynamic section, smooth running faders and, above all, a great sound,” enthuses Bonichon. He explains that he preferred to let the console do all the work, limiting his outboard to one single remotely controlled TC M6000 reverb. “The console is also connected, via MADI, with a Waves SoundGrid platform
The tour was backed by a 60-strong orchestra and choir
and I use a few plug-ins on the lead vocals, internally inserted on the mc², with direct access on the touchscreen display – what more can a man want?” The first plan was, according to Bonichon, to stage a fully digital production but he soon realised that finding (the budget for) 128 digital microphones was not evident. He opted for a mix of Neumann KM 184 and AKG C414 microphones all routed directly into the console. “I put together sub group mixes in the FOH desk, and shared them on the Nova37 router. The monitor signal is then channeled to the side fills and front monitors. The director gets a specific monitor mix on the side wedges,” he explains. Despite the fact that reinforcing a symphonic orchestra and the respect for the balance and sound
colour always represents some challenge, Bonichon is happy with the way he worked with the Lawo/Meyer Sound kit. “At some point, the sound was so natural that people didn’t know whether the sound system was on – if you don’t notice the difference between the original acoustic sound and the amplification – that’s a nice compliment, no?” De Caro remains somewhat modest when asked whether the Nova37 is the basis for the future sound system. “That’s perhaps too pretentious… But the sure thing is that we at Lawo have developed a flexible and plug-and-play solution. The big advantage of this configuration is its complete and full redundancy, sharing everything in the cloud,” he concludes. n www.lawo.de
Slogan created by: Name: Tim Jacobs Job title: Technical Director Company: NBC Universal
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Al di Meola has been releasing music since the early 1970s Photo credit: Paul Sebald
APG all over di Meola When jazz legend Al Di Meola played Darmstadt’s late last year, Tonwerk’s Jan Weimann deployed a Uniline FOH system from APG to turn up the Latin heat. Dave Robinson tunes in
l di Meola is quite specific about loud stage environments,” says FOH engineer Jan Weimann. “The Uniline system has such a great directivity that there’s so little sound spill to the stage from the PA system.” Weimann is reflecting on the sell-out gig by the jazz-fusion veteran, staged at the 1,000-capacity Straatstheatre late last year. PA and lighting house Tonwerk supplied the APG kit for the Darmstadt date, one of string of dates across Europe in 2016 which saw the ‘Elysium & More Unplugged’ band – di Meola with Peo Alfonsi on second guitar and Peter Kaszas – showcasing material from the di Meola’s Elysium solo album plus highlights from a career stretching back to the early 1970s. “In the beginning it was quite hard for me to understand what [Al] really wanted for his stage sound,” admits Weimann. After a while I realised that the whole relation between monitors, acoustic instruments and reflections from the room had to be a certain way to create the right atmosphere. We had to move the acrylic drumshield and the monitors a few times until it was perfect. I was really impressed by the high level of virtuosity and musicality of all three musicians on-stage. Of course, Al di Meola is really in a class of his own.” The APG Uniline system was configured to provide high-clarity coverage for every seat with minimal backward spill. Comprised of left and right hangs of eight UL210 three-way line array modules per
side, with bass support from three stacked UL115B subs, the system was driven by APG controllers. For Weimann, APG’s Uniline is his preferred system because, he says, it implements a “large stereo image, compared to other systems where you have a small stereo spot just in the middle of the room with ‘switching’ either to one or the other side.” Weimann has reinforced many artists playing the Straatstheatre with the modular Uniline system, and he points out, “it performs extraordinarily well with artists like Al Di Meola.” He states the reason behind this as, “the [proprietary] isotop driver doesn’t colour the sound but replicates it honestly – and there’s no sharpness or any kind of ‘masking’ as the music rises in intensity and volume. “I often use the word ‘Durchhörbarkeit’ to describe the APG sound, which could translate as being able to actually listen to the music, instead of just hearing it. To give you an example, I did a shoot-out last year with a number of speaker brands, and the Uniline system was the only one capable of identifying all five instruments of a horn section in an arrangement.” The engineer has known about France’s APG for a few years. (Coverage of the loudspeaker maker’s takeover by Active Audio was featured prominently in PSNEurope April 2016.) “I came across APG the first time in 2010 when I was looking for new stage monitors for [Tonwerk’s]
rental stock,” continues Weimann. “I had the DX12 for testing and I immediately liked the intelligent design, the low profile and small size, the ergonomic features, such as the integrated speaker adapter, the angle plate for the rigging clamp, the two different angles for putting it on the stage and the position of the Speakon [connectors], so that it’s nearly impossible to damage them in any way.” (As an aside, he mentions a recent Ute Lemper gig at the Darmstadt venue, where monitoring for the German star was “quite difficult”: “With the APG monitors we quickly had a satisfying result for her,” he notes.) In 2014, Tonwerk committed to a full Uniline system, while also upgrading to the DX15 monitor model. “We’ve made a few club installations in Darmstadt where the technicians and the audience are very satisfied with the products. APG is not well known in Germany, [but] all of the artists I work with are happy with the APG sound.” Weimann heard the new Uniline Compact series for the first time shortly after its 2016 launch: “I must say, I was really impressed. I never expected such tonality and low mids from a system of this small size. Compared to systems like [L-Acoustics] KIVA or d&b T-Series, the Uniline Compact sounds much larger.” Back to the night in question, and the fiery fusion of Latin and jazz for which di Meola is famed. Weimann, mixing with a Yamaha CL5, takes the
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pressure of working with high calibre artists in his stride. “Al di Meola is known for being a perfectionist when it comes to sound, so if you can rely on the material you are using, like the Uniline Series from APG, there is not much to go wrong.” n www.aldimeola.com www.apg.audio
On stage with the maestro are Peo Alfonsi on second guitar and Peter Kaszas. Photo credit: Paul Sebald
Jan Weimann, FOH
I OFTEN USE THE WORD ‘DURCHHÖRBARKEIT’ TO DESCRIBE THE APG SOUND, WHICH COULD TRANSLATE AS BEING ABLE TO ACTUALLY LISTEN TO THE MUSIC, INSTEAD OF JUST HEARING IT
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View from the monitor position: String players for Massive Attack’s Hyde Park 2016 encore of Unfinished Sympathy used KLANG 3D
Cling to KLANG Dave Robinson gets the full 360 degrees on the nascent 3D in-ear monitoring company from its co-founder Pascal Dietrich
LANG was founded in January 2014 by three acousticians and electrical engineers from the Institute of Technical Acoustics at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. All three founders also have a background in music and sound engineering. Combining many years of scientific research in acoustics, two PhD studies and a passion for playing live music led to the invention of ‘3D in-ear monitoring’. Since then, musicians, sound engineers and developers have joined the team. “Everyone in our team is either an audio engineer or a musician, with different and unique backgrounds and experiences. All together we strive for the goal to improve the world of hearing for everyone around the world, ” says KLANG’s Dr Pascal Dietrich.
A range of KLANG apps running on various platforms
Isn’t Klang the German word for ‘clang’, as in, a dissonant sound? Pascal Dietrich: Quite the opposite! ‘Klang’ is the German word for ‘sound’ and is associated with sonically good and principled attributes. All our products have German names, added with a colon to the word KLANG, as in KLANG:fabrik, KLANG:quelle and KLANG:vier. ‘fabrik’ is German for ‘factory’, ‘quelle’ means ‘source’ and ‘vier’ is the number four, representing the four headphone outputs.
3D-in ear monitoring – how did you come up with the idea? When playing with my band over 10 years ago, I experienced the sound transparency problem of mono and stereo in-ear mixing when switching from wedges to in-ears. All instruments were heard inside the head and not naturally distributed around it. It led me to thinkof a solution that combined binaural technique with an option for headtracking and features for personal monitor mixers.
All of us have experienced a situation when several people around us talk to each other. Our ears and brain are trained to localise sound sources and we are able to effortlessly focus on sounds coming from a certain direction. All other sounds are attenuated and not in our focus. This psychoacoustic effect helps us to communicate better. The same is true for music. When all spatial cues required by our ears are present, we can focus on instruments, not by concentrating on their sound character but on their locations around our head. That’s why it feels so natural to listen to a good binaural sound mix. Plus, it prevents listening fatigue.
place. Binaural recording works with an artificial head and small microphones built into the plastic ears. As it is physically based on the human head, the artificial model can record the environment exactly as our own ears would do. In many years of research, KLANG’s 3D technology for headphones was optimised to deliver the best and natural sounding 3D impression – practically in real-time. The KLANG algorithm accounts for tiny time and amplitude differences between the sound arriving on both ears, depending on the angle of sound incidence. Furthermore, these tiny differences are frequency dependent to allow sounds not only to be heard on a horizontal ring around you but also above and below the head.
How does it work?
Can I ‘Klangify’ the IEMs I already have?
One way to transfer the natural hearing power to headphones is to have spatially recorded audio in the first
Yes. It works with any pair of decent stereo headphones or in-ears. The required spatial cues are processed in
Why does a performer need 3D-IEM?
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respect and understanding for the people and scenes in the industry.
KLANG:fabrik and sent to the ear pieces by standard stereo headphone amps or wireless in-ear transmitters. The optional motion tracker KLANG:vektor, which is soon to be released, can be attached to any in-ears with a two pin connector. For other headphones a separate sensor cable will be available.
Where do you see the tech leading? KLANG offers the most advanced personal monitoring system ever – not only in the unique and unmatched binaural processing – but also in its intuitive nature, reliability and flexibility. Additionally it integrates well in monitoring situations with a monitor engineer.
Who has been using it? Some high profile examples include: Glasperlenspiel, a top German act; David Gilmour; The Heritage Orchestra on their show at London’s Hyde Park with Massive Attack; Hammerfall, a heavy metal band, currently on world tour; and monitor engineer Pasi Hara, who works with System of a Down, Slash and Fergie.
What’s been the most impressive/unexpected mix you’ve heard through the system?
Andy Huffer in the UK is a big advocate of yours: how did he get involved? Our sales team knew HD Pro Audio by name and reputation, so they were an obvious first choice of contact in the UK. After we had some initial talks about cooperating, we not only realised that we share a common attitude and philosophy with Andy, but that he and his team are also respected and resourceful salesmen who understand it’s not only commercial interests that count, but also a
Dr Pascal Dietrich: a love of live music and a solid background in research
The experiences have occasionally been amusing, like an orchestra babbling into their mics during the break, which makes heads turn in confusion because it feels like they are talking behind the listeners. We also have creative users who discovered the sonic beauty of hearing a kick drum from slightly above the nose! Whenever we visit our users, who are often respected, innovative thinkers amongst the most audiophile of engineers, we constantly discover new variations on how they are using our products. And each one is unique, creative and beautiful. n www.klang.com
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Michael Michaelis is one of the main engineers on the English grime scene, best known for his work with 2016 Mercury Prize winner Skepta. (His ETAL-fitted Amphion amplifiers are sitting on, erm, a box)
Some mighty morphing is taking place in the OEM power market, finds Phil Ward
t Olympia, PLASA was chock full of loudspeaker brands going self-powered – although, ironically, it wasn’t themselves powering at all: it was a growing roster of third party suppliers. The list included Shermann Audio, Aura Audio, Blue Acoustic, EM Acoustics, FBT and others, and nobody was being shy. OEM, it seems, is suddenly respectable. The forces behind this revelation are many and varied, but one thing’s for sure. It’s OEM, Jim, but not as we know it… Coming soon: a DSP module like this with added power, from recent UK start-up NST Audio
D:ream Chris Full, independent sound designer and founder of Creative Sound Design, was part of the team that developed Duran Audio’s powered solutions and applies this kind of technology to the mission-critical domain of theatre, and elsewhere. He sees traditional OEM as being on the back foot. “There aren’t that many people left doing straightforward OEM work any more,” he says. “Most of them have been bought up by the big players. Integration makes sense; we have to have powered speakers. I spent years in theatres putting in dual infrastructures when there were just a few Meyer powered products or similar. Now the market allows one framework because of the development of the technology in the power blocks. OEM is becoming affordable, too, where it happens: at one time you transferred your amplifier knowledge into your speaker in some way, whereas now the OEM – especially Class D stuff – is much more compact and efficient. “Most loudspeakers are too small to have a complete
amplifier built in, and some older models compromised the power rating to get it squeezed in. There were many trade-offs – not always obvious to people – and those who really wanted powered loudspeakers accepted them. But the technology has got better, and the tradeoffs fewer – if not gone completely.” This is a market dominated by Italian manufacturer Powersoft. Most of those loudspeakers going powered at PLASA mentioned Powersoft in dispatches, and it’s no secret that the company has devoted a lot of time and, erm, energy to building up a healthy roster of OEM customers around the world. In fact, it’s the full-time job of account manager for OEM and amp modules Matteo Bianchini to maintain and develop the complex relationships that are needed to make this business model work. “I try to be as ubiquitous as possible,” he smiles. “And more people are being open about using our OEM products, especially in loudspeakers. We joke among
ourselves that this is so they can blame us if there’s an issue…” Supplying such a huge market demands certain economies of scale, even though the portfolio is broad. “We learned that selling amp modules is never about just selling per se,” Bianchini continues. “It’s about establishing a relationship with a manufacturer, understand his needs and being there to support them in any phase: design, certification, after sales, logistics and stock management ... So we have to make a great amp module that is also as consistent, flexible and versatile as possible, able to do many different jobs. This is why our new products, LiteMod 4HC and MiniMod 4, are conceived as platforms able to cover a huge number of different applications and configurations: we look forward to showing them officially at the next PL+S.” Offering this technology in truly turnkey solutions with amp, heatsink and DSP all in one naturally makes the integration process easier and faster,
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Bianchini points out, as well as increasing the reach of Powersoft’s quality control and speeding up the time to market. “But we’re open aim to collaborate too,“ he adds, “especially with third-party DSP developers. We like our partners to have as many options as possible to tailor their own solutions.”
Zero tolerance While launching branded rackmount products latterly, UK-based Linea Research continues to report healthy growth in its OEM power module business. Engineering director Ben Ver explains why. “Trying to do DSP and electronics from ground zero is extremely costly and difficult, even for huge manufacturing concerns. So yes, if you can afford it, buy an amplifier company,” he says. “If you can’t, you need an OEM electronics supplier. When we started in 2003, powered speakers were definitely on every loudspeaker company’s agenda, and many thought they could do it themselves. Others, however, knew there was more to it, and they were our first customers! “What’s happened since is, firstly, many of them tried and failed and are now seeing the advantages we can bring; and secondly we’ve got over their reticence over the sound quality of Class D – and you simply can’t have a 1,000W Class A/B amplifier in the back of a speaker. I think companies such as ourselves and Powersoft have managed to dispel worries about Class D audio in the minds of OEM customers.” Following in the pioneering footsteps of Meyer Sound, the new landscape of high-end powered options from L-Acoustics, JBL and d&b audiotechnik has created a commercial imperative to take the powered route that is filtering down through the industry, as commercial imperatives do. This fans the flames ignited by enlightened respect for the technical challenge and acceptance of Class D, all in the warm glow of approving collaboration. “In fact,” adds Ver candidly, “putting Linea Research in it, or Powersoft or Pascal in it, will make their loudspeaker customers relax. They’ll know that the electronics come from companies that understand electronics.” Class D for audio wouldn’t be what it is today without Hypex, the Dutch manufacturer that first hand-picked Universal Class D technology – and its inventor Bruno Putzeys – from Philips. This created the market that tempted Swedish magnetics giant ETAL into audio, and this is where ETAL Group R&D manager Martin Carlzon surveys his new quarry. “In the loudspeaker market, we now sometimes get requests to include DSP as well as power,” he says. “We have a DSP partner that we work with, in case the customer can’t develop the DSP themselves, but otherwise it’s often a package that includes universal mains and auxiliary voltages to power their DSP board or other relevant circuitry. “We have three different series to cater for different levels of implementation. The AMS and ALC series
L PLATES When OEM is essentially in-house, you have a corporation. So the recent acquisition of Camco by L-Group, home of L-Acoustics loudspeakers, instantly transforms a classic OEM agreement into something for which the corporate buzzword is ‘synergy’. So why do it? Speaking exclusively to PSNEurope, MD of L-Group Hervé Guillaume emphasises the long-term strategic advantages. “For L-Acoustics, going from an OEM relationship to an in-house relationship with Camco made sense from a business and from an R&D point of view,” he says. “While an OEM relationship offers a certain amount of flexibility as each entity remains independent, the long and very fruitful relationship with Camco had been crucial to many of our successes at L-Acoustics, particularly the LA8 and now the LA12X amplified controllers. “We feel that future technological evolutions will reinforce the imbrication between electronics, signal treatment and speakers. Bringing the Camco team in-house allows all of the teams to create a synergy where creativity and expertise come together to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts, whether from a technical or strategic point of view. The result is better quality collaboration and a development and fabrication process that is secure over the long term, an essential point for our partners who are investing in the sustainability of
(L-R): Hervé Guillaume, managing director of L-Group; Reiner Sassmann and Joachim Stoecker, managing directors of Camco; Christian Heil, founder and president of L-Group
our systems.” “From Camco’s point of view,” adds Camco MD Reiner Sassman, “we had also felt the benefits of a solid and long partnership with L-Acoustics. It allowed Camco to be able to anticipate both products and orders on a longer-term basis, freeing up our teams to focus on engineering and being as creative and rigorous as possible. “Now, being part of a group that is solid and independent allows us to invest more resources not only in R&D but also in methods, quality, fabrication as well as in delivering product that are more reliable and better performing to our clients.”
Finnish monitor manufacturer Amphion uses ETAL’s Anaview AMS Class D amplifiers in the amplifiers that power Amphion’s Professional Monitor speakers
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use the same connectors, so it’s very easy to adopt any module from the series. If you make, say, a small studio monitor – which is where I would say most of our modules end up, because of the audio quality and the power range – or a large studio monitor, or a PA speaker, you can use the same DSP or Ethernet board and all you need to do is change the AMS module according to how powerful you need it to be.” One of the key drivers of ETAL’s growing loudspeaker OEM business is the kind of remedial service mentioned above: manufacturers approach them for expert advice having attempted a diversification into active speakers that proved far more difficult than they thought… “That’s very true,” says Carlzon. “Class D design, and everything that is to do with switching, is quite complicated. You have to consider so many more issues. For example, EMI [electro-magnetic interference] is much worse with a switching amplifier and a switching power supply. You don’t have that problem in a normal Class A/B transformer. “The same applies to how the switching noise can interfere with the audio signal. It’s a much more delicate decision-making process with a Class D amplifier.” So it would be fair to say that the recent surge in OEM activity in this field has at least partly been fuelled by the establishment of Class D as the default topology in pro audio amplification. Loudspeaker manufacturers are almost obliged to turn to expert suppliers such as ETAL and Powersoft given that the powered models they seek will almost exclusively depend upon Class D designs. “It was relatively easy to make a good product with the kind of Class A/B amplification that was around for decades,” adds Carlzon, “but, now that Class D has achieved a good enough level of audio and EMI performance, the advantages outweigh all the other considerations – even if it means outsourcing the actual power module development to people like ourselves.”
Pole volt Distributed audio for sound reinforcement offers a big future for companies like ETAL, who are able to bring the improvements in sound quality readily associated with studio monitoring to a wider audience. “We’ve introduced an audio transformer, in line with customer requests for compatibility with 100V line systems, specifically for our AMS1000 module – and we’ll develop more transformers for our other modules. We don’t need to change the design of the modules, it’s just a matter of adapting the power handling.” More established players in this field, like Powersoft and Denmark-based Pascal, have been mindful of this market from the beginning, making their power modules fully adaptable with distributed, networked audio systems with easy control access. “In our experience,” comments Pascal’s senior VP of business development Peter Frentz, “all of the following factors must be in place and optimised for specific applications within this market sector: power density
An exclusive shot of LiteMod 4HC and MiniMod 4 prototypes, right from Powersoft
and form factor; amp controls and readouts for DSP and networking; low residual noise; low idle energy consumption; future-proof regulatory compliance; and extremely high reliability. Business development in general, says Frentz, offers Pascal an opportunity to stick to its OEM guns despite – or perhaps because of – endemic systems integration. “Whether a large or small company, the current common denominator is no longer to be just a speaker manufacturer but to be a complete system provider, for select market and application segments,” he says. “Recent consolidation has seen leading pro audio OEM amplifier manufacturers either being acquired by loudspeaker manufacturers or themselves evolving to become complete system providers.
Shift into turbo Because of this drive into distributed audio, the integration paradigm is having its unique effect on OEM power modules. This is the paradigm that delivered, once again, a record-breaking Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) exhibition in Amsterdam last month, a forum for OEM traffic in every direction. Notably, one recent UK start-up is finding itself drawn into a business model, if not unforeseen, then certainly unexpected this soon. NST Audio co-founder Dan Cartman describes how the almost universal melding of amplification and DSP has reshaped his company’s thinking. “We have the DSP technology,” he says, “but customers are asking for amplification with it – particularly from an OEM point of view.” This is not exactly alien territory for co-founders Cartman, Andrew Grayland and Phil Key, given their industry pedigree at powerhouses such as BSS and XTA. But it is expanding their horizons beyond territory heavily farmed for software and algorithms. “We have branded, rackmount products,” says Cartman, “but for OEM we’re finding lots of gaps to fill, especially in the lower-powered product ranges. There are lots
of smaller loudspeaker packages that need power and DSP control. The move to complete integration of amplifiers has accelerated hugely in the last couple of years.” Boutique is another word to describe NST Audio, which in this market has its advantages, says Cartman. “If you’re a speaker manufacturer looking for reliability and support, you need personal attention. Small companies like dealing with small companies, and there’s plenty of room below the radar for reassuring bespoke services and solutions.” One such, combining power and DSP in two channels, will be viewable on the NST stand at Frankfurt, Cartman promises.
Infinity and beyond Another veil of refinement concerns the concept of ‘modular’ itself. Richard Fleming, sales and applications support manager for MC² Audio, admits that the company does not currently make any modules for anyone. “The margin is reduced,” he explains, “if it’s not in a 2U rackmounted box. Also, in fact, a lot of loudspeaker manufacturing electronics is good enough, to be honest. My background is in R&D and I’ve seen them.” But MC² Audio has a role to play in the new power landscape, he adds. “We just launched an amplifier at ISE that’s a 4-in, 8-out processor with four channels of amplification in the box, but it can seed external active speakers via analogue outputs or Dante. So suddenly there’s an integrated control solution because you can, in fact, connect those loudspeakers.” The connectivity is opening up, and pro audio power supply is developing into strange new shapes. It’s morphin’ time…n www.powersoft-audio www.linea-research.co.uk www.etalgroup.com www.pascal-audio.com nstaudio.com www.mc2-audio.co.uk
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Hither & winner More photos from this yearâ€™s MPG Awards...
Tony VIsconti was a big winner!
Andrew Hunt, Breakthrough Producer
The staff of RAK bag the Studio of the Year Award
Tim Dellow and Toby L with the A&R Award
Richard Woodcraft (right) wins Recording Engineer of the Year
Master Station serves up to 24 remote stations
Connection of User Stations via LAN with PoE switches or via powered daisy chain lines Full color high-resolution displays 48 kHz / 16 bit uncompressed audio 4 Master Stations may be linked Remote Speaker Station
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The Size of it Dave Robinson speaks to DJ and producer Roni Size ahead of him receiving the MPG Inspiration Award 2017
ast month, Bristol-native Roni Size joined Glyn Johns, Damon Albarn and Sylvia Massy as a recipient of the prestigious MPG Inspiration Award. The prize was bestowed upon Size at the Music Producers Guild’s annual gongfest in London, where he was also set to provide the star turn for the evening in the form of a solo, laptop-driven ‘AV’ set. This is a novel way of performing for Size more often seen on stage with Reprazent, a collective of DJs, musicians and singers/ rappers. Size describes himself as the “annoying kid” who would hang around Bristol’s Wild Bunch, a DJ crew that would spawn Massive Attack, Tricky and producer Nellee Hooper. He annoyed the teachers too: he was expelled from school as a teen. Yet, this softly-spoken pioneering powerhouse went on to win the Mercury Prize with his seminal New Forms double album of drum’n’bass tracks – including the irresistible Brown Paper Bag – in 1997.
How is the preparation for your solo show going? This is the first time I’ve done anything like this by myself. People are going to have to get used to not seeing seven people on stage. This is a total different experience. There will be me, and there will be some vibes…. The technical side of things is that when we hit the buttons, everything has to work. I’ve not been given this award for no reason at all – this is innovative, this is what I do. I get in an airplane, I jump out with the parachute and hope that it opens!
You are picking up the Inspiration Award before the ‘jump’… what first inspired you? I was brought up in a family full of music. Having two older brothers really helped me to have a relationship with different types of music – because I was too young to go out. Sure, I went to the St Paul’s Carnival – I used to hide in the speakerboxes, before the sessions started, then I would sneak out into the crowd! I was lucky to be surrounded by inspiring people in Bristol. I could never afford to buy a drum machine but I can remember going
and playing with an (Yamaha) RX17 and (Roland) 707 drum machine in the music shops. I couldn’t wait till I could buy one!
Jagger’s never been there when I am… I’ve seen him there! Richard and Mick, and Liam! But, Metropolis try to encourage people with ideas to put it into some kind of action.
Let’s go back to your Mercury Prize win in 1997… It was a really good experience. It was one of those journeys you can’t describe unless you’ve been in that bubble. I don’t do this to receive awards: I got no qualifications in school. And I’ve got a Mercury Music Prize! The boy didn’t do too bad, did he? [Laughs] I did this interview [afterwards] where I said my school never dealt with me correctly. This one morning I got a knock on my door, it was my old school teacher, the one who got me expelled, he came to apologise! That was quite gratifying. I felt justified in my own way. That’s an experience you don’t get often!
What influences were you pulling together on New Forms? I thought drum’n’bass wasn’t being taken seriously by the press. A couple of mags were not having it: they just thought it was kids in a field raving. So when we put the band up on stage, they saw the drummer and the bass player and the vocalists and they saw what we do with our technology… it was a palette of all the different drum’n’bass styles, not ‘liquid’ or ‘jump up’ or ‘hardstep’, it was all of them. I just wanted to show there was room for scope here. We had the support of DJs like Gilles Peterson and other people who knew their shit. Good music stands the test of time, 20 years later we’re still playing tracks off that album.
Last time we wrote about you in 2014, you’d hosted a masterclass for the Guardian at Metropolis Studios. How did you get involved? Metropolis ... encourage students to come in and use the studio. You can go to Metropolis and you’ll be sitting having a cup of coffee next to Richard Ashcroft or Mick Jagger…
Do you think doing classes like that are important? I’m doing the Pro7ect [Songwriter’s Retreat]in Brighton later in the year, we’re in a hotel and we make music for five days, you meet different people and share experiences. So, of course it’s important! Thing about music is, you need to deal with other people. The more people you put into a room, the greater chance there is of something special happening.
What inspires you the most at the moment? I think I still have a lot to prove to myself. I still have one great record in me, and I’m inspired to do that. But I’m taking my time, I’m not putting out lots and lots of music. I’ve released hundreds of records in my career – but I feel I’ve still got one great one left.
Who has been a particular inspiration to you? I keep that stuff close to home – the people that have helped me like D Product – ‘Studio Dave’, he’s been very close to me, and Dynamite has been a great MC. Without the fans as well, you can’t do a show without people. So a little bit of everything I would say, but the people who are close to home –they are my inspiration.
Who do YOU think should get an MPG Inspiration Award? Chuck D. Public Enemy, they created their own genre. And when you speak to Chuck him, you’re in the presence of someone who could have been as relevant as Malcolm X or any of the great preachers of their time. n Roni Size revisits New Forms at the Oval Space, London, on 28 April 2017
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