capture the sound
ZOOM G3X PRESONUS ERIS E5 ACTIVE STUDIO MONITORS
b ro u ght to y o u b y
SHIHAD’S TOM LARKIN: SWAPPING THE DRUM STOOL FOR THE PRODUCER’S CHAIR
SMARTPHONES AND TABLETs
YOUR PORTABLE STUDIOS
|| BEHIND THE DESK
STUDIOS 301 STUDIO PROFILE
Bit nervous about calling that local studio and finding out whether they’re the right place to finally record your guitarrelated opus? Worried you won’t ask the right questions? That’s cool, it’s a big deal – we got this. This issue we CHECK OUT Studios 301.
Year founded In 1926, the Columbia Graphophone Company (later EMI Records) opened Australia’s first record factory and recording studio at Columbia Lane, Homebush in Sydney and in 1954, it was relocated to EMI’s new head office building at 301 Castlereagh Street in the city and renamed EMI Studios. In 1978, the entire facility was rebuilt, re-equipped and expanded by EMI to provide four studios and was renamed Studios 301. Location Studios 301 has locations in Sydney and Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia. The Sydney complex is 15 minutes from the CBD and includes 12 recording studios, four mastering suites, a versatile production suite, three-bedroom apartment, two technical workshops and plenty of space for relaxation and creativity. The Byron Bay facility (two hours south of Brisbane) is five minutes from the centre of town and includes the main recording studio, a workshop, threebedroom house, one bedroom apartment and swimming pool. Dimensions From 15 square metre vocals booths through to a 205 square metre orchestral space, we have plenty of versatile rooms for all kinds of projects. Rock bands love our 70 square metre live room of Studio 2 and Byron Bay boasts 80 square metres of recording space plus two iso booths. Gear list Our Sydney facility is home to two large format recording studios, featuring Australia’s only Neve 88R console and an SSL 9000K series console. In Byron, the vintage 28/24 Neve console is equipped with 28 1081 preamp/EQ’s, six 2254 compressors and is the heritage-listed mid-70′s console from Festival Studios in Sydney. The control rooms are some of the best sounding mix rooms in the country with Genelec 1039a monitors in each, various Pultec EQ’s (six in total), Eventide H3000 harmonisers, an ATR 101 two-track tape machine, a Studer A-800 24 track in mint condition, a world-class mic collection, and what’s considered the holy grail of compressors – the Fairchild 670 – also the only one of its kind in Australia. We have three mastering studios all featuring the legendary EMI (Abbey Road) TG Equalisers, Duntech monitoring and two with the incredible Sontec equalisers. Each of the rooms is equipped with state of the art analogue and digital technology, including custom equipment built inhouse such as the 301 Buss Compressor and DES mastering monitor unit. 46 II aUSTRALIAN gUITAR
Client list Last week we had Californian indie trio Haim in finishing their upcoming album, Days Are Gone, and Karnivool’s Asymmetry just made a historic ARIA chart-topping debut at #1, which was Nick DiDia’s first album produced with us in Australia. A couple of weeks ago we finished recording season two of The Voice Australia and we are also happy to announce that Universal Music Australia is now a proud tenant in one of our brand new production suites. Some of our past client highlights include Coldplay, Powderfinger, U2, Matt Corby, You Am I, Silverchair, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, and Muse to name a few. Reason why this studio space rules We just bought a second ping-pong table for our orchestral recording room and we can now run 16-player sudden death tournaments! Most exciting recording ever made there The recent Bruce Springsteen session was pretty exciting as we had the whole E Street Band plus Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello recording live in the studio – a rare treat. Secret weaponry Stephen Crane. One of the world’s most experienced and respected technical engineers, Stephen has worked for Studios 301 since the 1980s, as well as having experience with AIR studios and designing electronics for Neve.
Staff list At 301 Byron Bay, American producer Nick DiDia is known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Powderfinger, and The Living End. His latest projects include new records by The Cairos, Karnivool, The Gaslight Anthem and Walk The Moon. In Sydney, we have renowned mastering engineers including Steve Smart (PNAU, You Am I, The Jezabels, The Living End, Midnight Oil, Icehouse, Grinspoon, Spiderbait), Leon Zervos (Muse, Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5, Interpol, Santana, Cheap Trick, Willie Nelson) and Andrew Edgson (Matt Corby, Nantes, Ernest Ellis, Vance Joy, Cloud Control, Vydamo, The Rubens). On the studio side, Simon Todkill is our resident producer/ engineer, having worked on projects for artists like The Griswolds, Nantes, Matt Corby’s four times platinum single “Brother”, Cold Chisel, and DZ Deathrays. For a full list of our producers and engineers on staff, visit http:// www.studios301.com/recordingmixing/producers-engineers/ Price Rates start at $450 per day and vary from studio to studio. Availability Well we have 12 different studios on the premises, so availability is not typically a problem for us!
BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE ||
TOM LARKIN PRODUCER PROFILE
When he’s not behind a drum kit, Shihad drummer Tom Larkin is perched over a mixing desk, tweaking tunes from some of Australia’s finest rock bands. With over 20 years experience in the music industry, Larkin has a few tricks up his sleeve, and he was more than happy to share some with AUS RECORDING TECHNIQUE. INTERVIEW BY PETER ZALUZNY
You tend to work with heavier music. Is it tough keeping instruments distinct when there’s so much complexity and volume going on? On a technical level it’s about mid range management. Most of the power of music – vocals, guitars and a lot of the drums – are all in the mid range, but if you get too built up in there, it quickly becomes harsh. If you think of every speaker in the world, the only real commonality is mid range. The tops and bottoms, of course they have to be right and they’re the sugar of the whole situation or the cream, but really, all of the coherence and power of production is in the mid range. There’s also a fair bit of harmonic work in your mixes, how do work with those elements? Harmonic build up is what you want to get because harmonics, whether they’re generated off the instrument, through distortion or compression or any of that kind of stuff, the harmonic content of music is what makes it come alive and what makes it sound otherworldly with depth and all that kind of stuff. Harmonic complexity is what makes music that’s boiled down to an MP3 sound alive, that’s kind of the trick. A few of your bands use a lot of echo. What’s the trick to using it effectively? Part of the echo thing is because I’m a Kiwi, we come from the land of dub and reggae. The delays I use are not what I’d call pop delays, which are really upfront and clear, I like delays that are much more dub based. They’re more mysterious and deliberately atmospheric and sometimes you won’t even hear that there’s a delay there, but it’s working. It’s really a kind of dub culture delay that’s applied to rock and hardcore. Some hardcore and heavy artists want to push the decibels as high as possible, which can end up ruining the music. What’s your opinion on that? I make sure that we’re in a situation where the band can be as loud as they want to be and it doesn’t matter. Sometimes musicians need that volume to connect with their instrument, because at high volumes the body automatically produces adrenalin and that’s the thing that helps them deliver performances that you’ll only capture once in a lifetime. But you’ve got to manage what’s right. For example there’s a way drummers can hit drums, if they hit them softly they can actually sound really huge while some really hard hitting drummers can end
up sounding small because they’re only exciting the mid range and the tops, the bottom end doesn’t get a chance to develop. But if that drummer is used to playing like that and that band is used to reacting to a drummer playing like that, often that’s where the heart of the band is lying. So if it’s really difficult to get a drummer to play their cymbals softly what I do is I use really thin, dark cymbals. You need to keep the band in that place and you need to have a strategy to put back in to make sure that you capture the other stuff as well. For basic recording at home, do you have any tips and gear you’d recommend? I reckon one of the best mics that you can get at the moment is the Shure Sm7, that’s not the Sm57 that’s the Sm7. For doing vocals at home, that mic is always utilised, always used, there’s always a place for it. I think that’s probably the thing with gear as well, try and buy gear that you won’t let go of. I started with two API preamps and I’ve still got them [laughs]. If you’re going to buy gear, buy stuff that’s going to stay around, don’t buy cheap shit that you’re going to have to sell off later. What’s something you feel that’s often overlooked during production?
You know I just have to come back to songs. There’s a 1,000 songs out there that sound like absolute shit, but they’re great performances and people love them forever. Everything sounding amazing is a bonus element, the most important thing is having a great song, something that people can connect to, everything should be subservient to that. I’d rather work with a band for seven days, work on all their songs, and record and mix them in two days if that’s an option. aUSTRALIAN gUITAR II 47
|| TESTING 123 PRICE: $199
PRESONUS ERIS E5 ACTIVE STUDIO MONITORS
PRESONUS ONLY RECENTLY ENTERED THE SPEAKER FIELD. HOW DO THEIR BUDGET-LEVEL MONITORS STACK UP? BY PETER HODGSON
t’s easy to take ‘in the box’ recording for granted. You can take your earbuds out of your iPhone, plug ‘em into your laptop and go to work on a track that is utterly studio-quality… which is all well and good until you go to mix, and you realise that a mix that sounds great in your earphones just doesn’t work out in the real world, blasting through the speakers of your car stereo, over your home theatre system or good old-fashioned stereo (remember those?). The only way to make sure your sound is going to be consistently pro-level across all platforms is to use proper studio monitors that reveal the truth about your mix: the good, the bad and the ugly. MIX AND MATCH The Eris E5 set is a pair of small speakers weighing in at 4.63 kg each, measuring 178 x 260 x 195 mm each. At that size you can stash them pretty much anywhere: studio, bedroom, living room, garage… and it also makes them nicely portable for use as a mini stereo practice rig in a pinch (when paired with amp sim software) or hardware). The E5 is built around a 5.25 inch, Kevlar low-frequency driver being fed by a 45 watt, Class AB amplifier, and a 1 inch silk-dome tweeter powered by a 35 watt, Class AB amplifier. It’s capable of a clean 102 dB SPL, peak, and the frequency response is rated at 53 Hz to 22 kHz. If you require a deeper low frequency response – say, you’re working on electronic dance music or something else that’s very much skewed toward the low end – there’s the Eris E8, which has an 8 inch Kevlar low-frequency transducer, driven by a 75 watt, Class AB power amplifier, and can range down to 35 Hz while also vein capable of hitting 22 kHz via a 1.25 inch silk-dome, high-frequency tweeter and a 65 watt, Class AB amplifier. With its extra juice, the E8 can deliver up to 105 dB SPL, peak. Both the E5 and E8 set have frontported enclosures made of vinyl-laminated, medium-density fiberboard. There are three EQ controls in the Acoustic Tuning section (High, Mid, and Low Cutoff), allowing you to fine-tune the response of the speakers to approximate various speaker types, such as car stereo, portable radio, smartphone speaker. And the Low control is also particularly helpful if you’re using a subwoofer to further expand your awareness of and control over the bass response of your mix. There’s also a threeposition Acoustic Space switch which governs a second-order, low shelving filter that can be called on to cut the level of all frequencies below
WHAT WE RECKON PROS Great clean headroom Plenty of control Lots of connection options
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800 Hz by a specified amount (either -2 or -4 dB) to compensate for the boundary bass boost that occurs when the monitor is placed near a wall or corner. All of the controls are mounted on the back, with clear diagrams that detail the signal flow and explain the appropriate Acoustic Space environments. This keeps the front nice and clean from a visual perspective and removes the temptation to endlessly tweak with the controls rather than to ensure your mix itself is sounding good. GET CONNECTED Connections include balanced XLR, balanced ¼ inch TRS, and unbalanced RCA line-level inputs. If both balanced connections are in use, the TRS input will supersede the XLR input. The RCA input is summed into the signal path. This means you can hook the Eris speakers up to pretty much any line-level source, or if you’re working with a signal source with unbalanced quarter-inch TS outputs, just use a quarter-inch-to-RCA adapter or adapter cable. I plugged the Eris E5s into my Mbox via my iMac and fired up – coincidentally – my DAW of choice, PreSonus Studio One. I called up a few mixes that I was reasonably happy with when using my regular monitors. The E5s immediately revealed a few uncomfortable truths as well as a few happy victories within my mixes. They helped me to hear that my low mids were a little cluttered and that I could have used a little more low end in my bass guitar and kick drum. They were also louder than my regular monitors, and sometimes there’s stuff that you can only learn about your mix when it’s blasting off the walls at deafening volume. The Eris E5 set is equally at home as part of an ‘in-situ’ studio setting – big mixer, lots of outboard gear, plenty of mics – but its light weight and affordability make them well suited to the occasional recordist who might lay down everything with headphones, virtual instruments and plug-ins, but who requires the honesty and fidelity of real studio monitors when it’s time to mix. And they’re also designed to be great ‘multimedia’ speakers for your computer during those times when you’re not making music: editing or watching movies, listening to music, sharing cat videos and what have you.
CONS Some might prefer front-mounted controls
FEATURES • 5.25-inch Kevlar low-frequency transducer • 1 inch ultra-low-mass, silk-dome, high-frequency transducer • 70 watt Class AB biamplification • Front-firing acoustic port for superior bass-frequency reproduction • Midrange (±6 dB, continuously variable), HF (±6 dB, continuously variable), High-Pass (Off, 80 Hz, 100 Hz) and Acoustic Space settings (flat, -2, -4 dB) for accurate mixing contour • RF interference, output current limiting, over temperature, transient, and subsonic protection • Optimized, resonance-suppressing internal bracing • Balanced XLR/¼-inch and unbalanced RCA inputs
THE BOTTOM LINE These are created and marketed as budget speakers, but they definitely punch above their weight in terms of clean headroom and three-dimensionality. And they certainly have more environment-tailoring features than other monitors in this price range.
CONTACT National Audio Systems 1800 441 440 www.nationalaudio.com.au
Zoom G3X Guitar Effects & Amp Simulator
THE ZOOM GX3 IS A VERY PORTABLE BATTERY OPERATED RECORDING AND PRACTICE HUB DISGUISED AS A MUTLI-EFFECTS UNIT, AND IT IS SMALL ENOUGH TO TAKE ANYWHERE. By Reg Barber
oom created their first multi-effects processor for guitar way back in 1989. Since then they have refined their products, making them smaller and better sounding with each release. The Zoom G3X Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator is no exception, it’s a very affordable multi-effects unit that can act as a recording and practice hub when used with your computer. The Zoom G3X Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator is very intuitive and user friendly, thanks to its three LCD screens laid out like three effects pedals. You can switch the effects on and off like you would with a traditional effect pedal, but you have the added bonus of there being an inbuilt amplifier simulator, allowing you to record directly to your computer, or the ability to send your signal directly to a PA via an inbuilt XLR DI. In total you have 166 effects built into the unit, and the scrolling layout feature of the Zoom G3X allows you to run six effect types at once. You can store up to 100 user presets in the form of 10 patches by 10 patch banks, and these are easily accessible if you need to change patches between songs, with the added advantage of there being LCD’s that light up on a dark stage. The unit also features an inbuilt tuner, looper and drum machine, making it a very handy practice tool. The looper function can store up to 40 seconds of loop time, and you can layer as many guitar sounds as you require. This means you can create you own backing tracks for live performance, along with drum loops, all from the GX3. The Zoom G3X Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator contains every effect you could possibly want or need. Included in the unit are some great sounding delay, modulation, reverb and wah style effects. In total you get 94 stomp box presets and 22 different amp emulations. Like all of Zoom’s effects gear there are names for each effect that hint at the actual pedal they are trying to emulate, it is mildly humorous and helpful at the same time. The Zoom G3X features an expression pedal, which allows you to take advantage of pitch shifting, volume changes, as well as parameter changes, along with some very usable wah-wah sounds. Where the Zoom G3X becomes really handy is as a portable recording interface when paired with a laptop. The Zoom G3X connects directly into any computer via a USB port on the back of the unit. The pedal ships with Steinberg Sequel
PRICE: $319 FEATURES • 166 effects • Six simultaneous effects • 10 patches x 10 banks • Sampling Frequency 44.1kHz • A/D D/A Conversion 24bit 128times over-sampling • Signal Processing 32bit floating point & 32bit fixed point • Frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz • 3 LCD displays • 170 (D) x 234 (W) x 54 (H) mm
LE, but it will work with any DAW you may wish to use. This allows you to record and store any sounds you write at home and use them in a live performance. The inbuilt drum machine can also be recorded to your computer making the Zoom G3X a recording studio in one tiny little box. The ability to run off battery power, six hours of playing time with four AA batteries, add to the portability of the Zoom G3X. I’m off to record some metal in a forest…. THE BOTTOM LINE The Zoom G3X Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator is extremely affordable given the amount of effects and amp simulations included, along with it being a recording and practice hub in one tiny package. It is very portable and would easily fit into a guitar bag or laptop bag, and as it can run on four AA batteries you could take it just about anywhere. It is well worth checking out if you want a portable recording hub and practice tool at a very decent price. It is also a very good entry-level multi-effects unit for guitar students wanting their first effect unit.
WHAT WE RECKON PROS Battery or DC powered Loads of great effects Intuitive layout
CONS 16-bit recording only
CONTACT Dynamic Music 02 9939 1299 www.dynamicmusic.com.au aUSTRALIAN gUITAR II 49
Before the advent of the iPad in 2010, if someone spoke about “recording on a tablet” they were probably referring to illicit substances… By Ross Waldron
Recording with a tablet/ smartphone The availability and accessibility to highly portable recording software and hardware has changed dramatically in recent years with the increasing ubiquity of tablets and smartphones, but are they any good for recording? It depends on what you want to do. They are convenient, easy to use and heaps of fun with a rapidly increasing library of apps to choose from but in reality they are still a long way from being a complete all-in-one recording solution. IOS vs Android The main operating systems used for audio recording on tablets and smartphones are Apple iOS and Google Android (Windows is not even a contender yet due to lack of apps). The general consensus seems to be that when it comes to software availability and processing power, Apple iOS has the upper hand over Google Android (I’m sure I’ve just incited a horde of Android trolls to track me down and flame me for that brazen statement). The biggest apparent difference between iOS and Android is latency (see Latency). Depending on the software, the iPad 2 and later versions are perfectly capable of attaining latency as low as <10ms in low latency modes. This is a crucial factor if you wish to record and monitor audio in real time. At the time of writing, Android tablets seem to not be capable of attaining latency of less than 20ms, most probably stemming from software issues and conflicts with the Android audio drivers. There is no shortage of processing power on many Android tablets but it really can be the luck of the draw as to whether it works with a latency value low enough to use. The sheer number of varying manufacturers and designs ensures that it is difficult to ever really be sure that an app will work the same on differing devices or just how stable it will be. For now, Android struggles to match the app diversity, MIDI support, API quality, third party hardware, audio performance and flexibility available on iOS for recording audio. However, judging by how Android based devices are surpassing Apple in many areas like camera quality, screen size, app diversity, third party software support and OS functionality, it won’t be long before Android can deliver the necessary tools to match and possibly exceed the Apple audio dominance.
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Software iOS is a highly regulated platform for app developers. Because of the static and standardised nature of Apple hardware, software developed for Apple products will always be dealing with the same hardware configurations. This reduces the possibility of conflict with differing components and software. Therefore, Apple is inherently more stable than Android for audio production and creation. The varying hardware configuration of the many Android devices means that the performance of software is often an unknown quantity and can be unpredictable, making it very difficult for app developers to test functionality in all systems and environments. There are numerous multitrack applications available for iOS – Some of the best include Garageband, Cubasis, Blip Interactive, Xewton Music Studio, 4pockets and Harmonica Dog Multitrack DAW. For Android, the choices are slimmer. Although Google Play boasts more apps than the apple app store overall, it is still
lacking the numbers in audio apps. Some examples include – Audio Evolution Mobile, J4T Multitrack, and FL Studio mobile. For guitarist there is amp modelling software like Amplitube, Ampkit+ and Jamup available on both platforms. These apps are awesome for replacing a physical effects unit and sound surprisingly good. Hardware The most obvious shortcoming of recording to a tablet device is the lack of I/O connectivity. The built-in microphone and digital conversion isn’t always acceptable for creating professional sounding multitracked audio recordings but that can also really be a matter of taste. If lo-fi is your goal then the built in hardware might just be what you are looking for. Much like a PC, an audio interface is required to facilitate higher quality A/D conversion into and out of a tablet. Fortunately, there are a multitude of accessories flooding the market now, but unfortunately not all of them are very usable. Some of the better options are:
PreSonus StudioLive for Ipad
USB Recorder PRO
iRig iRig is probably the most useful hardware/ software combination for the mobile musician looking for instant gratification. Available for both iOS and Android, the interface consists of a ¼” instrument jack and headphone jack that plugs into the headphone jack on your iPhone/ iPad/Android device. The balanced jack input allows it to accept any instrument of device with a TRS jack output. Keyboards, bass and external preamps are all fair game. The associated amp modelling software (Amplitube) is a lot of fun, sounds pretty good and can be used live as an effects unit if you dare!
USB Recorder Pro USB Recorder Pro is a nifty app that allows the connection of USB audio interfaces directly to an Android tablet, opening up the possibility of using a whole swathe of USB audio interfaces normally used with a PC. Unfortunately, it is limited to tablets that have a USB port and only allows recording within the app itself. Alesis IO Mix 4-Channel Audio Interface The Alesis IO mix 4-channel recorder integrates an iPad into a basic four track mixing desk enclosure. It reminds me of the days of old when four track tape recorders were the norm for home recording. The four preamps and basic
EQ are perfect for recording band rehearsals and demos where portability and separation are required. Rode iXY The Rode iXY is an extremely useful little piece of hardware. Featuring an onboard preamp, A/D converter and two ½ inch cardioid capsules in a stereo XY configuration, it neatly fits into the 30-pin connector on your ipad or iphone 4/4S (unfortunately, no lightning port connectivity for iphone 5 or ipad 4 yet). The quality is surprisingly good and the Rode Rec software allows audio capture at up to
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Alesis io mix
24bit/96khz and some basic editing and effects. The ease of use turns your device into a handy portable stereo recording solution. Itâ€™s great for gigs, demos and impromptu situations that need a decent quality recording, but is no real major contender against a decent pair of matched microphones and preamps.
flexibility to walk onstage, check a monitor mix, punch the vocalist for being a deaf whinger and adjust it to appease their inflated ego immediately is immeasurably useful. Some desks (presonus studiolive) allow performers to control their own monitor mixes remotely via iphone and thus avoid being punched by the long-suffering sound engineer.
Control Surface/live mixing Mixing desks with iPad wifi tethering (check out the desks available from Presonus, Yamaha and Mackie) have certainly revolutionised live sound mixing, allowing an engineer to roam a room freely and mix from any point they desire, ensuring the best possible sound from all vantage points. The
Albums recorded on ipad To date there have been only a few commercially released albums recorded entirely on iPad (Gorillaz, The Ultramods). The most prominent of these is The Fall by Gorillaz, officially released in April 2011. Recorded almost entirely on their tour bus, they used tricks like performing live on synth apps from
atency in audio recording refers to the time delay (usually measured in milliseconds or samples) present in an audio system from the point when the audio enters the system through an input to when it exits. Latency is most noticeable when listening
through headphones and tracking a recording. When itâ€™s bad, it will sound like a slapback delay. The latency inherent in a system can be roughly determined by using the following calculation â€“ Multiply your chosen buffer size by two then divide it by the sample rate. For example, if
a master ipad and routing it into a second iPad that is recording the performance. The quality of the recording is reasonably good but lacking in the refinement and presence that a real studio recording possesses. Getting on the gear Tablets and smartphones are superb for capturing recordings where portability and convenience are of paramount importance but in reality they are no real substitute for a dedicated Digital Audio Workstation or specialised recording hardware. It will be interesting to observe how recordings made with them will grow and evolve as the hardware and software continues to become more powerful.
you are recording at 44.1k with a buffer of 256 samples, the latency will be 256 x 2 / 44100 = 0.0116 (11.6ms). The higher the sample rate, the more data is processed and therefore a lower latency is achievable.
BUFFER SIZE (samples)
256 x 2
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