THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
How to Mix with Headphones
The Best Drum Mics for Home Studios
The Future of Streaming, Blockchain & Digital Royalties INTERVIEWS
THE USED HANDSOME GHOST MILK&BONE SHAME
Django Django On reverse-engineering studio tracks for live gigs
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LIMITED EDITION RED
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 28, ISSUE 1
CONTENTS cover story
THE USED by Candace McDuffie
HANDSOME GHOST by Sarah Brooks
MILK & BONE by Wilhelmina Hayward
DJANGO DJANGO by Sarah Brooks
DEPARTMENTS 4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Return of the Living Dead OST 6. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Lucretia X. Machina 8. Choon: The Next-Gen Streamer for a Crypto World 30. How to Mix with Home Studio Monitors and Headphones 36. GEAR TEST: Simmons SD-2000 Electronic Drums 38. GEAR TEST: Sterling Microphones
SHAME by Jason Peterson
40. GEAR TEST: Audio-Technica Wireless System 42. GUIDE: The Best Drum Mics For Your Home Studio 45. GEAR REVIEWS: Contour, Soundcraft, and DPA Microphones 48. FLASHBACK: Vintage Neumann KM 54 Microphone Cover
PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
from the editor
t’s February, which means most of us in the industry are still milking our NAMM hangovers, or at least trying to convince our colleagues that we came up with the term “NAMMthrax” (which, by the way, when did anthrax become funny again?). Anyhoo, we flew, we saw, we NAMMed. Hard. And as expected, there was a lot of cool gear to be seen this year (check our Instagram for lots of photos).
A couple big changes, though – for starters, a lot of the more inventive stuff from Hall E (aka “the dungeon”) was brought up to the top floor now that the ludicrously large addition to the Anaheim Convention Center is complete. This is a good move on NAMM’s part. For starters, it brings to the main convention floor a lot of innovation, which the MI world sorely needs if they, you know, feel like surviving the impending baby boomer extinction. And second, it takes away the stigma that a lot of really great gear makers have had to deal with. Most commonly, this occurred when you asked one of these companies where they were on the map, only to be met with an incoherent mumble that sort of resembled, “Down in *cough* Hall E…” and it just sort of trailed off from there. My guess is that a lot of the former Hall E inhabitants (or “cellar dwellers,” as they were unfortunately called behind their backs) will get a lot more attention this way, and won’t be confused with a foreign export company anymore. The other big news is that Gibson bailed this year. Yep, no booth, no presence, no nothing. A lot of keyboard warriors immediately trekked to their nearest guitar forum to once again bemoan the death of Gibson, when in reality, this probably makes a lot of sense for the company. It’s not like the old days when people waited all year to announce products or write dealer orders at the show. With the internet, Gibson can announce and release whatever they want, whenever they feel like it, and it’s all gonna get press and dealer buys. NAMM is hella expensive from an exhibitor standpoint, and if the ROI isn’t there anymore, then that’s really a NAMM problem, not a Gibson one. In any event, we’ve got a lot of new gear flowing in for review, so stay tuned to the mag and our site for an avalanche of post-NAMM gear reviews in the days, weeks, and months ahead. After all, doesn’t NAMM stand for Not Available until Mid-May? Hey, did I just make that one up? Go me!
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ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to email@example.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to firstname.lastname@example.org and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”
4 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Volume 28, Issue 1 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT
Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com EDITOR
Benjamin Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN & ART DIRECTION
Bob Dobalina email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Andrew Boullianne, Benjamin Ricci, Candace McDuffie, Chris Devine, Jason Peterson, Michael St. James, Sarah Brooks, Wilhelmina Hayward CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Jason Skulls, Fiona Garden, Cortney Armitage, Jerry LePigeon, Holly Whitaker, Megan Thompson, Ryan Muirhead ADVERTISING SALES
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 firstname.lastname@example.org © 2018 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.
REVIEWS Return of the Living Dead
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Real Gone Music Records)
eturn of the Living Dead has had, over the years, a problematic soundtrack to say the least. Problematic in that is was damn near impossible to track down in actual soundtrack form, and problematic in that every home video incarnation seemed to tinker with the music so inherent to the structure of the film, that some copies became unwatchable and unenjoyable to hardcore fans (yours truly included). Flash forward, and both issues seem to have been resolved. Corrected blu-rays now grace store shelves (or, more accurately, Amazon pages) on both sides of the pond, courtesy of Scream Factory and Second Sight, and the restored original soundtrack is back in print, on gloriously marbled “Tarman” brown and black swirl vinyl.
Gothy punk was the name of the game in 1985, and both sides of this gem are jam-packed with classic cuts every horror fan should know by heart. Standouts include “Surfin’ Dead” by the Cramps, “Nothing for You” by TSOL and of course, “Dead Beat Dance” by The Damned. But I don’t have to tell you that, do I? Sound quality on the new Real Gone Music re-issue is top-shelf. The colored vinyl is pretty darn quiet, even on a revealing micro-line Audio-Technica AT440mlb cartridge, which can sometimes highlight more poorly sourced material than, say, a cheap conical stylus. But all’s good here -- virtually no surface noise with tight, punchy drums and crystal clear (well, as clear as ’80s zombie punk can be) vocals.
Vinyl mastering was done at Capitol, so this all comes as no surprise. And the actual pressing was handled by Rhino, who’s been consistently putting out the best-sounding “normal” priced catalog titles for the past 15 years or so. All in all, for fans of the film, punk enthusiasts or soundtrack collectors who don’t want to pay through the nose for original pressings, the new re-issue of ROTLD is a blessing. Just be sure to get yours before the zombie apocalypse, as this edition is limited to 1,000 units. Now, time for more braaaaiins…. For more info, visit realgonemusic.com
Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 5
With Lucretia X. Machina
RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
y dad played rock, rockabilly, and jazz on his drum kit at home—whether we liked it or not —so I guess it was in the genes that I was always in the chorus at school (even in the plays—I couldn’t act). A natural writer, I generated enough poetry and a cappella songs during college to work on when I met a guitarist at a Boston Center for Adult Education course in songwriting. Together, we formed what became Lucretia’s Daggers— a quirky mix of darkwave, synth-pop, and ambient metal—bringing “dark lyrical electro-rock for the apocalypse” to the Boston scene since 2001.
For more, visit www.LucretiasDaggers.com.
U2 War (1983) In the 1980s, I was lucky enough to work the synthesizer manufacturing company Kurzweil Music Systems in Waltham, MA. (I’m still friends with futurist Ray Kurzweil and even partied with the late Bob Moog and his wife!) At KMS, I befriended a Waltham High School alumni who lent me his U2 tapes: Bad, War, October, and Boy. The raw poetry and power of those early songs inspired me to sing along at full volume in my parents’ kitchen before they got home from work. From those albums, “Seconds” off of War got to me most; its subject matter—the original nuclear cold war world—is, sadly, all too relevant today. 6 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
The Sisters of Mercy Floodland (1987) After Bauhaus, “gothfathers” The Sisters of Mercy were influential in my both my stage and band names. (Of course, we covered “Lucretia, My Reflection” off of Floodland). Their breakthrough hit, “This Corrosion,” was a staple at ManRay Nightclub (RIP) in Cambridge, MA, and is now the name of a goth-industrial-powernoise night in Brighton, MA. I was fortunate enough to see The Sisters years ago, not only in Boston, but also at M’era Luna Festival in Germany…with Skinny Puppy… under the dark of night...in the rain! You don’t get more “goth” than that!!
Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine (1989) Of all the albums I love, this one was the easiest to define as one that “changed my life” as a musician. As a college student, I was naturally full of angst and anger at the world. NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine (particularly “Head Like a Hole”) was raw, stompy, synth goodness to which I could unleash my aggressions on Axis’s (Boston) and ManRay’s (Cambridge) dark dancefloors to Trent Reznor’s high-tech industrial madness. His live shows aren’t bad, either.
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o matter what your feelings are concerning music streaming vs. music purchasing, one thing is clear: music streaming is growing as a consumer product. It may or may not be good for music rightsholders and songwriters, but it sure is a killer product for music listeners. Spotify, Apple, Tidal, Google Play, and even Amazon music all saw subscriber growth in the last year. Add YouTube’s music product, “Remix,” slated for release in 2018. Key questions exist, like how many of these will last? None are profitable, exactly NONE. Will Spotify’s direct IPO satisfy its debt holders, and will it survive Tencent? Will Apple Music survive Jimmy Iovine’s exit, and a long-rumored iTunes shuttering? But for all their bluster and new hotness, many of these services are aging, and again, not profitably. Spotify is 12 years old, Deezer is 11 years old, Google Play launched 9 years ago on Android, and even Apple Music and Tidal are both 3 years old. So, what would a streamer look like if it were launched today? How could it benefit music listeners AND music makers? We’re about to find out with a brand-new streamer
CHOON: THE NEXT-GE STREAMER FOR A CR 8 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
called Choon, described as a “music streaming service and digital payments ecosystem powered by Ethereum blockchain, designed to solve some of the music industry’s most fundamental problems.” I spoke to Choon’s founders, Gareth Emery, who is a successful DJ and EDM producer as well, and Bjorn Niclas, and asked them to give me the lowdown on this new streamer. PM: Why did you pick Ethereum blockchain? Gareth: It’s the best-known network where smart-contracts are possible. Whilst Bitcoin has first-mover advantage and name recognition, there’s a lot less we can do in terms of smartcontracts, which is vital to our business. PM: How is Choon addressing the needs of rightsholders and writers, as well as artists? GE: At Choon, writers are treated like any other artist. I think we can all agree, writers have been left out in the cold in the current world of music streaming, so at Choon, we don’t have a differentiation between writers and featured artists. Each track has one clear set of profit splits covering ANYONE who has financial interest in the track, which creates the Smart Record Contract, transparently paying everyone in realtime. The current system is fairly ludicrous, where artists and writers have to take completely different routes via a multitude of intermediaries to get paid. It’s ridiculous. PM: There are a many “crypto” music streamers currently, Musicoin, Voise, etc. How do you describe Choon as different? Bjorn: Main difference - the people behind this project are music people. Gareth and I have [much] experience in the music business, as well as our advisory board. We are trying to solve the unfair problems for the smaller guys, not just accept crypto as payment and leave the rest the same. Competitors have speculative ideas. We are building it today; it’s not speculation. PM: Explain to me Choon’s Real Time Royalty Network? Is this your creation? How does the idea of a permanent ledger work if it is off-chain?
BN: Yes, it is, but the ultimate plan is having everything on-chain. Presently though, it’s just too expensive and slow to have absolutely everything on-chain, so the Real Time Royalty Network uses state channels to allows us to execute Smart Record Contracts quickly. Down the line as the technology develops, we plan to have everything entirely on-chain and as decentralized as possible – but we’re working within the limits of these fairly new technologies, and it’s important that the product is as good as the point-of-use of any of the current centralized solutions. PM: You’ve said the current industry model is unfair, expand upon that. GE: It’s shameful. We’ve lost so many good people over the last two decades. For me, less than 1% of my total income is from music (with the rest from live) but I’m one of the lucky ones, as I have a very successful live career. What about people who don’t want to travel, tour, or who want to remain at home, or behind-the-scenes making music? Well, most of them are gone. I’ve seen far too many friends leave our industry for regular jobs – incredible artists who are now editing films, teaching, or ‘ghost producing’ for other artists. We’ve all been sold this myth that ‘there’s no money in recorded music.’ Actually, there is. It’s
a $16 billion-dollar industry, it’s just going to the wrong people. BN: It sounds radical, but all we’re proposing is removing unnecessary intermediaries from the payment flow between listener and artist. We are not even going to bother with the old legacy system, essentially, designing the music industry as if we’d invented it today. PM: How will Choon deal with label deals and publishing contracts? BN: Initially, the platform’s only open to artists and writers who entirely own their own music – recording and publishing. We have no interest in trying to stream anything that’s locked into the legacy music industry, which I know is tough on artists who’ve done long-term deals (including me) but this is the only way we’re able to achieve a direct payment flow between the listener and the artist. We’d rather start with a much smaller catalog to be able to get this model right. Artists and songwriters can sign up for the beta here: https://choon.co ABOUT THE AUTHOR -Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.
GENERATION MUSIC CRYPTO WORLD PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 9
Candace McDuffie Megan Thompson and Ryan Muirhead
On Celebrating The Human Element During The Recording Process
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SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 11
he Canyon, the seventh incendiary and politically charged album from The Used, displays the growth of a band that was once steeped in demons and self-deprecation, yet one that continues to use their platform to both inform and pacify their fans. The foursome, consisting of vocalist Bert McCracken, guitarist Justin Shekoski, drummer Dan Whitesides, and bassist Jeph Howard, are sonically more cohesive than ever. It’s palpable from the pulsating nature of “For You,” the very first song on the new record, to the deeply introspective closer “The Mouth of the Canyon.” In an exclusive interview with Performer Magazine, Howard reveals that it’s the most comfortable they’ve ever been recording an album as a group. “This record was extremely organic. We switched up producers and worked with Ross Robinson on The Canyon. He pushed us; it was a long recording process because Ross was pushing and pulling, trying to get all of the goods out of us. He’s more based off the recording style I agree with: feeling first and playability second. Mistakes are cool and if you’re playing it well and your vibe is solid, then that’s a good take. Sometimes a little mistake will stand out and shine in a good way. And this
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SPOTLIGHT record was sort of recorded that way; it was more focused on the vibe of everything and the wholeness and trying to keep that together and not lose it. Nowadays, computers can just suck out the vibe.” Once the topic of how technology has affected modern-day music comes to the surface, Howard becomes passionate when
two decades that seamlessly survived the dreaded--but often inevitable--lineup change (Whitesides replaced Branden Steineckert in 2006, Shekoski replaced Quinn Allman in 2015). Howard insists, though, that the band possesses one vital quality that has carried them since the 2002 release of their self-titled debut album. “What we want and what we strive for is...we’re real. We’re relatable because
Follow on Twitter: @wearetheused
“Mistakes are cool and if you’re playing it well and your vibe is solid, then that’s a good take.” explaining the toll it has taken on artists. “The difference between humans and computers is that when you tell a computer to do something, they’re not going to mess it up-they do it mathematically and they do exactly what you say. But humans are just prone to make mistakes--nothing’s perfect. If there’s a metronome happening, we breathe on the metronome; someone will play a little bit faster, someone will play a little bit slower. But the whole group will work together--flaws and all-and that’s what we were relying on with The Canyon.” The Used has a career spanning nearly
we’re not trying to be above anyone else. We’re not better than anyone; I’m not the best bass player in the world. If you come to a show, I’m sure you’ll notice a few fuck ups that I do. We want people to know that we are just people.” He also ties in how The Canyon reiterates this message. “We’re so excited about this record and how deep this it is. I know it’s long, but that’s why you need to keep going back to it. I’ve never felt this excited about a record that we’ve made before--which is strange for me to say. But for those of you who weren’t sure about The Canyon on the first try, just give it another listen: you have no idea what’s in there.”
THE USED THE CANYON STANDOUT TRACK: “OVER AND OVER AGAIN”
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SPOTLIGHT Sarah Brooks Cortney Armitage
On Using the Home Studio to Balance Vulnerability and Experimentation
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“Sometimes it’s easier to be vulnerable when it’s through song.”
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andsome Ghost is certainly a band to watch right now. After releasing singles dating back to 2015 (and garnering well-deserved acclaim while they were at it) and working on eclectic side projects, the band is poised to release their debut album aptly titled Welcome Home—which they crafted in their home studio in Massachusetts. “We made an effort, because the lyrics are so honest and personal and intimate, that we wanted the production and the instrumentation to contrast that and be dramatic, be a little more full-range, set against really personal songs and also really intimate vocals, to have the production be the antithesis of that. So, we built a studio, and we were able to take our time and really try to be thoughtful with every single part. It’s cool to be able to talk things out and say, ‘What do we really
want to do here for each little thing?’” lead singer Timothy Noyes muses. And the deliberation truly worked. Handsome Ghost, made up of Noyes and producer and instrumentalist Eddie Byun, created their album over a year’s time—and good things certainly take time. The new record features 11 songs, each speaking to one relationship that Noyes notes needed closure. “I started the band a few years ago now. We went on this musical journey—that sounds a little cliché—but we’ve been winding all over the place, and when it came time to make an album I was like, ‘Okay, what do I want to write about?’ And I found myself sitting down and feeling dread about that same relationship even though
We went over it all—the fact that writing can create closure, and in turn, sometimes it’s easier to be vulnerable when it’s through song. We lose the inner critic, the fear of the reaction, and are able to speak the truth: “Writing is different than the real world, if you will, which is my chance to reflect on things and wonder what was good, what was bad, what I messed up, and kind of make sense of it. And yeah, ideally close the chapter and start again,” Noyes notes. Noyes also speaks to the fact that moments are amplified through song—one specific memory can become a three-minute ballad in its own right. “I think too with songs, sometimes I’ll find myself writing about one very specific moment that I can remember, whether it’s good or bad, or whatever it is, and then that little moment becomes more of a larger statement, and it grows into something more important than one night or one morning.”
“I’d rather strip things back to the bare bones than try to make it enormous. We don’t do ourselves many favors when we try to get too big.”
Their songs showcase variety, and this album proves to be no exception. The band tried out a variety of things production-wise thanks to the studio time they were afforded. “We tried some new stuff, and we always try to mix real instruments— strings, guitars, we had a mandolin, ukulele, all of this great stuff—with the electronic, digital stuff. We try to toe the line between two worlds, and I think we did a nice job on this album of finding the balance between the two. We tried everything—we did some off the wall stuff and were like, ‘I’ll never show that to anyone, ever.’ But it’s fun to have a studio and say ‘Okay, we’re up, let’s get to work.’”
on the spot, and bring a bunch of instruments and see what happens. It’s cool because you spend days and weeks on one song, and then you just blow all that up and try it in a different way,” he says. So, they’ve played in-the-moment shows, largescale shows, and intimate shows. Which one does this band’s lead singer prefer? “I like when there’s a large enough crowd that you can feel the energy and you can feel the heat of the room—there’s that buzz. But still small enough that you can see everyone’s face, like a club. I like small clubs, that’s where I feel most comfortable. But we’ve done it all—we’ve done super small acoustic shows, like in a living room, and then we’ve been on a tour where we’re doing 5,000seat theaters. Somewhere in between is where I feel best.”
it’s been years now -- and that’s taken on so many forms, and there’s distance and time between the two of us at this point. It just felt like there was a little more to say there, so I thought that putting this album out would give me a chance to breathe and say, ‘Okay, that’s enough. Move on.’
Augmenting the sound to fit the room is something that Noyes and Byun approach organically; authenticity is key. “We just try to be genuine and play our music as we want to, and hopefully people connect. I’m definitely more comfortable in an intimate setting. I’d rather strip things back to the bare bones than try to make it enormous. We don’t do ourselves many favors when we try to get too big. Our music is intimate, and it doesn’t necessarily translate when we try to make it into a big party.”
Follow on Twitter: @handsomestghost
While Byun took more of a perfectionistic approach to completing the record, Noyes allowed him to experiment with the sound. “I feel like if we get the tone of the song correct or the way we envision it, then the listener will kind of fill in the gaps. It doesn’t necessarily matter if everything is completely in its right place,” he states. Step one is to get the lyrics down as efficiently as possible. Noyes begins with guitar, and then hums out a melody. To him, the words should dictate the melodies and the production. Beyond their songwriting, they’re no strangers to this sort of improvisation elsewhere—with the Sudden Sessions, Noyes’ brother filmed a series of the band performing songs in an on-the-fly format. “We did spend so much time in Massachusetts doing the album that we wanted to take the songs away from that context and start over. We would get together, either just the two of us or we’d get a band to join us, and we’d just put together an arrangement
HANDSOME GHOST WELCOME BACK STANDOUT TRACK: “SHALLOW CITY”
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MILK &BONE Wilhelmina Hayward
On the Transition from Solo to Duo Songwriting and Touring
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On touring with a musical partner: “It helps to have someone there who can just lift you up a little bit.”
imon and Garfunkel, Fripp and Eno, Sonny and Cher, The Black Keys, to name a few, are some of the great duos in music. It would seem that when you find your other half, musically speaking, you hold on tight. And that’s what Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin of Canadian band Milk and Bone have done. They have found each other, found what works for their music and will keep working it, as with their newly released sophomore album Deception Bay. We spoke with Lafond-Beaulne
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about the band’s journey, the new LP and the duo’s creative process. Can you tell me the origin story of Milk and Bone: how you two found each other and the collaborative process from when you first started to where you are now with the creation of your new album? Camille and I met when we were both studying music, we weren’t in the same class because she was a year older than me in school, but after we finished our studies we both started playing with a local band and started touring a
little bit with those bands and we happened to be playing together in the same band for a little while. So, we got to know each other very well, personally and also musically because we were playing together every night. And we felt like we’d really like to think together and that’s when we tried to write together and that went well, and we had a pretty good response right away. So, we decided to just keep going in that direction. We released our first EP, and then we toured with that for three years and then we started working on our second album.
Can you talk a little bit more about that, what the songwriting process is for you, by yourself and then how you had to adapt to write with another musician? Well, what usually happens is that, you know, we both record little ideas of songs in our phone and in our notes, and we know that we’re going to have a session together at some point where we can bring all of that up and see if any of that just speaks to the other. And when that does happen, then we work on those songs together. So, for us a song always starts with an idea from one of us. You know, sometimes it’s going to be just a title or maybe it’s going to be a verse or it’s going to be half of a song and we just need some help to finish it. When we bring it to the other, it’s always a matter of seeing if we can bring it further, if we can finish it together, if we want to add a bridge or something. So, it’s always nice, you know, it’s very different, the solo writing and the dual writing because you always have someone there who can bring you further in your writing and who has a different point of view, obviously. So, it’s a very, very different process. Do you ever butt heads about some of the decision-making? Not really, because we’ve known each other for five years now. So, I think that if we do, if we don’t agree on a certain thing, I think it’s because we don’t want to agree. I think we got good at compromise because we’ve been doing this for a little while now. So, we never argue over ideas or anything. I think sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing it from a different point of view. You worked with long-time producer Gabriel Gagnon, and then for this new album, included Howie Beck along with numerous other collaborators. What was that process like, of bringing in new folks and how did you decide who was a good fit with what you are aiming for in this new album? You know, when we did the first album we wanted...we just worked with a friend of ours because they were our friends in the first place. We were really happy with the results so when it came time to do the second album, for us it was just to get to work with the same team again. But what we wanted to do was to bring more people you know, to… to keep the same creative brain in the middle, which is like the three of us, but then to bring in other collaborators in order bounce
some ideas a little bit more with…get different point of views. If we can bring our ideas further, if we can bring up other colors into our music. Howie Beck did all the mixing for all the songs, so that was really fun to have him on this project. How do you work as a duo on the road? What does touring look like for you, and do you do any writing on the road? We’re such a small team, you know, it’s just those of us on stage and what we did for the first tour was we traveled with just our sound engineer, so it was just the three of us. So, a very, very light group. But for this time around, I think we’re going to add more people because we want to have a steadier stage setup with lights and everything. Generally, we’re very chill people on the road. I don’t know how other people live on tour actually because I was never really on someone else’s tour. But, when we do song write on the road, it’s... we do it on our own, in our downtime and our personal time. We never get together and write together, that doesn’t happen. We will both just write our own stuff and then share it together when the time comes that we want to share things, you know? Bringing in more folks on tour sounds like an exciting change, what’s your vision for all of that? Well, we will have the stage set up with lights and it’s going to be motorized as well. So, it’s going to be like a... I don’t know how to describe it, you know, for the first tour we didn’t have any of that. It was just us with our keyboards and sometimes in venues where the lights are kind of boring, then the show kind of looked a little boring. But what we want for this tour is to always have our own setup. So, you know, whichever venue we go to, we can have the same kind of vibe that we want for everywhere we go. And we changed our instruments as well. So, this is just going to be a very exciting time for us to have a completely new show.
know, maybe grab a few more interviews or run some errands for the other when they’re feeling low or in need of more energy. So, just that helps a lot. She knows exactly when I’m not feeling it, if I’m not comfortable with a certain situation and I need a break. Looking forward, where do you hope Milk and Bone will go, where do you see yourself down the line? What do you hope to accomplish with Deception Bay? Well, we have this upcoming U.S. tour that’s already booked and we just want for that to go really well and we can’t wait to meet people in every city. Hopefully, with this album we can come to the U.S. more often and go to cities that we’ve never been to before. And... we’re hoping to go into territories that we’ve never visited, as well. We really hope to go to Australia, that would be really cool. And more of Europe as well, definitely. And hopefully just to be able to tour for as long as possible with this show.
Had you done any songwriting as a solo artist, or did you discover songwriting together? I’ve actually been writing alone for quite a little while…so that’s why when we just got together and started writing together, we both had some songs that we had already written that we got into the project. From there we just started writing songs together.
And what do you hope that listeners will get from Deception Bay? I hope that they’re going to see a bit themselves in there, and that hopefully they feel empowered and that it’ll make them want to come see the show. And I hope that it can soothe some moods, if it can.
Follow on Twitter: @milknbone
On that note, what is your favorite piece of gear while touring? We both use Roland SPD-SX pads and I think that helps our show a lot since it’s just the both of us on stage, you know, it helps us to manage sequences and also just to punch some samples sometimes. It makes the show more dynamic. So, I think that’s really awesome. Can you go back and talk a bit more about some of the benefits of being a two-person team? When times get rough, on the road or when creating new music, is it important to you to have a partner in it all? It’s definitely more helpful; we both know that we can’t be a hundred all the time, you know? And when that happens, it helps to have someone there who can just lift you up a little bit or, you
MILK & BONE DECEPTION BAY STANDOUT TRACK: “DAYDREAM”
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SPOTLIGHT 22 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
UK Punks Tackle Frenzied Stage Shows, Social Media & Hygiene on the Road
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K’s Shame has been building a buzz based their frenzied, can’t miss live shows since their inception a few years back, even racking up NPR’s Bob Boilen’s nod for the most authentic performance he caught at the latest SXSW. With the release of their debut, Songs of Praise, they’ve delivered an album that meets their live show’s expectations. Their first single, “Concrete,” punches hard with clipped, catchy guitar work that interplays with deft vocals. The rest of the album is just as strong, bringing memorable riffs and melodies to otherwise down and dirty post-punk tracks (along with quite a few sonic surprises). A worldwide tour, both headlining as well as supporting Protomartyr, is sure to keep the buzz going. I recently chatted with guitarist Eddie Green about the band’s hardscrabble
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touring background and their excitement about their new album. You’ve said that the past three years have been filled with extensive touring, financial deficit, and scarring character building experiences. What kept you going as a band to get this album out? Throughout these last few years we’ve always been extremely excited about releasing an album so I guess that was an incentive to keep pushing when times were, say, not that great. That said, we’ve never experienced anything too horrific during our time as a band. We can be a little grandiose on the old social media. You’re known for your killer concerts, especially your stand-out set at this
“It’s cool to see kids singing along to tracks I never even knew would see the light of day. It’s a great feeling.”
What do you look for in the gear you take out on the road - are you more concerned with your equipment’s tone or surviving the abuse of the road? A balance between a sturdy piece of equipment and one that sounds good is something we look for. We’ve been not-so-good to some of our gear, but generally we manage to find good gear that lasts. Was there a particular band’s performance that made you want to be in a band of your own, or was it something different that inspired you? I don’t think any one band drew us to this, but there are definitely loads of performers we’ve always admired.
past SXSW. How have your live shows changed since you first started? I think our live shows have generally improved in terms of just being a little less shambolic, however we’ve always maintained the same ethos of treating every show the same. In the early days, it was an easy way to liberate yourself from the inevitable embarrassment of regularly playing to less than 10 people.
have been exposed to so much more of your music [before you hit the stage]. It’s cool to see kids singing along to tracks I never even knew would see the light of day. It’s a great feeling.
Follow on Twitter: @shamebanduk
What are your must-haves when you’re touring? Any particular soundtrack for the open road? Our tour manager Kiko doesn’t let us touch the music in the van, so unfortunately that isn’t an option that’s available to us. If you could give the ‘three-years-ago you’ some advice about band life, what would it be? Take more showers, damn it. Do you write while you’re touring, or do you wait to get back before working on new songs? Does anything new make it into the set while you’re on the road? We’ve just got into writing on the road, which can be a little challenging but it is fun, and a necessity with a touring schedule like ours. Now that the much buzzed about record is out, what does it feel like touring with a full-length under your belt? Touring with a record is great because people
SHAME SONGS OF PRAISE STANDOUT TRACK: “ONE RIZLA”
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DJANGO DJANGO Show Us Their View of Marble Skies Sarah Brooks
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SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 27
jango Django are back with their latest album, the first since Born Under Saturn in 2015. Marble Skies dropped last month, and we’re already calling it one of 2018’s best.
Django Django, a four-piece band helmed by producer David Maclean, consistently surprises and stuns with exquisite sonic layers and songs that keep us on our toes—where each note takes us to a place we didn’t quite anticipate. And that’s just how they work. And they don’t even plan out where their songs will lead the listener, which, in my opinion, is the most magical part. From rhythmic “Default” to the upbeat roller coaster ride of their newest single, “Tic Tac Toe,” the band is not one to stop innovating—and I’m perfectly fine with that. Though this is not their first album—in fact, it’s their third studio record—they’re making a return to techniques they used on their self-
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titled debut. Believe it or not, that very album was recorded with a DIY approach in mind, and this album evokes a trip back in time—while also looking toward the future of their music. I spoke with Maclean regarding the new album, musical influences, and more. Marble Skies was actually given its name in my hometown of Chicago. Can you tell me about this? We were in Chicago playing at Lollapalooza a couple of years ago and after we came offstage, I was chatting to people when I looked up and noticed that the sky looked like this amazing giant sheet of marble! I remember that marble skies popped into my head, and I kept a mental note of it to use for something. It kept popping up in my mind when we were making this record and just seemed like the right title somehow. Tell me about Marble Skies—what has the process been like to create this album? It started when I was taking some time out and the band were jamming with Anna Prior from Metronomy on drums. They were sending jam sessions from London, and I was editing them in Scotland. Then when I came back, we got together and fleshed them out. It was a bit less forced than the last LP, but we brought some technical skills to our little studio setup that we learned from the first two LPs.
“We wanted the album to be a little journey—maybe a journey through our heads and our record collections and our lives as music lovers as well as musicians.”
I read that the album was also a return to DIY for you. Were you trying to connect with the process you used to create your debut album, or what was the reasoning for that? Yeah, it’s totally DIY, but the first two were really as well. It’s just that for the last one, we went to a big studio for a while, which looking back was a bit odd because we know how we like to work and it’s not really suited to us to go in a big live room. Although we learned that we can get results from that, we were just a bit unfamiliar with the process. It’s all a learning curve and we’re still finding our groove and expanding while focusing in on what works for us. There are so many influences on this album—electronica, calypso rhythms, and more. What was your biggest inspiration this time around? No one inspiration. We just mess about and see where the songs want to go. We have no rules in this band, so anything goes. I listen to all sorts [of music] and some things just filter in more than others. We’re not fussed about being pinned to a style.
What did you want to convey to the listener through sound? Nothing really, but we wanted the album to be a little journey—maybe a journey through our heads and our record collections and our lives as music lovers as well as musicians. A lot of the song titles on this album have a real ethereal quality, otherworldly. Did you intend for this to come through, or how did the naming process work? I read a lot of weird books about esoteric ideas. Little snippets of info from those books as well as films and art somehow bubble up in the titles and themes. It’s kind of subliminal, though. We don’t really talk about it!
the live versions are really just interpretations of the LP tracks. That’s fun because they come out differently. They improve usually, so the fans at shows are really getting the best versions of the songs. But it’s also a huge amount of work getting them ready. The thrilling part is when we’ve played them a few times and fine-tuned them and they eventually lock. That’s when it feels like all the work has paid off.
What is the theme of the album, overall? No theme, really. We wanted it to be more like an LP than just a body of work, so we worked harder on the way it flows than we did in the first two.
What was your inspiration behind the music video for “Tic Tac Toe,” as well as the song? The video was directed by my brother, John Maclean. You’d have to ask him! You’re going on tour [shortly]. What is the toughest and most thrilling part about getting your sound to transfer as you intend it to during live shows? It’s all tough! We have to reverse-engineer the songs because as they stand on the LP, we have never played them through start to finish. We work in a modular way, looping and adding as we go. We take things apart and cut and shut, like making a big collage from scraps of paper, so
Follow on Twitter: @thedjangos
DJANGO DJANGO MARBLE SKIES STANDOUT TRACK: “TIC TAC TOE”
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HOME RECORDING 30 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
How to Mix with Studio Monitor Headphones co-presented by
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elcome to the third in a fourpart series that will provide real-world advice for setting up your first home recording studio, co-presented by Performer Magazine and Yamaha [ed note – see previous issue for Parts 1&2, or head to performermag.com for the complete series and FREE downloadable guide]. In this installment, we’ll take a closer look at studio monitor headphones, specifically why you should be using a secondary monitoring source during your recording sessions, which types of studio headphones make the most sense for your applications, and how to listen to a headphone mix to make music production decisions. Yamaha has been kind enough to loan us a number of pairs from their MT series of studio monitor headphones, including the HPH-MT5 ($99), the HPH-MT7 ($169) and the top of the range HPHMT8 ($199) MULTIPLE MONITOR SOURCES To start, why should you bother with a set of headphones at all? One of the first purchases we see many first-time home studio users make is a pair of studio monitor speakers. And that makes sense; you want to be able to listen to your sessions as you’re tracking and mixing, and studio monitor speakers are voiced to deliver a true audio response without the coloration of, say, hi-fi speakers. But there are a few reasons that studio monitor headphones are important. For starters, it’s always a good idea to reference your work using multiple monitor sources. What you’re hearing out of your speakers might sound great now, but it’s important to hear what you’re recording through other sources to get a sense of how the music will sound on various playback systems. And of course, one of the most popular methods for music consumption is through consumer-grade earbuds and headphones. So, auditioning your tracks through a set of headphones makes sense, not just to hear what the end-user will experience (even though studio monitor headphones are voiced a bit differently than consumer-grade models in most instances), but also because the music will exhibit a different spatial depth when listening on a closed auditory system, like headphones, than an open system (such as speakers moving air in a room). In short, the soundstage will be more pronounced with the sound directed at both ears in true stereo, without the room environment and sound treatment affecting what you hear. Second, we recommend studio headphone monitoring during both tracking and mixing to hear the subtler nuances of the tracks you’re working on. Especially true when layering lots of complex overdubs, it can be more difficult, at times, to truly hear each of your tracks in
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true separation even through the best of studio monitor speakers, if things are becoming a bit congested in the mix. At times like this, it’s especially prudent to reference your work through headphones to isolate any issues that may be causing muddiness or spatial confusion, which we feel can often be done more accurately through a pair of properly-voiced studio monitor headphones. OPEN-BACK VS. CLOSED-BACK STUDIO MONITOR HEADPHONES We’ll keep this short, while open-back designs might be great for pure audiophile listening, we don’t recommend them for home studio use, other than to audition final masters from a listener’s perspective. For tracking and mixing, however, we exclusively recommend closed-back headphones that were specifically designed and voiced for studio recording. The Yamaha HPH-MT7’s we’ve tested are an ideal choice for recording. They are voiced especially well for mixing, specifically in the way they are voiced, and are very nicely suited for on-thego production. The MT8’s would be ideal for tracking and more intense critical listening. And the MT5’s offer the most affordable entry point to studio monitor headphones without sacrificing quality. Open-backed designs can introduce unwanted bleed from the room, while in turn also bleeding out audio into the room. Neither is ideal - you don’t want any audio seeping into your brain that isn’t coming from your DAW and you don’t want loud audio from your session throwing off anyone else trying to work in the space. So openbacked designs, at least as far as we’re concerned,
are a non-starter for the studio. Of the MT7’s, we had this to note in our initial evaluation: “In our tests, we were pleasantly surprised at the flat response and colorless reproduction the HPH-MT7’s had to offer. Too often at this price point, some sort of coloration seeps in and can affect the way you hear your mixes, and ultimately alter the way your tracks sound (and not always in a positive way). Most of the time, we’ve found that adds up to an increased (and often unnecessary) bass boost. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and these new Yamaha studio headphones offered a “what you hear is what you get” type of vibe, exactly what you want in the studio. Bass was present and clear, without an over-emphasis on low-end frequencies. No mud, no fuss.” STUDIO MONITOR HEADPHONE SPECS There are some things to consider when it comes to specs. As we’ve mentioned, our recommendation is to stick to models specifically designed for studio usage, and not necessarily consumer-grade headphones. Many of those models offer coloration to the sound being reproduced, which in a recording or mixing situation, is not ideal. Especially prevalent are overzealous bass-boost “features” that will disrupt the natural bass curve of the music coming from your DAW. Instead, focus on studio monitor headphones that not only feature comfortable earcups and headbands, but also flat frequency responses of at least 20Hz - 20kHz (many higher-end models will offer reproduction at both higher and lower frequencies, and though we won’t get into the science of hearing in this article, even frequencies that are technically
outside of the audible range for humans can make a difference in what you’re hearing) and goodsized drivers. In speakers, drivers will usually be measured in inches (in the United States), but for headphones look for specs of at least 40mm and higher. The larger the voice coil, the more air can be moved, not just resulting in louder volume (your headphone amp will play a solid role in volume, as well), but also the range of frequencies that can be accurately (and that’s the key word) reproduced. In plain English, the more accurate the sound, the better attuned to the music you can be when focusing on your session work. Trying to mix or record in an environment where you’re not hearing back a true representation of what you’re laying down in your DAW can have disastrous effects on all aspects of your project, most notably in over- and under-compensation in both high and low ends of the spectrum. The last thing you want is to boost all the highs only to find out they were fine all along, you were just using lousy headphones and now your tracks are entirely too bright and trebly. THINGS TO LISTEN FOR DURING TRACKING AND MIXING Again, listening to multiple sources will give you a better overall perspective and understanding of what’s going on in your music. When it comes to headphone monitoring, there are some specific items to note. To start, headphones allow you to really isolate the stereo imaging you’ve created in your tracks. Having both the left and right channels directed at each individual ear in isolation can make for perhaps an unnatural, yet revealing study of how you’re placing instruments in 3D space. Issues with panning and stereo placement can become instantly evident (even sometimes exaggerated) when listening back through proper headphones, and corrected efficiently before mastering. Second, you’ll be able to more faithfully tune into quieter passages and layers that have been more buried in the mix. Is that synth part audible enough in the bridge? Does that acoustic guitar need to be panned in the verse so it’s not competing with the piano that’s dead-center? Or should we double a vocal line here where it’s sounding a bit thin? Choices like this can often be made more intelligently after referencing the track through speakers first, then headphones to isolate things in a more distraction-free manner. HEADPHONE AMPS Until now, we’ve been dealing with headphones in isolation. But they need to be plugged into something to work, right? And you might find yourself in a situation where more than one person needs to hear what’s going on at once. That’s where headphone amps come into the picture. Now, your audio interface will
likely offer monitoring options either on the front panel (if they’re smart) or on the rear. But if your interface only has one headphone port, you may want to look into a dedicated studio headphone amp designed specifically for recording needs. These devices will often offer very clean power and multiple outputs and independent volume controls – meaning you can have several people listening in at once, each with their own settings. One especially interesting product worth mentioning briefly is the new Yamaha SessionCake. With this device, you can daisy chain multiple units together for mobile, impromptu sessions that can be recorded to an iOS device or even affected by apps on your phone. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 33
How To Set Up Studio Monitors
elcome to the fourth and final installment in our series aimed at providing real-world advice for setting up your first home recording studio. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at studio monitor speakers, specifically what to look for in home studio monitors and how to set up studio monitor speakers in your space for optimal results. Yamaha has been kind enough to lend us a pair of their legendary HS8 powered studio monitor speakers, which we’ve set up in our office studio and will be using as examples throughout the entire series of articles. HI-FI SPEAKERS VS. STUDIO MONITOR SPEAKERS What good is mixing a song if you’re not hearing it properly? Unlike consumer hi-fi speakers, which often color the sound to make for a more pleasant listening experience, Studio Monitors typically offer a FLAT frequency response, which ensures that your mix will sound great on virtually any system. For years, the goto for home recording studios and commercial studios alike have been Yamahas. You’ve probably seen the classic white speaker drivers in countless photos and videos. We’ve been testing out the HS8 8” powered studio monitors, and the legendary sound Yamaha is known for comes through loud and clear during both tracking and mixing. Our recommendation is not to skimp in this area – hearing your mix through pro-level monitors will be crucial when it comes to crafting the right sound for your project. The HS8’s offer additional controls for high trim and for compensating for your room environment. These features can make the difference when it comes to producing your project the right way. SIZE MATTERS Home studio spaces can be a tight squeeze and we know budgets can be even tighter; still, we don’t typically recommend speakers with woofers under 5” for best results. Now while there are some surprisingly decent studio monitors equipped with 3” main woofers, the first thing you’re going to sacrifice with smaller speakers is frequency range and any sense of deep bass. And if you’re not hearing as much of the spectrum as possible, you’re missing out on nuances in your recordings that could come back to bite you when it comes time to mix or master your work.
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Now, most mere mortals can’t technically hear above 20kHz, but many powered studio monitors are “extended range,” meaning they are capable of reaching 30kHz or even higher. Why does this matter? Because even though you might not be able to “hear” extreme sounds (the same goes for ultra-low bass frequencies), believe it or not your brain might be able to actually “feel” some of those waves. And there have been studies on the emotional response to music with frequencies above and below our “normal hearing range” cut out and/or added in. We don’t have time to dissect psychoacoustics here; the key takeaway is the larger the speaker cone, the wider the response. So, an 8-inch woofer, like those packed into our HS8 monitors, will be able to reproduce deeper bass (down to 38Hz) than a smaller 5-inch model in the range (the HS5, which can reproduce sound accurately only down to 54Hz). Your budget might dictate, to an extent, the size of the studio monitors you choose, but if you plan on tracking/mixing deep electronic bass or even gut-punching metal, try to go for the biggest models that fit your wallet and studio space. If you absolute cannot afford, nor have the desk space for, larger studio monitors, you may wish to add a subwoofer down the line to help handle some of the lower frequencies based upon your cutoff point. PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE As with PA speakers, you’re typically not going to be running into many passive home studio monitors, meaning speakers that do not require power to operate. Powered speakers are much more common in the home studio realm, and typically will not only come with their own clean power amplifier built into the system, but also some additional controls that passive speakers simply cannot or do not offer. Just be aware that you’ll need an available power outlet in your studio rig to accommodate studio monitors. KEY SPECS AND FEATURES Aside from woofer and tweeter size and frequency response, there are a number of key features to the HS Series speakers that make all the difference in quality, and are some things you should keep an eye out for when you’re running down the spec sheet. For starters, powered monitors need a high-quality amp to drive the speakers cleanly (you don’t want clipped,
distorted sound, do you?), and the HS8’s come equipped with a bi-amp design with separate dedicated amps for both the woofer and the tweeter. One of the benefits to a high-quality amp is that it will deliver consistently flat responses across the spectrum. Be wary of monitors that don’t disclose their amplifier types or specs. Next, take care when choosing speaker enclosures (the actual material the “boxes” are constructed from). The HS Series is built using a dense and resilient MDF material, which is perfect for reference-quality playback due to its inherent ability to dampen acoustic response. Bottom line, the enclosure can be responsible for eliminating (or at least helping to reduce) acoustic issues, rattling, and problem-child resonances that lower-quality monitors may suffer from. So far, we’ve taken a look at the box, the amp and the actual speakers, but what about the connectivity? Powered studio monitor speakers aren’t going to have standard speaker wire terminals like your stereo; rather, they will likely accommodate balanced XLR or 1/4” inputs. It’s crucial to match the inputs on the studio monitors you’re selecting with the outputs available on your
HOME RECORDING audio interface. If the monitors you’re looking at don’t have XLR inputs, but for some reason that’s the only available output type on your interface or console, it’s time to make another choice. Thankfully, the HS8 monitors we’ve been running offer both XLR and 1/4” inputs for flexibility. And lastly, look for extra sound-shaping capabilities and other adjustments that will help tailor your monitors to your specific acoustic space. For example, the HS8’s offer room control capabilities as well as additional hightrim features to help tame frequencies in your room. You want the most accurate reproduction possible, so these high-end features can make all the difference in a home production. HOW TO POSITION STUDIO MONITOR SPEAKERS We’ll defer to Jay Frigoletto, expert mastering engineer with Mastersuite, who’s written on the subject in-depth for Performer: “A common technique is to arrange monitoring on an equilateral triangle with one point being the listening position and the other two points being speakers aimed at the listener at 60º angles. Symmetry is important. You don’t want to be twice as far from the left wall as the right, or rotated with one speaker farther from the front wall than the other. Try to keep some space between speakers and walls. Direct sound, following a straight path from speaker to ear, mixes in undesirable ways with reflections from nearby surfaces such as walls, tables, and mixing consoles. The reflected path, from speaker to wall to ear, is longer than the direct path, resulting in a copy of the sound arriving just after the original. Sound is comprised of alternating higher and lower pressure, or in electronic transmission, positive and negative
voltage. When a delayed signal combines with the original, one may be cycling positive, and the other, negative. These energies work against each other, reducing level at certain frequencies (destructive interference). Both signals being in a positive cycle results in reinforcement at some frequencies (constructive interference). Neither case is welcome because it changes the frequency response of the sound from your speakers. The easiest way to determine placement of treatments to absorb early reflections is to grab a mirror and enlist the help of a friend. While you sit at the listening position, your friend places the mirror flat on the wall, moving it until you can see a speaker. Center your treatments there. Sound and light travel in waves and reflect in similar ways (angle of incidence equals angle of reflection), so the mirror shows the first reflection paths from your speakers to your listening position. Ceilings, floors, and consoles also can be a source of unwanted reflections.”** A QUICK WORD ON BASS TRAPS Again, we’ll let Frigoletto address proper setup in your home studio: “Low-frequency absorption, or bass trapping, is essential in small rooms, and acoustically speaking, any room in a house is a small room. Standing waves are a particular case of constructive and destructive interference between parallel walls causing certain frequencies to either ring or all but disappear at specific locations (antinodes and nodes). One node will exist exactly halfway between the front and back walls, so it’s best to have your listening position in front or behind the half-way point. The poor bass response in un-trapped rooms contributes to many home studio mixes having
problems in the low end. If you are missing bass at your listening position, you’re probably in a node. It may seem counter-intuitive to trap bass when you don’t have enough, but that’s exactly what to do. The missing bass is caused by sound bouncing between two walls, with the low pressure in one direction combining with the high pressure in the other, thereby cancelling each other out. If you trap the bass, it won’t bounce back, eliminating the cancellation and restoring an even bass response. The simplest bass trapping is a thick porous absorber in the corners or on the back wall, often called a “super-chunk.” The classic material for these and many other absorptive treatments is Owens Corning 703 semi-rigid fiberglass boards in a frame covered with Guilford FR-701 fabric. The thicker the panel, the better the low-frequency absorption. Leaving a small space between panel and wall also improves low frequency performance. Four-inch panel depth gets you into the lower midrange, but for real bass trapping, you’ll need it to be several times thicker.” CLOSING THOUGHTS We hope this educational series has helped guide you on your way to setting up your own home studio. Keep in mind that this series is aimed primarily at the beginner home studio user in an effort to dispel common myths about home recording, and to make the entire process much less intimidating than it might seem at first. Head to https://usa.yamaha.com/ products/proaudio/index.html to learn more and to find the products that will fit YOUR home studio needs. **read the original article at http://performermag. com/home-recording/4-tips-to-improve-your-homestudio-acoustics/
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Two Real-World Takes SD2000 Mesh-Head E
Editor’s note – this fall we searched for two active drummers to test out and report back on the Simmons SD2000 Mesh-Head Electronic Drum Kit. Both testers put the kit through its paces, and produced a series of demo videos showing off the kit in action and highlighting how it could work for today’s modern drummer. Below are their final testimonials. For more info, head to simmonsdrums.net/sd2000-mesh-headelectronic-drum-kit. REVIEW BY RICHARD THOMAS, NINEBUZZ MUSIC CLUB The Simmons SD2000 is a great kit for the price! At first, I was skeptical that the size and weight of the kit would be prohibitive in some way-- slowing down adjustments, taking up more room -- but after breaking down and setting up the SD2000 many times over the past month I found that none of that actually mattered. What stuck is that this is a responsive kit, solid, and carefully designed kit. The onboard sounds are exceptional, and after a little trial and error, the brain is quick and easy to manipulate; no more difficult than other brains out there. The mesh pads and soft rubber rims are fun and enjoyable to smash. I play quite hard and feel like I can totally unload on this thing without hurting it or its creators’ feelings. I like that. 36 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
While the initial setup took me a little white, I found the proceeding breakdowns and setups to be fast and easy. My 4-step method? I unplug the wires, wrap them around the brainstem, remove all the pads, and fold up the cage nice and flat. Done. It’s surprisingly quick! I can imagine using this on a gig and breaking down in a matter of two minutes, it’s that easy. The brain not only produces great sound, but it’s pleasing to touch and use. In fact, the feel of the whole kit is nice on the hands. Sturdy, yet comfortable to touch. The color display is a nice feature, which could come in handy in a dark room or on stage. So, what’s most important with a kit like this? The responsiveness of the drum? The ease-ofuse? The price? The sound quality? It’s hard to say. Every drummer has their own priority. For me, an electronic kit has to feel great when played. I’m not that concerned with expansions or recording, or even performing live; I want a kit that gets out of my way and lets me “get into the zone” with my headphones on and escape for a while into my music. The SD2000 accomplished that with flying colors. I feel like I could rely on this kit for years. Much like a new car, I had to drive it for a little while to understand and appreciate its design. When I do get around to finish composing my #1 hit album (haha), I look forward to using this
kit to work out the grooves, and the sounds. The quick adjustment panel on the front of the brain is a welcome addition to people like me who grew up right before everything went touch screen. Manual levers are gratifying and handy! Thank you Simmons and Performer Magazine for this great opportunity! REVIEW BY DEREK DONATO The Simmons SD-2000 is a fun drum kit and a very useful tool in a studio or live setting. In the last few months of using the SD2000 for practice and recording, I’ve really enjoyed playing the kit and recording with it. Simmons has included a lot of features
that make this kit really useful in facilitating creativity. I’ve loved being able to quickly record ideas to a USB drive or plug right into my DAW setup and having the ability to record patterns that can be played back from one of the pads in a kit is an excellent touch. Having so many different recording options is extremely helpful to keep creative ideas flowing and get ideas or patterns recorded quickly. In addition to recording, you can also play back music from a USB drive directly from the module, which has been one of my favorite features. It’s super-easy to adjust all of the pads to suit my playing style, which I really appreciated
(though I would have liked to have seen a ball mount included, like the toms have, for the snare as well). The pads feel really responsive and feel great to play. The pads themselves aren’t very loud; noticeably quieter than your standard practice pad. I really like that they included a good amount of world and percussion sounds along with the more typical acoustic and electronic kits, giving you a wide palette of sonic textures to choose from along with the ability to import your own samples. They’ve included the ability to make your own ‘User Kit’ with either the included sounds or imported sounds since you’re able to adjust and save the parameters, which is
kes on the Simmons Electronic Drum Kit
really helpful if you’ve found some settings for a particular song and would like to save them to play again in the future. I am a huge fan of the bank of 5 faders on the front of the drum module. There are 3 different banks and a total of 15 parameters you can control really quickly, along with access to the metronome. The Low EQ and Hi EQ is great in a live setting; the SD2000 has way more flexibility to shape the sound than an acoustic kit. Simmons really covered the bases between features that will benefit during practice, recording, or a live setting, and I think the SD2000 is a great addition to any studio, practice space or touring rig. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 37
MIC LOCKER CHALLENGE:
Testing Three New Sterling Microphones in The Studio Randy Garcia, Smoochyface Let me start this whole thing off by saying: I never win anything on the internet. Sure, I apply for those alluring “win free gear” promotions from prominent distributors and manufacturers all the time, but I’ve never managed to fall into the winner’s bracket for anything. That is, until I was selected to receive this trio of shiny new microphones from Sterling Audio, courtesy of Performer Magazine. The only catch? I had to put them to good use and document my findings. No problem...so here we go! FIRST IMPRESSIONS The three mics included in the kit were the ST155 Large-Diaphragm Condenser 38 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Microphone, the ST169 Multi-Pattern Tube Condenser Microphone, and the ST170 Active Ribbon Microphone. My first impressions after unboxing were that all three mics were built exceptionally well -- heavy to the hand, with very robust bodies and mounts. These mics are also gorgeous in appearance, flaunting elegant yet subdued design cues that make them appear much more expensive than they actually are. Each mic also includes its own padded hard case, owner’s manual, and a few extra rubber bands for the shock mounts. The ST170 features a smaller shock mount, as it’s a much slimmer profile than the others, and the 155 and 169 share a design for their heavy-duty mounts. Additionally,
The ST169 includes a large tube power supply box, an IEC cable to plug into your AC source, and a 5-pin XLR cable to connect from the supply to the mic. Please note that no standard XLR cables are included with these mics. THE ST155 Of the three mics I tested, the ST155 LargeDiaphragm Condenser is the most “meat and potatoes” of the group. Retailing at $199, it’s also an absolute bargain, considering how great it sounds. The ST155 is quite sensitive and articulate, with a very clean and balanced response through the full frequency spectrum. It features a switchable high-pass filter and attenuation pad which work
GEAR TEST same attenuation and low pass filter switching as the ST155, while also adding a separate 3-way switch for Cardioid, Omni and Figure-8 pickup patterns. Retailing for $499, the ST169 is definitely the flagship of the Sterling line. While I wouldn’t consider it a downside, the ST169 does require a bit more room to set up, as it includes a rather hefty tube pre-amp unit. It also requires AC current, so keep that in mind when you are cable-routing for this bad boy.
great in situations where you’re moving a lot of low end, or high SPL’s, respectively. I found the overall tonality of this mic to be very natural and warm, lacking the typical shrill top-end frequencies and pronounced sibilance that less expensive mics seem to be plagued with. I think
The ST169 differs dramatically from the ST155 in that it reproduces midrange brilliantly, which made me want to try it on all sorts of fun sound sources. I really loved the way this mic made fuzzy guitars pop out of a mix with ease. I also really enjoyed using it on gritty, soulful vocals. Sterling claims that this mic can handle very high SPL’s, and I found no evidence to the
“It seemed like no matter what I fed this mic, it took it in gleefully and spewed out a rainbow of very useful tonal colors on the other side -- probably the most fun I’ve ever had miking things.” that can be attributed to the fact that even at $199 retail, this mic features a hand-assembled capsule and custom-wound transformer. All of the ST155’s features make it the perfect candidate for speech and vocal recording, but it also holds its own quite well as a guitar amp, acoustic instrument or overhead mic. THE ST169 The ST169 Multi-Pattern Tube Condenser Microphone is a Class-A device and features the
contrary. It seemed like no matter what I fed this mic, it took it in gleefully and spewed out a rainbow of very useful tonal colors on the other side -- probably the most fun I’ve ever had miking things. THE ST170 My first audio test of the ST170 was not entirely good. However, I can attribute most of that to a bit of user error. In my initial testing, I sought to compare
it with the ST155 and ST169, but I was wrong to do so. This mic is its own beast. It features the same great build and components with its cousins, but sounds so radically different, it would be unwise to consider it in the same arena. The ST170 is VERY warm sounding and has a much lower output than the 155 and 169 -- this is due to the ribbon, which is not meant to cover the same SPL range or frequency set as the large diaphragm mics. The SP170 seemed to be a great secondary mic to a dynamic mic placed on a low-watt guitar cab. I had great results using it as a center channel “bass” mic on a stereo acoustic guitar recording. It also sounded wonderful tracking a vintage electric bass. Note that I had to keep the amp quieter than usual to avoid overloading the mic. All in all, this is a great mic to add to your locker if you already have most of your bases covered. It might not be a go-to, but I can certainly see myself using it to add a certain flavor to other mics, including the ST155 and ST169. IN CLOSING Sterling seems to know what’s up. They offer exceptional products at reasonable prices. I found that the ST155 and ST169 outperformed mics costing up to 10 times as much in certain situations. The build quality, clarity, and tonal qualities of their mics make them rare jewels in a sea of mass-manufactured and otherwise disappointing mid-level mics. My current goal is to acquire a second ST 169 to see what kind of stereo havoc I can wreak when using them as an overhead pair on a drum set. I’ve also got a long list of projects lined up for these mics that probably won’t end anytime soon! To learn more about Sterling Microphones, visit sterlingaudio.net. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 39
Fortune’s Folly Hits the Road to put the Audio-Technica System 10 PRO Wireless System Through its Paces
Alex Koleber of Fortune’s Folly [Editor’s note – this fall we opened a nationwide search to find a band to test out the System 10 PRO Wireless system from AudioTechnica. We chose Fortune’s Folly, a super-fun band from Oregon to hit the road and gig live with the wireless mic and system for a few weeks. They blogged, shot some behind-the-scenes video and ultimately had the following to say about how well the system held up in a real-world live setting]. We had a wonderful experience with the Audio-Technica System 10 PRO Wireless Microphone System. After many headaches and irritations with our cabled mic set up, this was a refreshing and welcome change. Not only is the system easy to set up and use, the sound quality is also crisp and clear. We never experienced 40 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Ian McCormick/Mistic Pics
“This microphone system has renewed our faith in going wireless.”
TOUR TEST any popping or crackling, and the mute/power button is located on the bottom of the mic rather than the side, reducing the odds of accidentally hitting it. Every sound engineer we worked with mentioned how great it was that we had a wireless system and remarked on the simplicity of its operation. Just plug and play. Another great thing about this mic is the usability. It traveled from the stage to the back of the venue each night at some point during the shows and took a beating from our wildly acrobatic singer; never once did it lose signal or volume. It’s lightweight but doesn’t feel cheap and doesn’t require large batteries so it remains comfortable to hold for several hours at a time, even without a mic stand.
We have tried wireless systems in the past (mics and in-ear monitors) and experienced nothing but frustration with reduced sound quality and complicated operation. This microphone system has renewed our faith in going wireless. It’s convenient having fewer cables on stage and less gear to haul with us on the road to gigs. Our singer is able to get out into the crowd to dance without having to worry about tripping on anything or disconnecting a cable, thereby causing the speakers to pop and distract fans from our live show experience. Also, there is no reduction in sound quality, clarity, or signal compared to a cabled system which is extremely important to us. We would rather endure the inconvenience of cables than sacrifice tone and quality, but with the
System 10 PRO we didn’t have to make that sacrifice. As a band that is constantly on the go, either on the road to shows or dancing like crazy on stage, we highly recommend the System 10 PRO from Audio-Technica. For the price, one would expect a system of much lower quality but its professional grade audio, lightweight design and affordability make it an excellent choice for any performer. Follow on Twitter @FortunesFolly And for more info on System 10 , check out audio-technica.com.
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DRUM MIC GUIDE
The Best Dr For Your Ho 42 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
RECORDING DRUMS IN YOUR HOME STUDIO Recording studios have come a long way since the days of multi-million dollar complexes with 30-foot long consoles and flying faders. It’s now possible to record professional-quality albums at home, with gear that costs a fraction of what those old commercial studios paid. With that in mind, many home studio users shudder at the thought of recording drums. With guitars, you’re typically placing an instrument mic on the amp’s speaker or one of the speakers in the guitarist’s cabinet, positioning it where it sounds best for your application, and you’re on your way. Vocals are fairly simple, as well. Place the singer in front of your mic of choice, and that’s half the battle. Granted, that’s an oversimplified explanation, but not when you compare it to the daunting task of recording drums. Drums…well, there’s just a lot more of them. And that makes things tricky. Sounds pressure levels are an issue; drums are loud and full of attack. Bleed is an issue; again, drums are LOUD and full of attack (notice a pattern here?) And oftentimes, it can be intimidating to know just what the best mics are for a full drum set, how many mics you’ll
need to capture the performance in the best way for your mix, and how to position the mics on each individual drum in the best manner possible to get the sounds you’re after. In short, no matter what room you’re in (home studio, commercial space, even on stage), you’ll want to mic each part of the kit individually so that you can capture their unique tonal characteristics, and so that you can balance out the entire drum set in the mix by adjusting certain parts, if need be. THE BEST MIC FOR KICK DRUMS Kick drums can be difficult to get right in the studio, but generally speaking, you’re going to want to place one mic inside, for two specific reasons. One, it helps capture the natural attack of the kick drum, and it also helps isolate and mitigate bleed from other parts of the kit. You’ll also likely want to place a close mic outside, in front of the head. Inside, we recommend a large dynamic mic like the Audio-Technica ATM250, which will help nail the “punch” that you’ll typically want from the kick drum. Outside the head, a largediaphragm cardioid condenser can help enhance the bottom-end of the spectrum to round out the “attack” being picked up by the dynamic mic inside. Think of them as complementary buddies designed to work in tandem to get the best kick sound possible. A great choice for this application would be the AT4047/SV. THE BEST MIC FOR HI-HATS Hi-hats occupy a unique sonic space in your drum mix, at times splashy, percussive and (sometimes) top-heavy in the frequency range. For hi-hats, we feel the best mic is a side-address designed cardioid condenser instrument mic, like the ATM450. The side-address design makes placement on the source easy, and the high-pass filter and pad can be engaged to ease some of the bleed coming through from, say a snare or the kick drum (this is true even for non leadfooted drummers).
THE BEST MIC FOR SNARE DRUMS Snare is oftentimes all about attack, and capturing that accurately without bleed can be challenging. One of the ways to get the best snare sound is to use two mics, one set up above and one below the head. For the top, the best mic for the job is a hypercardioid dynamic instrument mic, like the ATM650 which is designed for capturing loud attacks at close distances, without clipping or distortion. If you’re also bottom-miking, you can choose to use another dynamic instrument mic, or a condenser with high SPL. You could, in fact, place another ATM450 like the one you used on hi-hats, under the snare, with the high-pass filter and pad engaged in this situation, as well. Again, this’ll help combat any bleed from other parts of the kit.
DRUM MIC GUIDE
elcome to the first in a four-part series that will provide realworld advice for setting up your home recording studio to record a full drum kit, co-presented by Performer Magazine and AudioTechnica. In this installment, we’ll take a closer look at the best microphones for recording drums in your home studio, what kinds of specific microphones are ideal on each part of the drum kit, plus some basic tips for recording the cleanest drum tracks possible. In upcoming installments, we’ll go into more detail about specific drum miking techniques for snare, kick, cymbals, hi-hats, overheads and even adding effects like reverb, delay, room ambience and gating to your mix.
PRO TIP: make sure the bottom mic is flipped out of phase at the preamp stage so that you’re not canceling out waves and ending up with an unnaturally “thin” snare attack in the mix. THE BEST MIC FOR TOMS If you use the wrong mic on toms, they have a tendency to be boomy and muddy up an otherwise “tight” and “percussive” drum sound. We’ll get into placement and technique in future installments, but using good overheads arranged properly will yield nice results, especially when mixed with closer-miked toms near the rack. For overheads, we’d recommend going with the ATM450 again, or a similar pair of instrument condenser mics designed for high sound pressure level applications. For closer miking, the best options would be something like the ATM230. Why? Because its capsule is designed for high SPL scenarios (like, you guessed it, drums) and because the hypercardioid design rounds out the low-end while also focusing right on the sound source (we’re gonna sound like a broken record, but this aids in keeping bleed-through down to a minimum). Another well-balanced mic that would be great for toms, especially, is the ATM350a, which handily enough comes in a kit
rum Mics Home Studio
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DRUM MIC GUIDE
with a nice gooseneck mounting system perfect for drums (the ATM350D package). THE BEST MICS FOR CYMBALS Splashy and sibilant, cymbals also present a challenge during the mix if you’ve used the wrong mic during your tracking session. A well-position condenser mic will handle high SPL situations like a ride, but you may also want to capture cymbals with your overhead setup. The trusty, and versatile ATM450s can assist here, as they’re simply great for overhead applications. Just remember that closer positioning to your cymbals will capture less of the overall kit, while a more elevated position can round out the entire drum set for a balanced “overview” of the kit. You might find that handy depending on the style of music. For tight, syncopated prog and metal, you might not need it. For soul, R&B and more retro sounding material, try moving the mics further from the source and see how that suits the session. THE BEST ROOM MICS FOR DRUMS We haven’t talked much about the room yet; we’ll get to that in later installments. But no matter if you’re in a spacious, cavernous hall or a tight, cramped bedroom space, capturing the “room” can add an interesting element to your overall drum mix or some much-needed ambience that might otherwise be missing from close-miking your drums individually, out-ofcontext with how they sound as a cohesive unit. Since this is a much larger topic, stay tuned for our next installment for much more detail on room miking techniques and the best mics for the job. CLOSING THOUGHTS Now, keep in mind this is simply a primer to get you thinking about the best drum mics for your studio; these are just some recommendations for the basics you’ll need to get started. For a more serious setup, you can add additional mics to capture your drums from different angles, use different types of mics to capture more unique percussive tones coming from the kit than what you’d typically aim for, or even try something totally off-the-wall when it comes to miking a full drum kit. We hope this installment at least gets you familiar with the quantity and best types of mics if you do choose to venture into the world of recording drums in your own studio. Stay tuned for upcoming parts of the series that will focus further on practical microphone setup and recording techniques for each piece of the kit. Until then, be sure to check out the entire range of Audio-Technica instrument microphones at www.audio-technica.com and follow Audio-Technica on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
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First off, it really is notebook sized, it easily fits in a backpack. With 4 channels that have a 3-band EQ as well as combo 1/4 and XLR connections, its super familiar, even to novices. Hi-pass filters are also selectable, and channels 1 & 3 also have Hi-Z pads, great for direct inputs for electric guitars, synths, etc. The 3-band EQ is satisfyingly musical, with a really nice signal to noise ratio. The remaining channels don’t feature a 3-band EQ, but they sound good on their own, with 5-8 having 1/4” inputs and 9-10 using a stereo RCA input. Channels 11 and 12 can function as an external effects send and return.
SOUNDCRAFT Notepad 12FX Mixer
inding any device that can work live and in the studio is tough. Find one that isn’t super huge, it gets even tougher. Try to make it reasonably priced, and it’s practically impossible. Soundcraft somehow figured out how to satisfy all the needs for a small, live/studio mixer and interface.
The output options are XLR, as well as Aux and headphone controls. Connection to a computer is via USB. Simple. Just connect it to a power amp, and it’s a nice small-format live mixer for a bar, rock club or other venue. Or use it as a sub mixer to connect to an already existing mixer (I’m looking at you keyboard players that think 4 boards is “minimalist”). Considering 90% of the time the main item that needs to go through the board are vocals, this is a perfect item for singer/songwriters and small combos what won’t be complicated to operate. The sound quality is head-scratchingly superb at this price point, and the EQ is quite flexible for instruments and vocals. Soundcraft preamps are legendary for being musical and rich, and that legacy is found here as well. It’s not sterile or thin. Most of the time the EQ isn’t really needed to fix inputs, but can rather be used as an adjustment for the room.
Great price, functional as live or studio mixer, great size.
There is a nice effects section (by Lexicon) with selectable chorus, reverb and delay. The only controls are a tap tempo button, and a parameter adjust knob. It’s not super flexible, but just adds in the ambience that would be needed in a small room. It’s subtle and functional, and again, at this price point, a welcome (and usable) addition. Plug it into a computer (Mac/PC are supported) and it can be an excellent interface for a DAW. It works well with a variety of software packages, with no issues. It also supports phantom power for condenser microphones that require it. Podcasters and video producers will love it as an interface that is reasonable to navigate and won’t take up a ton of desk space. It does come with a power supply, and unfortunately cannot be powered by USB alone. The Street price is just $159, and it’s hard to beat a mixer that can be such a useful tool, across a lot of applications. We give it our full recommendation. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 45
Ergonomic, long battery life (wireless version), rechargeable battery, customizable. CONS
$89.95 – $109.95 (wires and wireless, respectively)
t’s amazing to see how far a simple device like a mouse has evolved, and even more amazing to see where our workflow habits take us where little changes to something that can be taken for granted, can really make a big difference.
The new ultra-ergonomic Unimouse from Contour is slightly larger than the average mouse, but not overwhelming; large and small hands should have no problem adapting. The Unimouse really flips traditional mouse design on its head. It feels like a mouse doing a two-wheeled Dukes of Hazzard ride, with the main control surface angled. It’s adjustable from 30 to 70 degrees, with an equally adjustable textured, rubbercoated thumb rest. With a thumb in place, the rest of the fingers sit nicely above 3 buttons and a click wheel. Just above the thumb rest are two additional programmable buttons, as well. After installing the driver, each button can be assigned globally or for any specific application. Great for DAW users who crave tactile shortcuts to transport controls, etc. 46 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
The addition of the third button on the angled side is a godsend. Even for simple functions like double clicking. The side buttons offer up really easy access to commonly used keystrokes and mouse clicks. There’s really no transition in switching from a regular two button mouse, so don’t worry about a learning curve. The big learning curve will really be analyzing your workflow patterns in whatever software you’re using, and finding a way to adapt the mouse to those needs. It may take some serious thinking, and may uncover some combinations of keys and clicks that have slipped your mind. We tested and explored its functions in the Adobe suite, AutoCAD, GarageBand, PreSonus Studio One, Cubase as well as most standard software included on Mac and Windows computers. There were no issues, and each application was able to benefit from the extra functionality offered up by the Unimouse. It really comes down to individual workflow habits, but even on the surface, it brings
better functionality, and really digging into it, can make repetitive mouse clicks a lot easier to deal with overall. It is available in both USB wired and wireless versions. The wireless one runs off a rechargeable battery, which can run it up to three months, depending upon the user. But the big deal is it recharges via an included USB cable, so no having to find batteries that will end up in a landfill. It can be used as well while it’s being charged. Ergonomically it was pleasant to use, with no issues on adjusting hand or wrist locations, with plenty of comfort. In short, it just may be the most comfortable mouse we’ve ever used. The street price is right around the hundreddollar mark, and considering the extra functionality and mega comfort it delivers, we feel like the price is well worth it for any serious home studio user. Chris Devine
aking things smaller is easy; making them more functional at the same time is a challenge. DPA Microphones has designed and produced some amazingly small devices, and while they function well and sound great, they do leave us with a little headscratching. More on that in a minute. First up is the d:vice Digital Audio Interface. It’s super tiny, like the tech stuff in Black Mirror tiny. Roughly the size of a hockey puck, its only I/O is a micro USB cable interface and two MicroDot microphone connections. Download the app (iOS for mobile devices only) and it brings the gain and low pass filters for each channel, as well as the ability to save up to four presets. Basic monitoring is provided by the iOS device, and works well. It’s a pretty interesting and small (did we mention that, yet?) system, and would be great for providing quality audio for videos, with separate audio feeds that can be done in stereo or mono. It also functions as a more traditional audio interface for Mac or PC, and works well for mobile, on-the-go singer/songwriters who might want to capture simple demos or song ideas on the road. Thankfully, cables for all configurations are included. DPA really likes the Dot microphone connection, and also provided its XLR to MicroDot adapter for us as part of the review. So, even though it might not appear this way out-of-the-box, DPA microphones can be used with traditional XLR connections. It’s a neat design, and is fully functional with both the d:vote 4099 family of Instrument Microphones, as well as their d:fine Headset and d:screet Miniature Microphones. Both of which are super small, and inconspicuous. The instrument mic is a condenser that comes with an adjustable mounting adapter, and easily mounts on an acoustic guitar’s body, for example, with non-marring rubber connections and a flexible gooseneck for optimum placement. The sound quality is flat-out outstanding, and the unit
itself is flexible (no pun intended) for optimal placement, physically as well as sonically. It has a nice dynamic richness that doesn’t color things. It’s great for instruments that don’t have a piezo pickup, but sound too good not to use live (or in the studio). DPA’s headset mic is equally flexible and comfortable, also featuring a MicroDot connection and a clip to relieve stress on any of the cables, when attached to a shirt collar. Again, the sound quality and clarity are excellent, however... Each unit in the package is a well-made, precision-engineered item that embraces the MicroDot connection, and the price tags might strike some as a bit high. The d:vice audio interface comes in at a street price of $659. It’s small, sure, but there is really no shortage of portable options to record audio to a mobile device or Mac/PC. And while those devices might be slightly larger in footprint, they can still fit comfortable in a backpack for mobile use and all use more standard XLR or combo inputs for mics and instruments. Both the mics we tested were really nice, but feel a tad delicate and spindly. Knowing how some musicians treat the gear on the road, it’s a nice touch that DPA includes padded cases. But again, there are other mics that deliver great sound quality, with a bit more robust design and connections that can be used universally with any PA or recording interface. Overall, the interface and mics make a great pairing that offers up a lot of flexibility, and great tonal options. DPA makes some really nice, small, low profile items, with welldesigned functionality, but the decision to use a proprietary, non-standard connection means that using basically any other microphone is a challenge. If you’re willing to invest in the DPA ecosystem, that all makes sense. But if, like many artists and sound engineers, you use a mix of brands and gear, jumping into the MicroDot connection world might not make sense for you. Chris Devine
d:vice Digital Audio Interface
d:vote Instrument mic
Hyper small, great app.
Great sounding mic for acoustics that don’t have a piezo.
Only mobile device support is iOS, no XLR or combo inputs on board.
DPA MICROPHONES d:vice Digital Audio Interface d:vote 4099 Instrument Microphone d:fine Headset Microphone
d:fine Headset mic
d:vote Instrument mic
Very inconspicuous, great sound quality.
Works great with MicroDot connection.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 47
original promotional brochure
YEARS MANUFACTURED It was released in 1954 and was taken out of production in 1969. BACKGROUND The KM-54 is a cardioid pencil condenser microphone. It boasts a Telefunken AC 701 subminiature triode tube (also used in the M49 and M50). It is the second “miniature microphone” that Neumann released. After its release in 1954, it quickly became popular for use as a voice microphone for TV and radio. However, it didn’t take long for it to become one of the most coveted microphones for studio use. HOW IT WAS USED It was (and still is) used in many applications. It captures sound beautifully. Engineers use the KM-54 on all types of acoustic instruments such 48 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
as piano, acoustic guitar, and (if they’re lucky enough to have a pair) on drum overheads. Many people place this mic on an acoustic guitar’s neck and pair it with a large diaphragm condenser microphone to embody the full sound of the instrument. One interesting characteristic is the capsule. Neumann was able to make the KM-54 cardioid by the use of a “Delay Plate.” It is an acoustical labyrinth that delays the sound entering the side and rear of the microphone, so as to cancel the same sounds entering the front of the diaphragm. This unique design gives the microphone 25db of attenuation off-axis. CAN BE HEARD ON It has been used on tons of prominent songs and albums. The Beatles used it on acoustic
guitar quite often in the mid 1960s. LESSONS LEARNED How to capture sound…the way it was meant to be captured. There is truly nothing like this microphone when it comes to tracking an acoustic instrument. By using this unique mic, the engineer can help recreate the warm, rich sounds of old records we love so much. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Andrew Boullianne is a studio manager and a full-time engineer. He loves long walks on the beach and creating music. Check out Andrew’s Instagram @drewboull10 and thelalamansion. com to see the studio that he works in. Photo by Andrew Pilling, used under a Creative Commons license.
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LARGE-DIAPHRAGM CONDENSER MICROPHONE
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