/ Future: VR concert production / Neve 1073®: a legend turns 50 / Pop Music Production – Phil Harding
/ PreSonus Studio One 5: scores big / CEDAR Cambridge v13: powerful new tools / sonible smart:reverb
/ Segun Akinola: Doctor Who composer / Robert Sanderson: forensic audio / Martin Garrix STMPD recording studios
V19.4 | Summer 2020 | £5.50
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28 V19.4 | Summer 2020
News & Analysis 5 6
Leader News News, studios, appointments 12 New Products 50 A Day In The Life The multi-skilled Emre Ramazanoglu, Noel Gallagher mix engineer
Columns 14 15 16 45
Business AvidPlay’s Atmos music distribution, Virtual Tomorrowland VR music Virtual concerts are the next big thing Crosstalk Rob Speight looks at moving audio round the world Playlist Crazy songs for a crazy 2020
28 Ben Hillier On the art of engineering, playing the Kitchen Sink, and recording Depeche Mode 33 Segun Akinola The Doctor Who composer has a fascination with electroacoustic techniques and a mix of musical influences 36 Robert Sanderson From music to forensic audio analysis: how a New York recording engineer ended up authenticating wiretaps 38 STMPD Studios Martin Garrix’ 7-room Amsterdam facility has built a new Dolby Atmos mix stage 42 Pop Music Production [book extract] Phil Harding, the hit-maker behind a host of ‘90s stars, swaps his mixing desk for a writing desk
46 Neve 1073® As the preamp & EQ celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look at how it came to dominate the sound of an era
REVIEWS 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
PreSonus Studio One 5 CEDAR Cambridge v13 DPA 4097 micro shotgun Tone Projects Unisum Brainworx bx_console SSL 9000 J PSP InfiniStrip IK Multimedia ARC 3 sonible smart:reverb Leapwing RootOne
46 Summer 2020 / 3
CR EATE. COM POSE. COLLABORATE. CO NNEC T. PreSonus Sphere includes licenses to Studio One 5
storage, access to exclusive trainings and events, and
Professional, Notion 6, and nearly every plug-in and Add-on
more—all for a low monthly or annual membership.
we make—including Audio Batch Converter, Deep Flight One, and Fat Channel Plug-ins, with more being added all the time.
Your creative expression has no boundaries— and neither does PreSonus Sphere.
In addition to these creative tools, PreSonus Sphere members are also given collaboration tools, cloud
Learn more at presonus.com/sphere.
©2020 PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Studio One is a registerered trademark of PreSonus Software Ltd. Notion is a registered trade mark of PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. Other product names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective companies.
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A new reality
he news that The X Factor man who launched countless Pop Idols has left the music industry seems to me like a milestone on the road to a new paradigm for pop production. Simon Cowell has left the building. What actually happened in mid-July, was that the man who changed the face of British Saturday night TV entertainment bought out Sony Music’s share of his TV brands, leaving Sony with Syco’s music catalogue. To label employees at the coalface, it probably passed like just another business deal or retrenchment of management power, but to me it feels like a changing of the guard. In 2001, Cowell and Simon Fuller launched Pop Idol on ITV. In 2004, Cowell created The X Factor featuring the terrifying trio of Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh on the judging panel. Leona Lewis, winner of the third series of The X Factor, was signed to Cowell’s label Syco. Lewis’ winning single broke world records by being downloaded more than 50,000 times in less than 30 minutes. The song became the 2006 UK Christmas #1, selling 571,000 copies in its first week and out-selling the remainder of the UK Top-40 combined. Sony Music then purchased Cowell’s share of Syco Music and Syco Television. In 2009, Cowell
launched a joint venture with Sony whereby this venture owned rights to several TV formats including Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor. From these TV shows, during the partnership, artists were exclusively signed to Sony Music Entertainment-owned labels including Syco Music, Columbia Records, Epic Records, Sony Latin and RCA Records. It was a pop ‘production line’ which has kept music producers busy for the last two decades. Cowell and Sony redrew the route to pop success. But it seems Cowell is no longer required. The ‘dream’ sold by reality TV shows, where talent (relatively speaking) negotiates a pantomime ‘will-he-won’t-he’ path to glory looks distinctly tired in 2020. Why bother to traverse a gruelling four-month stint in front of live TV cameras and mocking audiences when a fast track to pop stardom is one viral TikTok video away? Damon Killian is no longer required, as The Running Man now controls the camera. Curtis Waters (aka Abhi Bastakoti) started lockdown as a student making music in his bedroom, and emerged three months later as the next big thing in pop — all thanks to a 15-second music clip posted online — ‘Stunnin’ is a viral TikTok sensation, and has racked up 35 million streams on Spotify. “Simon, I don’t mean to be rude, but ...”.
Summer 2020 / 5
AES AI in Audio virtual symposium
Continuing its growing series of virtual events, the Audio Engineering Society has set dates for a two-day virtual symposium Applications in Machine Learning in Audio, being presented online, September 28–29. The events’ technical programme, featuring a keynote address by electronic/AI composer Holly Herndon, will explore topics including automatic mixing, audio source separation, audio visualisation and effect control, audio capture and recording, and sourcing audio data, as well as legal issues created by this new form of science and art. Registration is just $25 for AES members and $150 for non-members, the latter includes one year of complimentary AES membership and access to full member benefits and resources.
AIR acquires Alchemy mastering
The new London mastering operation will be branded as Alchemy Mastering at AIR. The high-end audio mastering outfit has gone from strength to strength throughout its 22-year history, establishing a distinct reputation as one of the most forward-thinking studios in the industry. Following the acquisition, AIR will continue its mastering operations while expanding their current facilities at the iconic Lyndhurst site. Meanwhile, a part of the team led by Alchemy’s founder Barry Grint will remain at their current Hammersmith location with a view to joining the AIR headquarters in the near future. AIR Studios was founded by legendary Beatles producer and Oscar-nominated composer Sir George Martin in 1970, and started its mastering operation at the Lyndhurst site in 2006 with Ray Staff. ALchemy’s Grint has worked on over 20 UK #1 records and more than 100 UK Top Ten hits. 6 / Summer 2020
API for new Clive Davis Institute studio The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has purchased a 32-channel API Legacy AXS console with Final Touch automation, plus two The BOX consoles, for its new campus in Brooklyn. API has history with the institute — in 2006, it purchased the third-ever API Vision console at the suggestion of associate arts professor and associate chair Nicholas Sansano. An engineer, producer and musician himself, Sansano started his career at Greene Street Recording in NYC working on the first Legacy console ever made. “API to me represented ‘colour’ and a certain added thickness; ‘added’ being the operative word — the console gave you back more than what you put into it,” he recalls. When the Clive Davis Institute moved to new premises in late 2019, Sansano again turned to API: “We needed the sound, but not the multi-channel capability. We also purchased The BOX consoles for smaller-scale production suites.”
Shoemaker’s magic Indigo mixes Engineer and producer Trina Shoemaker has been spending more time than ever in her private personal home mix room, riding out the coronavirus pandemic with a number of projects, including mixing a complex project for Indigo Girls, plus new sets for Tanya Tucker, the Wood Brothers, the Secret Sisters and Grayson Capps The new Indigo Girls album, Look Long, was a special mixing project for Shoemaker. “I added a few loop elements from my own library… It’s just a whisper, it’s very subtle — but listening on my Genelecs, it’s very clear what those elements are, and what they needed to be. I consider my relationship with my Genelec 8351s sacred and magical. They mean so much to me. I trust what they reveal, and I know my decisions made on Genelecs translate to any other listening device or environment.”
Lawo upgrades Mediapro Argentina Mediapro Argentina, the Latin American audiovisual services company, based in Buenos Aires, has recently turned to IP for a comprehensive technical upgrade of their facilities, where ESPN broadcasts sports-related programming for the region in Spanish. The new IP infrastructure has been integrated by UNITECNIC, the Mediapro Group systems integrator and engineering company, and is based on solutions and knowhow from Lawo. Lawo’s video, audio, control and networking solutions were chosen to ensure interoperability. In a first upgrade stage, Mediapro Argentina has installed a V__matrix IP video system for edge conversion and signal processing as well as an mc²-based audio infrastructure featuring six mc²56 production consoles, Nova audio routers, five Lawo Commentary Units (LCU), VisTool-based touchscreen control panels and several R3LAY virtual soundcards for for integrating PC-based audio solutions into the ST2110/AES67/ RAVENNA IP network.
Abbey Road Institute installs SSL ORIGIN Abbey Road Institute is opening its first music production and sound engineering school in the US, in partnership with multi-Grammy and Latin Grammy Award-winning producer, pianist, arranger and composer Julio Reyes Copello, at his Art House Studios near downtown Miami. “I’ve always been a big SSL fan,” says Latin Grammy-nominated mixing and mastering engineer Robin Reumers, who is director of education at Abbey Road Institute Miami. “In Amsterdam we have an SSL 4000. If we want to teach students on relevant mixing consoles, it makes sense to have an SSL, which can be found in many studios, especially in the US. We are glad to have ORIGIN as part of our program here.” Reumers was considering the purchase of a refurbished SSL 4000 for Abbey Road Institute’s Miami location when Solid State Logic announced the new ORIGIN console (review, Resolution V19.3). “It came at the perfect time. It makes sense to have something future-proof that also requires less looking after,” he says, noting the time and expense required to operate and maintain a vintage analogue desk.
Warner Music Group announced that Dr. Maurice Stinnett is joining WMG as Head of Global Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. In his new post, Stinnett will oversee WMG’s equity initiatives which are intended to foster diversity in the workplace and company’s culture. Stinnett comes to this new role from BSE Global, where he served as VP of diversity, inclusion, and culture. BSE’s operations include the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the WNBA’s New York Liberty, and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Stinnett holds a doctorate in organization & leadership from Columbia University and a master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, is the recipient of the Jackie Robinson Trailblazer Award from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Loudspeaker manufacturer PMC has recruited pro audio industry expert Ted White as director of operations/chief engineer USA. Ted’s appointment comes at a key moment in PMC’s development as the company is heavily involved in the supporting immersive audio by partnering with Dolby and Universal Music Group to develop and promote the Dolby Atmos format for music mixing. With extensive experience in mixing surround sound projects for Live Nation Studios — and as a longtime PMC user and client — Ted is ideally placed to uphold PMC’s position as a leader in this market. Samantha Moy has been named as the new head of station for BBC Radio 6 Music. Moy has been 6 Music’s head of content commissioning since 2018, having previously worked as the station’s network editor. Moy started her career in radio at Kiss in London, joining independent production company Somethin’ Else to produce programmes for Radio 1, Radio 2 and the BBC World Service. May joined BBC Radio 1 in 2002 where she produced the Evening Session, Jo Whiley and the Live Lounge, The Chris Moyles Show, Greg James and Annie Mac amongst others. Moy was also an event producer at the BBC Electric Proms in 2008-9, broadcast on BBC TV and radio.
Summer 2020 / 7
APPOINTMENTS The UK branch of systems integrator Broadcast Solutions is welcomed Kevin Fitzgerald as sales manager UK. Fitzgerald draws on significant experience in the broadcast market, having worked on many turnkey system integration projects in the UK, Ireland, Europe, the Middle East and Africa while working for companies like Gearhouse Broadcast, and Videlio, amongst others. JP Delport, MD at Broadcast Solutions UK: “Having Kevin with us as new Sales Manager is a further step to develop our subsidiary and will be beneficial for the UK branch and the whole Broadcast Solutions group. For us, this is a perfect match. Kevin is not only very well skilled in product sales but also system integration and consultation.” Immersive audio specialist Sonosphere announced that commercial director Jamie Gosney and creative director Henrik Oppermann have been appointed to the company’s board of directors. Jamie and Henrik’s experience places them perfectly to take the company forward. Gosney has over 40 years experience working in concert touring, theatre, for manufacturers and latterly as an audio systems designer, working on a variety of projects including immersive audio installations. Oppermann, meanwhile, is a 3D sound specialist who has worked as head of sound at immersive content production company Visualise, and has over 10 years of recording studio quality audio on location for film, advertising and music industry clients, as well as 3D sound installations. Atlantic Records named Keith “Keefa” Parker vice president of A&R. Based in LA, Parker most recently served as an executive producer on Roddy Ricch’s breakthrough album, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial. He is currently working with Ricch on his second album as well as A&Ring the new Ty Dolla $ign album. “Keefa was literally born into LA’s rap culture, and he lives and breathes the music,” said Dallas Martin, Atlantic’s senior vice president of A&R.
8 / Summer 2020
New studio for composer De Robertis Florence-based acoustic design specialist Studio Sound Service has dramatically transformed respected film composer, Federico De Robertis’ personal studio, and the previous room’s many acoustic problems have been solved. “We designed a full acoustic treatment, starting with a new concrete and masonry front wall where we flush-mounted two Genelec 1237 Smart Active main monitors,” explains acoustician Donato Masci. “The front wall and the floor are the only solid surfaces, since the rest of the room is constructed with absorbent materials. We also used
some diffuser panels to improve low frequency absorption and diffusion.” Complementing the 1237 stereo setup is a 5.1 SAM system comprising five 8240 two-way nearfield monitors and a 7370 subwoofer. Masci used Genelec’s GLM software to configure and calibrate: “GLM is critical when monitors are flush-mounted in a solid wall — in this case the low frequencies were raised by as much as 12dB — but GLM controls the effect perfectly,” he says. “In an environment such as studio Aldilà, with so many compromises, GLM is of great help for fine-tuning.”
Captain Tom steps up to the microphone
New CEDAR DNS 8 workflow for French TV
War veteran, Captain Tom Moore, caught Britain’s attention by raising £32m for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. Speaking to the BBC, his voice was loud and clear thanks to Sennheiser’s Digital 6000 system. “The mics needed to work on a short local range as the receivers were close to the action,” said broadcast sound engineer, Paul Cutler. “You don’t want lots of high power when you’ve got multiple frequencies plus IEMs — and Captain Tom’s Bluetooth hearing aid — all radiating in proximity, so low power output was important, combined with battery consumption and the crystal-clear audio quality.”
Pierre Laurens has spent a decade specialising in live and broadcast sound mixing, and uses the DNS 8 Live every day on French TV. Rather than assigning each of its eight channels to specific mics in the conventional fashion, he places each channel across the insert of a group that defines a geographical zone on stage. “Using the DNS 8 Live on the groups in this way gives me great rejection of the background noise with no artefacts wherever the anchors stand on stage. This approach ensures that clean speech is obtained consistently across the soundstage as well as providing increased flexibility for positioning the presenters.”
TRUST HONEST ACCURATE TRANSPARENT
35 Years of making monitors
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Ayako Yamauchi: mastering for gaming & streaming Having won multiple awards for her audio post-production work, Yamauchi’s credits are filled with some of the world’s leading video games. Included among these are Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, God of War and Sekiro: The Shadow Dies Twice. “I have mastered more than 10,000 dialogues in each language for video game projects, and NUGEN plug-ins have been the most consistent solution for me while using Pro Tools. This kind of job always needs precise accuracy and I am very happy with the results I get using NUGEN.” She explains: “After Netflix changed its standards in 2018, many streaming services followed suit — opting to no longer use the simple broadcasting specs, and instead adopting new standards. This left audio post editors needing to work with new LKFS/LUFS, dBTP and LRA standards. AMB and LM-Correct make this easy for us and saves a lot of time.”
Studio 13: Miloco adds Neve tracking studio
West London recording studio, Studio 13, is now part of the Miloco family. Based around a huge Neve VR72 72-channel console, Studio 13 is a classic high-spec tracking and mixing studio, with a generous complement of vintage and modern gear. There’s a well-regarded live room full of guitars, amps, synths, a piano and loads more instruments and toys. The studio has played host to the likes of Gorillaz, Blur, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Massive Attack, Brian Eno, Grace Jones and plenty more. The building also hosts producer Stephen Street’s space ‘The Bunker at 13’, along with other creative spaces and offices, creating a collegiate creative atmosphere. The 10.7m x 6.5m live room has been acoustically designed to offer a neutral sound that lends itself to everything from full band to brass and vocal recordings. 10 / Summer 2020
PreSonus introduces Sphere
PreSonus Sphere is a membership community ($14.95 per month or $164.95 per year) offering cloud collaboration tools and storage, access to Studio One and Notion experts from around the globe, plus exclusive promotions, training, and events. Benefits include licenses for all PreSonus’ software solutions for recording, mixing, and scoring — including Studio One Professional and Notion — plus over 100 libraries of samples, effects, and loops, including the complete Spark Collection sample libraries and Tom Brechtlein Drums. Members get every plug-in and Studio One add-on, including Ampire, Channel Strip Collection, CTC-1 Pro Console Shaper, Fat Channel XT, Presence XT Editor, and more. PreSonus Exchange has always been a great way for Studio One users to share presets and loops; Sphere users now have access to a ‘portal’ loaded with custom-designed tools and curated content by featured artists. PreSonus’ aim is clearly to transform Sphere into more than a huge toolbox, with the ambition to build a creative community for users.
Elstree £12m film studios expansion plans move a step closer Hertsmere Borough councillors agreed at an extraordinary meeting to approve £6m of extra match funding to build new stages and ancillary facilities such as workshops. The two stages are similar in design to the huge George Lucas studio building, and will be available for use combined to form a supersize soundstage. Before the pandemic lockdown, the plan was to fund the project through private investment. The agreement is subject to formal notification that £6m of UK government funding will be granted for the project via the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Elstree Studios is currently home to both
BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and hit Netflix series The Crown. The studio, owned by the council and managed by Elstree Film Studios Limited, is keen to expand after it says it had to turn away TV projects due to a lack of space, estimating around £30m of ‘lost revenue’ over the last 18 months. The Borough Council believes expansion at Elstree Studios will create at least 800 jobs per year, as well as apprenticeship opportunities for local school leavers and the unemployed. £100,000 per year of the project’s profits will be invested into the creative industries in Hertsmere, including local media and creative enterprises and initiatives.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR SHOWS (FINGERS CROSSED) AES AI in Audio, [Digital]
28-29 September 19-29 October
AES, New York[?]
NAB, Las Vegas
ProLight + Sound
SMPTE 2020, [Digital]
Inter BEE, [Digital]
High End, Munich
6-9 January 2021
Summer NAMM, Nashville
NAMM, Believe in Music [Digital]
15 July 5-7 September
New products The essential briefing on the latest hardware and software Antelope Audio
Bulgarian manufacturer Antelope says the Galaxy 64 is “the first 64-channel A-D/D-A converter”, and it is also Antelope’s first Dante device. Featuring industry-standard I/O within a 2U rack space, the interface includes 64 channels of analogue in/out via D-Type connectors, Thunderbolt 3 (two ports), Dante, AES/EBU, HDX and MADI. The Galaxy features no less than four HDX ports — which will immediately draw the attention of users with big Pro Tools rigs. The Galaxy 64 is a Synergy Core interface running both ARM DSP and FPGA chips, all in custom configurations, processing tens of input/output audio streams, and hundreds of low latency studio effects, with the objective of un-burdening your computer CPU while employing a third FPGA chip to process the routing matrix and manage conversion. Offering a stated 124dB of dynamic range on the A-D stage, 128dB at the D-A stage, and 130dB at the monitor outputs, a release date for Galaxy 64 is soon to be announced.
Featuring a hybrid modular synthesis approach, Deep Flight One instrument library for the Presence XT sampler in Studio One (see review on page 18) draws on analogue and digital synthesizer samples and layered field recordings, sweetened with signal processing, to create a range of organic and inspiring sounds. Synthesizers employed for Synth Layers on Deep Flight One included the Oberheim Four Voice, Synclavier, and the rare Schmidt synthesizer. Eurorack and Buchla modular systems were sampled for the Modular Layers. Samples deliver raw material to be moulded with synth parameters like filters, envelopes, modulation, and effects. By using sample-start modulation, controlled in real time using velocity, no two single keystrokes sound exactly the same. Included with a PreSonus Sphere membership or available as a premium add-on for Studio One (for $99.95), Deep Flight One includes 131 presets for Studio One Professional’s Multi Instrument and 300 single instrument presets, created from more than 3GB of sample content. In addition Deep Flight One comes with a collection of 50 matching Musicloops that are perfect building blocks for arrangements, with full editing capabilities.
Galaxy 64 Synergy Core
Deep Flight One
Solid State Logic
In the early ‘70s Saul Walker, founder of API, designed his first microphone preamp and named it the 312. Nearly 50 years later, API have introduced a recreation of this highly sought-after classic. Used as the front end of the first API consoles, the original circuitry was housed in card cages under the front ‘kneespace’ of early mixers, with only the gain pot on the control surface. The new $755 (£663) preamp module is designed to fit into API’s various rack configurations, and offers one of API’s most famous mic preamps in the popular 500 Series format. Utilising API’s 2520 op-amps and proprietary transformers, the 312 delivers the analogue warmth and unmistakable sound for which API is known.
Neumann’s first-ever stand-alone mic preamp is a dual channel transformerless unit designed to maintain the sonic integrity of the original signal. Equipped with a ‘studio grade’ headphone amplifier ensuring monitoring quality at the recording stage, independent volume controls for each channel enable a latency-free monitor mix without affecting the recorded signal. Featuring a switchable high pass filter and a -20dB pad, which allows the V 402 to be used with high-level sources up to a claimed 28dBu without distortion. Mic input maximum gain is +60dB, 10Hz to >100kHz (-3dB@ 40dB Gain). The V 402 comes in a 2U 19” rack enclosure, and the MSRP is €2,749.
Tom Knowles, SSL Broadcast product manager: “Our latest V3.0 release further enhances true IP integration with visibility and routing of ST 2110-30 or AES67 RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) streams from the console GUI. With this new level of management and control, the System T console becomes your routing control system for AoIP of any variety”. Clientrequested feature updates including enhancements to System T’s on-board Effects Rack with a new reverb with degenerative noise controls, a 10-band parametric EQ with FFT overlay, plus an overhaul of channel and bus path presets. This latest release provides new functionality across the whole System T range including the S500, S500m, S300 and TCR.
312 Mic Pre
12 / Summer 2020
System T V3.0
Machine learning and the AI capabilities of Retouch 8 are now available for the Merging Pyramix platform. Until now, unwanted sounds had to be identified individually, now you can mark an audio event such as hi-hat spill, sibilants and plosives, or repetitive noises caused by machinery, and then ask the machine learning algorithm in Retouch 8 to find all of the other instances within the recording. You can eliminate them individually or as a group using the appropriate Retouch tool. The AI in the new Repair tool can identify, suppress, or reveal sounds while leaving the background in a marked region untouched. Unlike other spectral editing tools, only the significant signal within the region is processed; all low level signals as well as ambience are left unaffected. CEDAR Audio’s partnership with Merging Technologies stretches back to the earliest Pyramix systems in the mid-’90s, when CEDAR developed their first broadband noise reduction system. Today, CEDAR for Pyramix is derived from CEDAR’s multi-award-winning CEDAR Studio and CEDAR Cambridge flagships, allowing users to eliminate problems and significantly improve the quality of their audio.
A “small format console with a large format sound”. Based on the 80-series console range, the 8424’s dual-input channel strip allows switching between recording and mixing inputs without additional patching. Input connectivity via 24 line-level inputs, dual 1073 preamps, and dual Instrument DI channels are complemented by two cue mix system with talkback/return talkback and two headphone amplifiers. The 8424 offers an analogue mixing platform with 24 DAW returns across 24 faders, or a 48-Mix mode that allows a total of 48 mono inputs with individual level and pan controls to be mixed through the Marinair transformer-coupled stereo mix bus. Engineers can take advantage of the 8424’s mono and stereo aux busses to connect favourite outboard FX units and route them back into the console’s two stereo reverb returns. Four mono groups with 2-band shelving EQ, Inserts, and Direct Outs equip the console for stem mixing. The 8424 stereo mix bus gives true voltage mixing into Marinair transformers, as found in the Neve 80-series consoles, while additional features include a Stereo Insert, 2-band shelving EQ and Neve’s proprietary Stereo Width control.
CEDAR for Pyramix 64 v8
United Studio Technologies
With three appdriven modes that configure the colour touchscreen for podcasting, music production, or location recording, the Zoom H8 handheld recorder lets you quickly record up to eight simultaneous input signals. The £506 H8 is compatible with an array of Zoom capsules (available separately) for easy expansion into 10-input recording, Ambisonics 360-degree audio, and more. Like other H-Series Handy recorders such as the H5 and H6, you can hand-hold the H8, attach it to a mic stand or tripod, or shoe-mount it to a camera. Other features include remote control via an iOS app, a suite of guitar amp and effects modelling processors, and the ability to work as a multichannel computer audio interface over USB.
United Studio Technologies first launched the FET47 at the New York AES 2019, a condenser designed to emulate the sought-after sonic qualities of the vintage U 47 microphone. The FET47 Cinemag transformer features a striped core, compiled of interleaving sets of nickel and steel laminations wound to the specification of the German transformers used to power the original U 47s. The transformer utilises the core’s dual coil humbucking quality to deliver low-noise and better clarity. The HZ-Series capsule, forged from the ground up by manufacturer Eric Heiserman in partnership with United Studio Technologies, is a modern take on the original vintage K47 capsule, made in Germany. SCV are exclusive UK and Ireland distributors for the £950 (SSP inc VAT) FET47.
Immerse with VST AmbiDecoder is an ‘artificialintelligence personalised spatial audio solution’ developed by Embody for Nuendo and Cubase. “Adding Immerse to the VST AmbiDecoder tool kit means you can create immersive content with a higher degree of confidence because using your personalized HRTF unlocks the true power of spatial audio,” says Kapil Jain, co-founder and CEO of Embody. Steinberg say that AmbiDecoder generates a user’s personalised Head Related Transfer Function (HRTF) in less than a minute. Converting ambisonics to binaural audio using a personalised HRTF “means the engineer will hear the clear spatial separation of each sound element and improved audio quality”. Immerse with VST AmbiDecoder is exclusively available from the Steinberg Online Shop for €189.
Summer 2020 / 13
AvidPlay’s Atmos New developments for online music
AvidPlay’s Atmos music
Facebook music videos
AvidPlay is the first DIY music distribution service to support Dolby Atmos. Through a collaboration with Dolby Labs, independent artists and labels can now distribute their music in Dolby Atmos through AvidPlay to services which support the immersive format, such as Amazon Music and TIDAL. “Release your music on 150+ major streaming outlets around the world,” is the pitch. The Avid Link app, which has more than 775,000 users, enables community members to “expand their creative possibilities by connecting with other artists, producers, mixers, composers, editors, videographers, and moviemakers, letting them grow their network, collaborate and gain valuable exposure”. The model of a distribution funnel hooked-in to a media production workstation is a compelling idea. Having recorded, mixed and mastered audio content, now ‘click this button’ to distribute it. A similar concept was implemented by Adobe for images with Adobe Stock, but Adobe made the mistake of trying to run a stock image marketplace, whereas Avid has sensibly positioned their offering as a bridge to retail. Producers of special-interest immersive content should be pleased with the value proposition. When it comes to price, AvidPlay is the cheapest for the single ($4.99) and album ($19.99) per year categories amongst distributors, and in the mid-range of the unlimited songs ($24.99) per year compared to other services like CDbaby, Tunecore and Spinnup. AvidPlay also offers payment splitting — important for self-released artists — for free using Paypal with split percentages (producer / artist /musician), which on most other services is an additional cost.
More than one million human viewers joined 280,000 virtual ‘programmed’ festival-goers for an ambitious digital festival Tomorrowland Around The World on July 25-26. Audience members who pre-pandemic would have travelled to Boom in Belgium (where Tomorrowland normally takes place), joined the pay-per-view event from countries including Japan and Mexico. Tickets cost €20 for the weekend or €12.50 per day, although the promoters have not yet broken down the sales. Even if every one of the million members of the audience had just bought a single day pass, it’s a gross of €12.5m. More than 60 European artists recorded performances in four large green-screen studios, located on the grounds of Tomorrowland in Belgium. Artists from North and Central America recorded their sets in Los Angeles, Latin American artists went to a studio in São Paolo, Brazil, and Australian DJs recorded thei r performance in Sydney. The lineup included Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens, Armin van Buuren, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Dixon, Kölsch, Lost Frequencies, Martin Garrix, NERVO, Paul Kalkbrenner, Steve Aoki, Tiësto and more. 300 terabytes of raw footage was recorded, which took multiple render engines around four weeks to process. The virtual 3D ‘island’ was created from scratch — Henry Daubrez, CEO & creative director of Dogstudio, said the biggest challenge was: “making sure festival visitors will be able to feel they are being part of something larger than their computer and their internet connection. People aren’t only immersed in Tomorrowland’s new universe, but they were also be able to communicate with other festival visitors.”
Artists signed to major US labels have so far not been able to share full music videos on Facebook due to licensing; they could only publish a short preview. Thanks to licensing deals with all three majors, indie licensing agency Merlin, plus BMG, Kobalt, and other labels, publishers and collecting societies, full-length videos may now be published — currently only in the US, India, and Thailand (where the feature has been in testing). Artists will not need to manually upload videos or even provide links, Facebook told artist’s Page admins via email. Instead, by enabling a new setting, artists give Facebook permission to add videos to their Page, where they can be discovered (and edited by admins) on the Videos tab. This library will include the artist’s own official videos and those they’re featured in. Given Facebook’s focus on promoting social connection, consumers will be able to share music videos on their news feed or stories for their friends to see and interact with. The videos will have all the engagement options of regular posts such as reacting, commenting, and sharing via Messenger. Ads won’t interrupt the music, but will either appear pre-roll, during the video as an image ad below the video player, or post-roll. It’s a very important move for the music industry, which is deeply unhappy with dominant video platform YouTube’s monetisation structure. YouTube accounted for 46% of the world’s music streaming outside of China, according to IFPI numbers. Facebook is currently moving out of their ad-revenue ‘bubble’, and aims in future to strengthen its online shopping, which could prove a valuable sales outlet for indie artists.
14 / Summer 2020
VR music NIGEL JOPSON investigates the fast-growing business of VR performance
ife will change, and perhaps dramatically,” I hastily (re)-wrote in my leader for the Resolution March edition, as pandemiclockdown began around the world. “Those who develop innovative ways of presenting events without the [health] risks and ecological impact of thousands of people being in the same location are going to find themselves in great demand.” Just a few weeks after I’d written this, over 12m players logged-in to Epic’s online game Fortnite for a concert featuring Travis Scott. The whole Fortnite island was the stage. During the opening song a giant Scott stamped around the island, with players able to run across the water to see him. Scott turned into a cyborg; later everyone looked like an extra in Tron. ‘Highest in the Room’ came on, and the crowd was submerged underwater with a giant spaceman. A towering version of Scott teleported across the landscape performing his songs. That’s what I was talking about! All told, including four replays spread across three days, 27.7m unique gamers attended the digital gig 45.8m times. Its success catapulted THE SCOTTS, which premiered as part of the Fortnite set, to debut at #1 in May’s Hot 100 chart. Travis Scott’s virtual gig succeeded not only because of a crossover between Travis Scott fans and Fortnite users, but by pulling the oldest trick in the music business playbook: draw in an audience with the promise of new music.
environments are added. Depence, a platform typically used to visualise show elements such as lighting, lasers, visuals and other effects, is used for indoor stages where the show elements are key to the performance.
Follow the money
More online virtual sets have followed, from artists like Diplo, Steve Aoki and deadmau5 inside Fortnite’s new, weapons-free Party Royale mode. Outside of Fortnite, over the lockdown months, artists performed inside games from Minecraft (Charli XCX, 100 gecs, Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks) to action game World of Tanks (The Offspring) and even Disney’s Club Penguin (Soccer Mommy).
Analysts jumped on this symbiotic music/game concept — “Games are the new venues of tomorrow” said MIDiA Research cofounder and music analyst Mark Mulligan. However, the game tie-in can be overplayed. If your brand is big enough, you can build your own online platform. ‘Virtual attendance’ is our new world’s equivalent of ‘appointment to view’ TV. Read about Tomorrowland Around The World grossing at least €12.5m for their online festival in my business column this issue. Tomorrowland has been working closely together with stYpe, which provides a camera tracking technology for real-time augmented reality and virtual studio effects in live broadcast. The stYpe technology was used at the MTV VMAs, Olympic Games, Super Bowl and more. “Tomorrowland’s digital festival is different from the live broadcast productions we typically do, and from the movie productions we do, in the sense that it combines the requirements of both,” Stype Cajic, founder & CEO said. Before the cameras were set up, a large grid of infrared reflectors was installed on the studio ceiling for tracking the exact position of each camera head, while all other parameters of the camera and lenses are transmitted live to servers that record the data and render a low-res version of the virtual world for directors. The 3D stages designed by Tomorrowland are imported and layers of show elements, lights, attributes and
/ Katy Perry headlined the VR Tomorrowland
/ We virtually went to the festival…
If you want to see where the future lies, follow the money. Sony is currently building a team ‘dedicated to reimagining music through immersive media’. VR news site Upload also reports Sony Interactive Entertainment has just been granted a US patent for the “Integration of tracked facial features for VR users in virtual reality environments”. Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande manager Scooter Braun joined a $30m investment round in a start-up specialising in virtual concerts. Los Angeles-based Wave allows fans to watch artists performing as digital avatars, and has already held a series of virtual shows, One Wave, featuring John Legend and Tinashe. “Adam [Arrigo] and his team at Wave are bridging these two very important industries to create transformative experiences for the next generation of concert-goers, with a refreshingly artist-first approach,” says Braun. UK-based MelodyVR (“Discover a completely new way to experience music on your phone or headset”) has acquired Napster in a deal worth $70m. MelodyVR CEO Anthony Matchett said: “MelodyVR’s acquisition of Napster will result in the development of the first ever music entertainment platform which combines immersive visual content and music streaming. For music fans today, live and recorded music are intrinsically linked. We are as keen to see our favourite artists perform live as we are to listen to their albums.” And no ‘newest thing’ would be complete without Jay-Z and Russian billionaires: music streaming service, TIDAL, has spent $7m on ‘SENSO Tokens’ issued by Sensorium Corporation. Sensorium was started in 2018 by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and says it has raised over $100m with which to build Sensorium Galaxy — scheduled to launch in early 2021 via the opening of its Motion and Prism ‘planets’. Through a VR headset, users will be able to explore these worlds, socialising and interacting with others as well as attending dance and music events. It’s a concert, but the production process will be very familiar to studio-based pros. As I said six months ago: “Holograms, immersive sound, interactive social commentary — we are the media people — and we know how to do it.” Summer 2020 / 15
Crosstalk Rob Speight
The speed of sound 2020 — at least we’re well-connected…
f I was to say to you US Robotics, would you think of a killer autonomous dog or something that squealed more like a cat being put through a mincer? Or if I was to mention an acoustic coupler would it bring to mind someone who shouts; “Switch!” at a speed dating event or something that looks more like a cosy place to rest your old school analogue phone? How much data did you chuck around last month? For me personally it was over 500GB up and down, and I’m just talking about audio work. That doesn’t include PlayStation, streaming or on demand video. Can you imagine doing that on a 56k modem? Kids… Google it! Well you don’t have to because I am going to tell you. It would have taken 22,885
still only had a mean download speed of 22.37Mbps, which would mean my 500GB would still take over 50 hours to receive… uploading – don’t even go there! Basically, we have lots to be thankful for, and even more so with the raft of software that, although some of it may have been around for a while, is now really coming into its own. hours, 35 minutes and 14 seconds or 955 days plus change — so just time for another bath, then. How ‘lucky’ we are that we were lockeddown in 2020, as even in 1999 broadband wasn’t available in the UK, the first install being a year later in Basildon, Essex. In 1999 the UK
“SIMPLE ENOUGH FOR ARTISTS WITH NO ENGINEERING EXPERIENCE. POWERFUL ENOUGH FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS AND PRODUCERS” DEACON ARTIST
16 / Summer 2020
Global data connections
Many of us have used or been aware of Source Element’s Source Connect with the software practically become an industry IP replacement for ISDN. With its Remote Transport Sync and automatic dropout replacement, AAX, RTAS, AU and VST support, audio engine and codec sample rates of up to 192kHz and 48kHz
Scan the code to watch “The Dreamcatcher” a short film about being inspired to create.
respectively, up to 7.1 surround and the ability to tunnel through VPN it is easy to see why it has been widely accepted. Of course, all this comes at a price, but Source Elements have recently introduced a subscription model to all of its products on a month-to-month basis. Another less well-known ISDN replacement, with extra bells and whistles, include SessionLinkPro, which is very similar but supports sync video or bi-directional webcam broadcast. However, in the true sense of the word, neither of the two aforementioned packages are true ISDN replacements in so much as they don’t allow you to connect to a standard hardware-based ISDN box. ipDTL from In:Quality however does. Supporting all the ISDN hits including MPEG LII, G722, AAC LD, AAC 128 and MPEG L3 128 it also provides IP codecs including OPUS, & iLBC. It is a reasonably priced subscription model and requires no hardware. In addition, it is also possible to get a dedicated ‘phone number’ so your clients can call you. If IP codecs are your thing, and you need to connect to existing hardware boxes the SIP Audio also from In:Quality offers a multitude of options. Connect to Comrex, Tieline, Prodys, Luci Live, ipDTL, Digigram, AETA… the list goes on. You can buy their hardware for a couple of hundred dollars or for the more adventurous build your own with a Raspberry Pi!
amount of work the company has received: “We’ve had an increase in inquiries and actual bookings from it. Straight away voiceover and ADR sessions began getting booked in for talent that usually travels to London. The artists can no longer travel, or don’t want to travel, and so production companies are scrambling around trying to find local studios to get this work done.” After using Source Connect for some time Brown Bear has recently migrated to Evercast: “It’s a professional streaming platform for video editors and sound people who need to stream their timeline and audio — 1080p HD image and
up to 320Kbps audio,” Dalton explained. The system also provides simultaneous video conferencing (on a separate stream) and latency of only 200ms. “It’s pretty revolutionary, but it’s not cheap at all. It’s incredibly expensive. But it’s about trying to give clients the best experience,” Dalton said. So other than a virulent disease rampaging across the planet what have you got to complain about? Working from home has never been easier and you never have to deal with another human face to face again, except for maybe your partner, but life is never perfect… www.resolutionmag.com/news/rob-speight-the-speed-of-sound/
Move your audio
Another tool I have found extremely useful, especially for getting sign-offs or versioning is from Audiomovers in the form of Listento. This Mac/Windows plugin also comes in all desirable flavours and allows you to stream your DAW session in real-time and with extremely low latency up to 32-bit PCM or AAC320. As part of the deal, Audiomovers also give you a Listento Receiver which suddenly makes the software extremely flexible. Now you can put multiple receivers into a session and have multiple people connect to you on individual tracks. Setup some mix minuses, if you’re feeling fancy some talkback, and the sky is the limit. If you need a non-audio person to listen to your stream all you need to do is to generate a link within the plugin, hit Start Transmission and send them the link. It will open in a browser and receive the same high quality audio as if you were using the plugin. I recently reached out to Thomas Dalton in Brighton, England, whose audio post production company, Brown Bear Audio, has built its reputation on remote audio post since its inception in 2012. I asked Dalton how the global lockdown has affected the Summer 2020 / 17
PreSonus Studio One 5 As the latest version boasts many new features, GEORGE SHILLING is excited about the prospect of joining dots Goal!
lthough version 5 was announced as ‘Ten Years In The Making’, it is actually eleven years since Studio One first dropped. PreSonus has continued along the route of innovation, whilst also busily implementing features requested by the loyal and dedicated user community. Some features added with this release appear to be ‘me too’ additions, usefully adding functions found in competing DAWs, some perhaps overdue. But alongside this are some really neat innovations. As with previous releases, there are tiered editions with differing features; we are looking at the Professional package here, but there is a more cost-effective Artist version with fewer features, and Prime, a basic free version. There is now support for extravagant 64-bit floating point audio, with sample rates up to 384kHz, which PreSonus claims makes it the highest resolution available in any DAW. Crikey!
Show and tell
The new Show Page section is a streamlined area which emulates Apple’s popular Logic-related free-standing MainStage app, catering to live — or streamed – performance. As well as optimising control of processing (including amp simulation for guitarists) and virtual instruments in real-time, a setlist feature helpfully stores separate settings for different songs, and opens up backing tracks (or perhaps individual recorded parts of absent band members). The overall look is, helpfully, far simpler than when working with the main DAW, and a Perform page is like an on-screen pedalboard, with essential controls only, with a large and easy-to-view screen representation. Native effect plug-ins have been updated with a fresh new look, and some have had an analogue saturation stage bolted on. Melodyne — part of Studio One since the co-development (with Celemony) of ARA in 2011 — is usefully updated with the integration of Melodyne Essential 5. And a number of PreSonus
18 / Summer 2020
plug-ins have been improved with new graphics and features, including sidechain inputs in many cases, and enhanced metering and analyser options in ProEQ2. Clip gain editing has been improved, making it easier to duck problem vocal noises for example. This is separate from Event Volume which controls overall gain of clips. You can drag a central horizontal line up or down between nodes, draw lines or curves etc., and the changes you make are reflected in the shape of the underlying waveform graphic. It’s like having a pre-effects automation lane, enabling complex dynamic volume changes before the audio hits any inserts — should you need that level of fiddling. Scene recall saves entire mixer setups as snapshots, including volume, pan, mute, inserts, visibility and so on. This is handy for trying ideas within one Song file — different balances or effects chains for example — without having to do lots of ‘Save As…’ versions. MIDI editing now has a separate lane for Key Switches; custom maps for any virtual instruments can be edited, stored and shared — it’s certainly helpful to see names of what each Key Switch is doing through the track — rather than just seeing long low notes in the piano roll. Also new is Polyphonic Expression and Poly Pressure, and it’s finally possible to synch to external devices with MTC, with independent setting of MIDI Timecode and Machine Control sources. Aux Channels now let you integrate hardware instruments more elegantly, adding them in the mixer without needing a track in the Arranger window. The Listen Bus lets you route solo-ed tracks to a separate output, so you can easily add a control room monitor output with room correction software, without it affecting mix bounces.
Having enjoyed the Score Editor of Cubase on the Atari ST from about 1988 until moving to Digital Performer, Pro Tools and Logic on a Mac around 2001, I have from that point on been rather underwhelmed by the provision of old fashioned dots on staves in my favoured DAWs, and even widely used classleading scoring applications can make a bit of a meal of things. Several budget scoring programmes come closer to an intuitive interface, but most major DAWs consider scoring an afterthought, and essential features are often omitted. PreSonus has previously pointed users towards their dedicated Notion notation software which can exchange data with Studio One. But they have again listened to their users and included similar features to Notion in version 5’s Score Editor. It allows you to edit in score view on one track, whilst retaining piano roll or drum editor views on other tracks. The toolbox allows you to add things like trills, dynamics, accents and so on, while presenting a neat copperplate appearance. You can add dynamics which affect playback, and the edit window can be detached from the Arranger Window and resized. However, although most features are superior to those of Pro Tools’ Score Edit, one big drawback is that here you cannot print scores or generate PDFs — for that you’ll still need Notion. Eucon support is still denied — PreSonus are hardware manufacturers after all. But while some added features have been a long time coming, this update to Studio One 5 further refines an already excellent DAW. It’s welldesigned, ergonomic, and easy to find your way around and customise.
VERDICT PROS Improvements to an already great DAW, intuitive score editor, Show page, Listen Bus. CONS
Sadly, no score printing; no Eucon support.
CEDAR Cambridge v13 Restoration expert DAVID HADZIS enjoys an easier, automated workflow cleaning audio quieter music sections, and if this was the only surviving source of this recording and it needed to be released, I imagine it would take long and heavy spectral editing work to make it bearable. But after having also compared the effect of CEDAR’s excellent Declickle and Vintage Decrackle modules — to which INR is a very welcome and powerful complement — on this very same acetate record, I must say I am really impressed!
new update of Cambridge system is always something exciting. To the best of my knowledge, the powerful new features in Cambridge v13 are not to be found in any comparable software. The INR module has the ability of decreasing clicks (with 10 different click models) and noise bursts, also with 10 different click models. Just like the much praised Declickle module, it has a Harmonic modelling feature (also called Modelling in Declickle), and a Transient switch to protect high energy transients included in the music. To test the new INR module, I decided to use the worst material I could put my hands on: a 24-bit 96kHz transfer of a highly damaged stereo acetate record containing the demo of a French pop ballad from 1971. The acetate record was in such bad shape that I had the impression of heavy rain pouring on top of the music it contained… I inserted INR in the first module slot, selected ‘Bursts’ in the Impulse Type section, pushed the click model to 10 with a threshold of 6,34 in the Detection section, a Harmonic value of 100 and the Transient switch on in the Modelling section. And the heavy rain stopped!!! I even inserted a second instance of INR in the second module slot, with Clicks selected in the Impulse Type section, but in this particular case, this did not prove to be efficient, so I de-activated it. Of course, in view of the highly degraded condition of that acetate, I couldn’t get rid of the loud surface noise, especially in
Match automates repetition
CEDAR Cambridge v13 also includes a new update of CEDAR Audio’s flagship spectral editor Retouch 8 which includes a couple of exciting new features: A Match facility and a Repair restoration tool. I tested Match on a stereo 24-bit 96kHz tape transfer of a 1967 unreleased concert by a late French pop legend. Unfortunately, the fluidity of this glorious 40-minute live recording was shadowed by a large number of loud low-end plosives. In order to get rid of them, I would normally need to identify each plosive in the spectrogram — which can be very time-consuming — before applying a restoration tool to get rid of each one of them. With the new Match function, all I have to do is select just one of these plosives, click on the Match button and voilà… Retouch 8 will highlight them for me! Should I notice too many (or not enough) events, the Match Sensitivity slider (which controls the detection threshold), will allow me to adjust the number of highlighted events. The previous/next buttons (bearing the same I< >I icons as a CD player) will take me to the next highlighted event by order of similarity to the initial selection. So, if I have about 30 plosives by minute to remove, I will obviously have to make smaller selections in Retouch 8 in order to work in sequence. Plosive noises do not all have identical sonic characteristics, so it might be necessary to run this function more than once for optimal results. And this new function will just be perfect to restore recurring clicks and pops on old records! The Apply All button allows the application of any Retouch 8 restoration tools to all highlighted selections by the Match function. Brilliant!
Repair …cleans in minutes!
Repair is the other great new tool in Retouch 8, which is a very welcome addition to the existing Interpolate, Copy and Patch, Erase, Volume, and Cleanse and History restoration tools in Retouch. I intended to test it on just one or two of the low-end plosives to see how effective it was… and the result was so good and fast that I got carried away and cleaned a whole song in minutes! With only one single Gain knob, the new Repair tool allowed me to remove 20+ different low-end to mid-range plosives, and the increased fluidity in the listening experience of this recording unveiled the singer’s emotional performance. The only thing I would add about the Repair tool is that, if used excessively, i.e. on very large audio portions or in very wide frequency ranges, it might create artefacts or holes in the audio signal. It worked best for me in the low and mid-range and with short events. And sometimes, it was best for me to apply it more than once for the most effective result. In my opinion, best restoration results are to be achieved if Repair is used along with all the other excellent Retouch 8 restoration tools — and this great new tool is now definitely in my A-list. One last welcome addition in Cedar Cambridge v13 is the capability to generate PDF reports which are more user-friendly than the already available XML or HTML formats. Congratulations to all the CEDAR team for this excellent release! David Hadzis is chef de projets for the United Music Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its mission is to preserve, enhance and spotlight endangered musical recording heritage, and to make it available to the public. www.unitedmusic.ch.
VERDICT PROS The new Match function brings a welcome degree of automation, and Repair proves incredibly effective. CEDAR’s commitment to constantly improve their product. CONS
Cambridge is a tool for restoration experts, and this is reflected in the pricing.
Summer 2020 / 19
DPA 4097 Socially distanced mini boom mic — SIMON CLARK tries to avoid jokes about size
efore we look down a magnifying glass at the mic itself it would be useful to give a short explanation (oops) of the interference tube principle. It won’t be long (dammit, there’s another) but it explains why the 4097 behaves the way it does. The first record of this kind of microphone I can find is in the 1950’s when a man named Harry Olson (look him up, he was quite a dude) wanted to create a more directional microphone. Olson used multiple tubes of differing lengths in front of a hypercardioid capsule which was impossibly bulky, and the multiple tubes were replaced by a single tube with parallel slots cut in its side. Why? Because sound coming at the unit from in front of the microphone travels, largely unimpeded, down the tube to the diaphragm but off-axis sound would enter the tube through the slots, each of which caused the signal path to be a different length. If the wavelength of the off-axis sound is shorter than the tube, careful design and spacing of the slots will cause destructive interference and energy at the corresponding
/ Comparison to a DPA 4017
/ Benchmarking outdoors, 4097 vs 4017
20 / Summer 2020
frequency will be reduced. Two big points here, designing something which is basically relying on comb filtering to attenuate unwanted sound is not easy, and even the best of the bunch can sound distinctly odd as a source moves across its pickup angle. Secondly, and most importantly with regard to 4097, remember what I said about the length of the tube and its relationship to frequency dependent directivity .
The review unit was supplied as part of a well thought through ‘interview kit’. This consists of a lightweight but sturdy Manfrotto mini boom, with a clever radio mic transmitter bracket, a MicroDot extension cable and a short, flexible gooseneck with an integral suspension for the 4097. This tiny, and I cannot overemphasise how mindblowingly miniscule it is, microphone arrived wrapped in a miniature ‘dead cat’ windshield which in turn surrounded a Lilliputian foam gag. When I removed all this, it revealed an object about 5mm in diameter and just shy of 4cm in length. Some very rough calculation gives a frequency of about 8.5kHz at a wavelength of 4cm. That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is the frequency above which this tube has the most effect. A shotgun shootout; I hope Resolution readers know me as someone who conducts scrupulously fair and meticulous scientific tests for these reviews. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I decided to compare the sub£500, sub-miniature, voice optimised 4097 with DPA’s own £1,200+ full size interference tube, model 4017. To be honest, I own a pair of them, and I was intrigued to hear the difference. I had chosen the 4017 to buy because, not only do they sound natural on the sweet spot, but they behave very well off-axis, and that is just as crucial. Mounting the two microphones as close to coincident as I could I made exterior recordings within the campus of the National Film & Television School, which sits next to a well-used
main road. Unsurprisingly 4097 does not attenuate anything like as much traffic noise as its big sibling — how could it? The interesting thing is that when addressed head on at a distance of around 70cm, 4097 subjectively yielded marginally more presence and a sense of clarity than the 4017. Looking at the claimed frequency response I can only put this down to the 3dB boost at 15kHz. Now I thought my ancient ears had given up above 12kHz or so, which makes this an odd result. Walking around the two products at different distances starting at 45⁰ off-axis and moving through the sweet spot at 0⁰ all the way to the other side whilst always facing the array gave an idea of how much on-axis ‘focus’ they both have. 4017 attenuates the voice in an un-coloured manner at 45⁰ with (at around 2 metres from the microphone) the cleanest, loudest pickup being within about 15⁰ either side of centre. 4097 on the other hand does not actually seem to attenuate the voice much although the actual capsule is hypercardioid. What does happen though is that speech brightens up radically as you approach the centre point.
The long and short of it
To be fair I think 4097, tiny and robust as it is, will find itself on many reality, covert filming setups. Based on DPA’s CORE technology it will survive harsh environments and handle ear-mangling SPL. There is a great demo on the net from Sound Network of one mounted in a moving car. The extremely lightweight ‘interview kit’ will be a blessing for many journalists who have not been taught how to hold a weighty condenser microphone on a long boompole for lengthy periods without getting the shakes.
VERDICT PROS Ridiculously tiny. Indescribably lightweight. Massive dynamic range. CONS
Lack of directivity at lower frequencies.
Tone Projects Unisum A wide-band compressor offering extensive multi-band control gives GEORGE SHILLING plenty to explore and logarithmic, and a magic Hygge button enables a warmer, thicker sound by subtly altering harmonics, transient and frequency response using several stages of saturation and filtered feedback setups “inspired by transformer and tube characteristics”.
Relax with magic Hygge
une Lund-Hermansen is the brains behind Tone Projects — clearly a man of many talents, as for nearly seven years he was lead product designer for every wine drinker’s favourite phone app, Vivino. Unisum is perhaps the most comprehensively controllable mastering compressor plug-in ever, with all kinds of detailed parameters available for tweaking that are fixed or hidden in most other compressors. On opening the plug-in a central bar type meter dominates, with three selectable zoom scales, appropriate depending on how much compression you are using. Main controls are separate for each channel, although by default they are linked. Big knobs are familiar — Threshold, Ratio, Attack and Release (each with a helpful additional surrounding meter), and there are Wet/Dry Mix and output Gain controls. Sidechain High-Pass is continuously variable from 5Hz-1kHz, accurate to 0.1Hz — this is an early indicator of the obsessional precision and astonishing depth of editing available here. There is also a Sidechain Emphasis frequency selector. Variable ‘Relax’ reduces transient crushing, and ‘GR Limit’ reduces extreme peak compression. Knee is continuously variable, the Release is variable between linear
Hygge is relatively subtle; this is no distortion box, but often the small amount of added richness is most welcome. It interacts with the compression rather than simply adding drive. Channel linking is continuously variable from 0 to 100%, (the API 2500 has similar). Bottom left there are a remarkable 15 different ‘styles’ to choose from for overall character; from Smooth, Firm, Open, Aggressive, and types such as Opto, Groovy-Mu, Fast FET, clean RMS and Peak options, and then Round, Forward and Dynamic modes which are more frequencytargeted. When you click the Edit Style indicator, a lower panel opens up with a dizzying 31 further knobs and a few more buttons, the settings of which determine the Style. At this point, a couple of strong Danish coffees may be required to begin to understand what all these controls can do. At the left is the Multi-band Detector section. There are three bands with moveable crossover points. Then for each band you can separately vary RMS Speed, to change the response of a each band, Peak Gain, to drive the detector differently for each band, Weight — how much influence the band has on overall compression, and xRatio — a multiplier with value from 0.1 to 10 times the main value set, so that you can set different ratios for each band of the detector. Of course, this all only affects the detector and not the (wide-band) audio path. Interestingly, the Unisum default starting point gives a little more Weight to the mid band, and boosts Ratio for the high band, reducing it for the lows. Opto style turns all Peak Gains down, adds Weight to high and low, but halves the Ratio of the low band. And so on…
Quiet time with Bob Katz
Many of the remaining controls are modifiers for the Attack and Release
characteristics. Loud and Quiet time multipliers change the Attack and Release times based on compression intensity, with a variable crossover for each. Memory Effect controls enable accurate mimicry of opto compressors. Transient Override knobs vary thresholds to allow you to set a faster or slower attack or release for transients. Finally in the Attack and Release section are controls for a 2nd Envelope where a value can be added in milliseconds, then blended as a percentage, for a (usually) slower second part to the attack and/or release. At the far right are controls to further tweak the Channel Link, biasing it towards RMS or Peak sensing, filtering the influence of the High and Low bands, and limiting the difference in gain reduction between the channels. Some of this stuff can be very subtle, but it’s educational to reverse-engineer and learn what defines the different basic Styles — even if you make only small, or no modifications. Virtual (white) LEDs are scattered around, helpfully indicating where different bands are being affected. With so many controls, I would have liked some variation of colours or graphics — the uniform grey reminds me of the original Neve Capricorn desk; I always preferred the Fisher-Price approach of SSL for easier navigation. But the Unisum is an astonishing feat of engineering and design, with settings that I hadn’t even imagined could exist; it is likely the most editable compressor available. It takes close listening and a lot of experimentation to determine the effects of all these myriad controls, but you don’t have to get into the details — just select a Style and compare. And it does sound absolutely terrific — musical, smooth, warm and yet clean. Bob Katz was involved in beta testing and says it is “the most analogue sounding of all my digital compressors”. Indeed, it can sound like about 15 different great analogue compressors.
VERDICT PROS Incredible level of detailed adjustment, all kinds of wonderful sounding compression styles. CONS
Some of the graphic design could be more colourful for easier differentiation of controls, LEDs and meters.
Summer 2020 / 21
Brainworx bx_console SSL 9000 J Does the world need yet another SSL emulation? GEORGE SHILLING remembers the ‘last great analogue console’ The first thing to note is that the plug-in window here is BIG! But you can make it even bigger, or quite a bit smaller, with five zoom scales — excellent for all sizes of monitor and screen resolution. And it is very realistic, with beautifully rendered graphics for all the knobs, buttons and LEDs, along with a nice aluminium fader top. Thankfully, this doesn’t have the sea of grey buttons of the physical desk, as there is no need for the Sends and various Routing sections. Like other plug-in channel emulations, sections are sensibly arranged side-by-side in order to make a squarer window, rather than a long tall channel strip.
hile the SSL 4000 E/G desks dominated the world of major studio facilities in the 1980s, there were engineering factions who derided their sound quality. Wholesome alternatives like the Neve VR were more complex, ran hot, and couldn’t match SSL’s ergonomics and user-friendliness, but with audibly superior sonics — cleaner and punchier. SSL’s response was a major new analogue console design, boasting SuperAnalogue audio circuitry — the 9000 J. Unfortunately, they arguably threw out the baby with the bathwater, and binned a lot of the operational aspects that made the 4000 E/G so great. Blown bulbs in J/K Series desks’ soft-switching Mute buttons gave me nightmares, and the automation lacked the simple elegance of the G computer. But while there are plenty of emulations of the crunchier sounding E/G Series channels, what we have here is something different. As well as issuing their own software plug-ins, SSL have previously partnered with Waves, Universal Audio and Softube for channel or processor emulations. And in an apparent attempt to work their way through every possible plug-in partner, Brainworx teamed up for their earlier 4000 E emulation, and now this 9000 J model. 22 / Summer 2020
The Dynamics section is punchy like the original, with a bonus Mix trimpot for the compressor allowing for parallel processing, and bonus High-Pass filter not found on the hardware desk. The Expander/Gate also has extra tricks of Inverse mode for ducking effects, and a -30dB range switch. The Filters feature x3 (HPF) and /3 (LPF) buttons — these weren’t on the desk, but they usefully expand the frequencies available. Similar buttons are newly found on the HMF and LMF EQ bands. The high and low bands feature familiar Bell buttons to switch from Shelf mode, but slightly confusingly display their current status, so rather than being labelled Bell, they display Shelf when in Shelf mode! The EQ sounds good and powerful, and the useful E mode option is retained, giving constant bandwidth mid bands (with increasing Q as gain increases) and shallower HF and LF slopes. TMT (Tolerance Modelling Technology) allows you to have up to 72 individually modelled different channels, emulating the tiny differences in components and line-up, with little apparent CPU hit. You can choose particular channels, randomise (optionally across all instances) or for perfect stereo matching in stereo instances, choose Digital Mode to place the same emulation both left and right. And stereo instances also usefully add Mid and Side Solo buttons at the top bar for checking these signals. The TMT feature is subtle, but with bx console SSL9000 J on most or all channels, clicking the Random Channel ALL button can make audible changes to the overall mix character, so it can be fun to give
this a few clicks. Noise and natural hiss is generated but fully controllable (V Gain), and you can of course tame it when there is no signal using the Gate/ Expander section. It is variable between -120dB and -70dB (or Off) and there is a master control to simultaneously trim all instances to an offset — handy. I’m not usually a fan of artificially generated hiss in plug-ins, but I love it on my analogue AnaMod ATS-1 and I’m more convinced by the subtle and natural bx console SSL 9000 J’s hiss than in most other plug-in modelling attempts, and you can comprehensively control and contain it here.
Subtle harmonic glue
There’s a tiny trim-pot labelled THD controlling distortion, variable from -120dB to -30dB also with global trim at the top of the window. The 9000 J was sold on its pure and clean sonics and this defaults to Off, but allows for some subtle, or not quite so subtle harmonic glue as required. It makes a good thickener for some sources. Big Orange bar-graph metering (which looks similar to that available on the original desk’s meter bridge) provides both VU and PPM style meters, with hidden calibration setup available (accessed by clicking the Brainworx logo). The Dynamics metering is also here, but I’d have preferred them next to the knobs — as they are on the desk. If you miss big consoles but don’t want the rock ‘n roll graunch of the E/G, then you’ll love the bx console SSL9000 J. The clever Tolerance Modelling Technology (TMT) along with the bonus features and beautiful graphics make this a joy to use.
VERDICT PROS An authentic SuperAnalogue emulation with expanded capabilities, TMT, variable THD and noise. CONS
Dynamics metering not adjacent to controls, slightly confusing Bell/Shelf button status labels.
PSP InfiniStrip No stretching with this rack, ALAN BRANCH lays it out
PreQursor and a redesigned and upgraded RetroQ, all with post-EQ analogue saturation. The aforementioned special slots can be added for de-essing or filtering some 50hz mains hum, this includes a handy odd and even harmonics balance for fine-tuning the hum reduction. The Limiter slot includes the PSP TwinL in rack form, with a VCA and Opto limiter, both include a soft knee limiting switch and in true PSP style have an instant analogue sound to them. PSP Audioware is a company known as one of the greats since the introduction of its beloved PSP Vintage Warmer plug-in. InfiniStrip builds on this reputation helping to develop a personal audio rack workflow. Each slot in InfinStrip feels compact but not squeezed into the 500 rack style, the process of adding or moving modules, either to fix or enhance the signal becomes second nature.
fter many years in development PSP, one of the most revered analogue-sounding plug-in providers has released the InfiniStrip! Spotted by our eagle-eyed editor Nigel Jopson at the January 2020 NAMM show, it’s a modular channel-strip plug-in, including a wealth of zero-latency processing modules, providing a full processing workflow from recording to mixing. InfiniStrip features 22 processors, split across eight defined category slots, Preamps, Filters, Compressors, Equalisers, Limiters, one slot to incorporate Gate/Expander/Ducker, the main output slot Control incorporating a fader, width balance and metering, a slot called Special includes a De-esser and De-Hummer module and two insert slots that can be used for any module. The 9-slot rack uses a drag and drop process for custom configuration, in three alternative view modes, Full size, Resizable or Mini view, a compact two-slot rack showing all modules in one slot, that when selected updates a single full module slot alongside it. Each module has a preset menu, Mute, Solo, and I/O LED’s, mute is more of a bypass, dimming the module so it’s clear to see it’s not in use. An additional scExt control (Side Chain) input is included on most of the dynamic modules, these take a signal from the DAW side-chain input or if no input is set from the S.C. filter.
Workflow on the strip
InifiStrip default view loads a pre-amp, filter, compressor and EQ modules, much like a regular vertical mixing desk channel but with the signal flowing from left to right. Starting with a pre-amp might not be the norm for many in a DAW but having the option to set the gain structure manually or via the Automated Gain Adjustment (AGA) can save a lot of time and importantly ensures the right amount of signal gain is being fed into the following modules. There are 5 preamps — one is clean whilst the others add a form of colouration — Pre ‘60s, Pre ‘70s, Pre ‘80s and ADC ‘90s — the latter having an Akai feel with an interesting 12-bit nonlinear ADC. Three filter modules, Basic Filters consist of a simple HPF and LPF; Pro Filters has an additional MID with filter shapes and Q control; useful for the odd notch filter, and Filters dedicated for the side-chain source. After a Pre-amp and a Filter module, I might slot in a Gate, Ducker or Expander to clean up the signal further, then an EQ or a compressor, depending on if you’re a pre or post-style mixer. There are three Compressor modules, Opto, FET or VCA, the FET being a redesign of the existing PSP FETPressor plug-in. There are three EQ modules, one new and two old favourites from PSP, ChannelQ , a redesigned
The variety of included modules are enough to cope with more or less any audio thrown at it, with the bonus of zero latency includes some nice colouration options when tracking. After a week of mixing on various projects using InfiniStrip, I noticed a few stand out things; I found CPU usage low even on my ageing Mac Pro, and I liked the unusual 12 bit ADC Drive control in the ADC ‘90s pre-amp. This low bit-depth nonlinear emulation reminded me of the bite you got from the sound when sampling on an old MPC, the perfect amount of crunch for some electronic drums. The filters were noticeable smooth to adjust, whilst the EQ and compressors were as I expected, varied in style and full of character and rich saturation. A powerful feature of InifiStrip is the ability to switch modules whist the settings remain the same, so it’s easy to A-B compare the difference between the FET and Opto compressor or the RetroQ and PreQursor EQ, excellent for experimentation and a huge help in finding the sound your after. The Master Control strip is well thought out, a 4-meter LED bar display for peak and RMS, a fader for overall level control, and a width knob that sounds nice. InfiniStrip for the money ($199) is a crazy value, with 22 great-sounding modules, the range of processing and the workflow is excellent, it works well in a DAW and with development continuing and surely more modules to come, this could be the rack you’ve been waiting for.
VERDICT PROS A high-quality collection of processing in an easy to use rack strip, well designed, fast workflow, drag & drop routing, huge value for money. CONS
Preset list was a bit slow but was fixed in a new beta as we went to press.
Summer 2020 / 23
IK Multimedia ARC 3
GEORGE SHILLING tries the new version of this easy-to-use room correction package accuracy is not super-critical, so I just lined up the mic by eye. You take 7 measurement spots, each spot at three different heights. Unlike the handheld method suggested by Sonarworks, ARC measurements are best made with the mic on a stand (a clip is provided for the little lightweight MEMS mic), so you take one height at a time. You then name and save your measurements for use in the plug-in.
Multiple sweet spots
tested the original IK Multimedia ARC mic and software package back in 2008 (Resolution V7.4) and having returned the mic had all but forgotten about it. It worked pretty well but for the lack of a system-wide implementation, and a limited choice of target curves (I prefer an enhanced low-end!) I jumped on the Sonarworks Reference 4 bandwagon a couple of years ago, which jogged a distant memory of ARC, and have been happily correcting the rooms and monitors I’ve been using. ARC 3 claims better accuracy, and adds further options for improving your monitoring. The recently released ARC version 3 optionally comes with a MEMS (Micro-Electrical-Mechanical System) microphone, which IK says will provide the best results with the new software, but you can use either of the previous ARC condenser mics or any measurement mic, with provision for uploading a calibration file. The standalone measuring app ARC 3 Analysis is installed, along with correction plug-ins for use in your DAW. The app helpfully walks you through taking measurements, with overhead graphic representations of suggested measuring spots, but no direct guidance via audio feedback like you get with Sonarworks Reference 4. The 21 points are measured automatically with just a rapid sweep through the frequencies on each side. It is claimed that positioning
24 / Summer 2020
One excellent feature is that you can take measurements centred on your listening position at the desk for a typical studio setup (Studio — Monitor Spot), then take a further set of measurements for the client listening sofa (Studio — Back Area); this includes taking some sweeps at the front listening spot, as well as at the sofa position. Other options comprise Project Studio for a closer listening spot, Studio Wide Area for when you have a few people at the desk, and Movie Studio/ Home Theatre for a bigger listening area. The plug-in itself is a big window featuring Before, After and Target lines on a frequency response graph. Any measurements you have taken are easily available from a drop-down; another selector allows you to optionally choose virtual monitoring curves to simulate listening on a selection of monitors from high-end midfield monitors (A25, suggesting ATC SCM25s). NS-10s and various Hi-Fi speakers, to a laptop, TVs, phone and car speakers – surprisingly convincing. There are useful metering options at the bottom, with Peak, RMS and LUFS/DR options, and Natural or Linear Phase modes. The former makes phase corrections as per the measurements, the latter leaves phase response unaltered, but adds about 50mS latency. Either way, the stereo image sounded wonderful on my Adam monitors. Selecting the Edit screen (instead of Play) changes the controls at the top and plonks six EQ nodes on the graph which can be manipulated to a desired Target curve, with provision to save these into one of four slots. This is excellent, but I found it difficult to emulate the Tilt function of Sonarworks as all you get here are fixed width bell curves and (flat) shelves top and
bottom. High and Low filters can be dragged to ‘protect’ upper or lower ranges from correction. Changing the correction from Default to Sharp or Broad affects how tight and fiddly the corrective curves can get. And there is an option for ‘Combined L/R’ correction, in case the room geometry has caused ARC’s correction to vary the correction between channels so much that it is throwing off your stereo imaging. I had no such problem, but this mode takes an average of the two sides and applies it equally in such scenarios. ARC’s correction is crisp and clear; I thoroughly enjoyed mixing with it doing its thing, and importantly, my clients were ecstatic [were they Italian?-Ed] with the mix and mastering.
T-Racks for standalone use
During the review there was an update (3.02) which allows users of IK’s T-Racks 5.33 to employ ARC correction in standalone mode. But you can’t help wondering how hard it would be for the Modena-based boffins to come up with a system-wide app which you could use when listening to YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, or just playing music directly in Finder. The lack of this is not insurmountable and there are a number of software options for achieving it, but I couldn’t make IK’s suggested method work: Pedalboard 2 (a VST/AU plug-in host application) didn’t even register ARC 3 when scanning plug-ins. However, I found a great little free app Hosting AU which does the job, and also allows monitoring live inputs to the audio interface. In summary: ARC 3 is excellent value (with or without the MEMS mic); it sounds fantastic, and is highly flexible for different requirements. If you don’t need or want headphone correction, this is a marvellous.
VERDICT PROS Great sounding room correction with super-flexible target EQ options, listening position options, speaker emulations. CONS
Still no system-wide version, no headphone correction.
sonible smart:reverb Analyse this! NIGEL JOPSON tries a source-adaptive reverb
aving experienced sonible smart:comp’s 2000-band magic spectral compression (Resolution V18.6), I was eager to try smart:reverb, which delivers customtailored reverb by adjusting processing to the characteristics of input audio. A drop-down menu lets users select from Drums, Snare, Guitars, Keys, Vocal, Speech and Universal… while a Learn button further tailors spectral and temporal settings to the recorded track. Reverb time is set manually. Software reverb development over the past decade has been focused on two approaches: re-creating environments (cathedrals, train stations) with realism — or emulating classic hardware reverbs of the past. Real-life IR environments, whilst great for post-production, tend to generate ambience which ‘takes too much space’ in a music mix. And while I certainly enjoyed using Lexicons and EMTs in my analogue youth, there’s an important point: in the tape era, engineers like myself had access to great recording rooms, and we spent ages adjusting mic positions for the correct acoustic vibe. The digital reverbs of this period have an undeniable artificial character, but combined with our careful acoustic recordings added the right amount of sheen or ‘fairy-dust’. In contrast, recording today tends to be either DI, VI, Sim or mics in less-than-optimal environments. A natural, rather than artificial, presence needs adding. For these kind of recordings, the smart:reverb is fantastic. It has the knack of adding just the desired amount of ‘room’ — and a very tuneable room it is as well. For example, I rather like the T-Racks Sunset Sound Reverb on electric guitar. It’s easy to dial-in one of the famous recording spaces for a bit of room-tone and heft. I not only found it easy to match the exact ‘Sunset room’ with the smart:reverb, I was able to continue adjusting until I actually had a tone which better matched the guitar I was using.
Enter the Matrix
The XY pad Reverb Matrix is a masterful idea, as it’s incredibly quick to adjust several parameters at once. The effect of the XY is easy to hear, with the Artificial (lower) scale having a brighter, phasey tone at the Intimate (left) end, and more of a slap-back effect at the Rich (right) end. Pushing the virtual joystick all the way to Natural (upper) scale brings the vibe more towards ‘rehearsal room’ rather than ‘sound check’ in contrast.
The pre-filter, with two EQ points and five filter types (bell, high and low pass, high and low shelf) is a quick and easy way of dramatically tuning the reverb tone. Clicking the coloured EQ curve icon at the bottom of the Filter section switches boost/cut on or off. I found the main usefulness of the ‘Learn’ function to be the adjustment of the Spectral Shaper (to the right of the XY pad). Moving a thumb to the left or right decreases or increases the decay time within its respective time (horizontal scale) or frequency (vertical scale) band. An experienced producer will probably want to tweak the Decay, Spread and Density controls themselves in the Temporal Shaper (below the Spectral). It was noticeable that, while the Temporal shaper was basically set to a preset value for Guitar/Keys/Vocals and so on, the Spectral Particle Display modified according to the frequency content of the signal. A bass guitar would (usefully) have AI-set decay rates much shorter than a 6-string, after pressing the Learn button. At the bottom of the plug-in window are two special effect buttons — Freeze and Infinite — like other parameters, they can be automated via the DAW. There are several nice touches to the UI design: unlike some plug-ins, a conscious effort does not have to be made to save settings. There are A and B memories, and whichever letter is illuminated automatically stores current control positions. Additionally, there’s welcome multi-layered Undo/Redo buttons to the right of the Save Preset control.
A reverb of many colours
The thing with reverb plug-ins is that, like their hardware counterparts, mix engineers often end up using them with limited settings: I use plug-in ‘A’ for this type of snare and ‘B’ for this other type. It could be that it’s so time-consuming adjusting controls that a favoured setting becomes the norm. A studio owner once asked me why the $20,000 EMT 250 always had its R2D2 controls in the ‘minimum’ position when he saw me mixing. “Because that’s the sound I want and that’s why you bought it!” an arrogant younger-me shouted. The slight problem with this ‘one tool for each job’ approach is that it encourages a formulaic style of mixing, which risks
/ Modern-sounding (the plug-in, not mixer!)
leaving the final sound behind-the-curve as listener tastes evolve. With smart:reverb, unlike some other reverbs, one does not suddenly hear Nirvana with some particular preset or aural circumstance. It is a tool, and a very flexible one at that: using smart:reverb, I found myself setting up less additional delays, less double tracking, less transient generators. The problem with instantiating a web of processing is that one becomes committed to it, whereas smart:reverb is flexible enough to do the job of bringing an instrument to the fore on its own, and easily tweaked later, without totally re-vamping the whole chain. sonible have created a reverb well-suited to treating stacked vocals, and contemporary productions featuring odd snippets of percussive ‘found sounds’ will benefit from its tailored short rooms. The smart:reverb is a really modern-sounding ambience generator, with the facility to create tight and up-front rooms to bring individual instruments to the fore in a mix.
The AI controls do a great job creating suitable start-settings. The X-Y pad aids fast adjustment. Rooms are suited to modern productions.
I thought AI meant all the controls would be set for me! I guess we’ll have to wait for the sonible DAW-of-the-future…
Summer 2020 / 25
Leapwing RootOne NIGEL JOPSON loves that low end
/ RootOne lowers bass-anxiety and stress
ll right, I admit it, the first time I fired this plug-in up I was addicted. First, an admission: I was the sort of engineer who thought ‘tightening up the bass’ meant selecting bell rather than shelf on an EQ. It was only after watching production pros whose background owed more to the turntable and dance floor rather than drums and guitar that I began to realise I needed to up my game. The problem is, the very granular process of laboriously combining miniscule elements of audio and layering low-end sample on sample is a rather opaque process to someone who thought a dbx 160 might do the job. Anyway… I’ve tried them all, those subharmonic synthesisers. As most of us have discovered, no ‘magic box’ will overcome the laws of audio physics. Some plug-ins generate sounds an octave lower than the input, others try to trick your mind into thinking lower pitches exist. Apart from a few felicitous accidents with such devices, I’ve always ended up with mud in my mix. After that initial euphoria of feeling the key has been found, there’s the tedious realisation that it’s more a case of a trade-off. The problem is, most of the controls and processing on bass-enhancing plug-ins are far too coarse. Leapwing have something of a track record of taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. “You will not find us creating analogue imitations”, the Belgian developers wrote on their website when they release CenterOne, a parallel centre image processor to shade typical ‘spatial’ plug-ins (review Resolution V17.3 by Bill Lacey). They went on to work similar magic with multiband compressor DynOne, and stereo enhancer StageOne (reviewed Resolution V17.5 and V18.1 respectively, by Piper Payne).
All your base are belong to us
Now it’s my turn! I dove in to heft-up my pathetically deficient recordings, using the clean and logical UI Leapwing have made their trademark. There are three faders (Sub, Thump, Punch) with adjustable crossover frequencies (32-56Hz, 62-104Hz, 110-196Hz). Perhaps the most important aspect of sub-synths is actually understanding how you are fuzzing up your audio, and the RootOne has solo buttons underneath each fader to help 26 / Summer 2020
with this. Alt-clicking on a solo button resets every solo button, but I found myself occasionally wishing for a mute button above each fader so I could hear small adjustments in context. Underneath each fader are Drive, Dynamics and Decay adjustments. With a short decay and transient material, the sub frequency will decay faster and won’t get in the way of musical dynamics: a nice UI touch is that clicking on the values beneath the faders makes a popup with a slider open, which allows faster adjustment. Dynamics is based on the amplitude tracking of the original signal, offering some element of extra control over the new low frequencies in each band. Drive is perhaps the most interesting extra control, as it acts as a post-fade send to the fourth fader, Harmonics Saturation. Instead of generating new sub frequencies, the Saturation channel generates new harmonics above the root tones of the input signal. The ‘sends’ from the other three Drive controls are mixed-in to the Saturation channel. RootOne is going to be used by some producers with just the Saturation fader up! It really adds something extra to some instruments, and there’s a low pass filter, adjustable from 100Hz-1kHz to tame the Saturation output if it gets a bit ‘buzzy’. I found myself using just the Harmonics fader on a rather plain Fender Rhodes. Cranking the Drive and Color, and setting the Low Pass to 450Hz transformed the e-piano into more of a ‘Rhodes suitcase’ vibe, without going the whole hog and putting the channel through an amp-sim.
Harmonics above as well as below The Harmonics channel can also play a really important role in conveying the ‘impression’ of burgeoning bass on small speakers, particularly with kick
drums and the like. Anything more than 50 on the Drive control really brings-on the ‘my boom-box speakers are blowing up’ effect of cone distortion, whereas single-digit drive adds a more subtle thickness — but still vibey even on the smallest of computer speakers. Next to the Leapwing logo there’s a very handy full bypass switch that maintains the plug-in latency, vital for checking in the mix. A and B memories automatically store settings as you adjust, and undo/ redo buttons are welcome in a plug-in with so many variables. RootOne comes with a selection of presets which provide good starting points, and ‘Electric bass thick’ became one of my favourites. I found RootOne most valuable on instruments which either had no bass at all (like a thin Stratocaster) or recordings with plentiful bass …but which really required different colour. The plug-in was very clever at bringing out those ‘overhanging’ drum skin tones from natural drums, and really excellent at enhancing the heft of electronic drums. With some subharmonic bass plug-ins, there’s definitely the feeling that you’re somehow upsetting the phase relationships of your audio to get a cheap boom, but RootOne remained phase coherent as I experimented on a variety of different music. Just don’t get lazy and slap it across the stereo bus with the ‘Beef Up Mix’ preset. Because that would be cheating …wouldn’t it?! RootOne is going to be worth every penny of its £179 to audio pros who (like me) have always had a bit of bother with their bottom end. Thanks to Leapwing, we can now be experts, even if our baseball caps have bendy brims. I found it particularly useful with electronic drum loops and basses, an area where too much processing with EQ and saturation often results in a floppy mush. As with CenterOne and StageOne, Leapwing have taken a process which is often relegated to the status of gimmick, and transformed subharmonic synthesis into a useful and very professional tool with RootOne.
VERDICT PROS We finally have a professional subharmonic generator, versatile enough to be used with any genre, which preserves phase coherence. CONS
I’d like mute as well as solo buttons on the faders. Next version?
Resolution Awards 2020 Building on our extended voting audience with the best-informed readership in the industry
n human terms, it seems rather a long time since we announced our Resolution Awards 2019 winners at the 147th AES Convention. New York has had a whole lot of serious health concerns to deal with since our audio geeks voted for innovative gear in a dozen categories, and in 2020 the Resolution Award winners will be announced in a special end-of-year digital supplement. In 2019, we opened the Resolution Awards voting to a wider audience, resulting in many extra votes – more than ten times the usual amount. In previous years, in the interest of maintaining fair voting, we made voters log-in to the ‘my subscription’ area of our website, a rather arcane process involving the reader number on your magazine mailing wrapper. Visitors to our website and social media pages in 2019 were able to vote by simply entering their email. The IP address from which each vote originated was recorded, and only one vote per IP address was allowed in order to maintain a fair process. The 2019 Awards were promoted to our digital database of 9,000 audio pros (a supplemental audience to our printed magazine subscription base). The Resolution Awards recognise quality and innovation in professional audio, and in 2020, we’d thought we’d give readers the opportunity to email their suggestions for products deserving nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember: it’s quality and innovation in recently released products we’re asking you to nominate (NOT your ‘favourite gear’!). Readers’ suggestions will be combined with those from our panel of industry experts and practitioners to decide on the final products for nomination in each category. Just to remind you what happened last year, here are the 12 categories and 2019 winners: Analogue mixer = Rupert Neve 5088; DAW/Software suite = Avid Pro Tools 2019; Digital mixer = PreSonus Audio Electronics StudioLive 64S; Dynamics (hardware) = API Audio 529; EQ (hardware) = Rupert Neve Shelford Channel; Interface = Antelope Audio Orion 32+ | Gen 3; Microphone = DPA Microphones d:screet CORE 6060; Monitor = Genelec S360; Plug-in = FabFilter Pro-Q3; Preamp = SPL Crescendo; Processor = Audinate Dante AV; Recorder = Sound Devices Scorpio. We look forward to hearing from our readers! PLEASE respond by midnight, Friday October 9th 2020. Suggestions after that will not be validated. Email: email@example.com
Summer 2020 / 27
As a musician you very rarely get to work with an experienced engineer and I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a skill we should fight to preserve
The producer behind Depeche Mode, Blur and Elbow, talks to DANNY TURNER
nitially engineering alongside renowned British producer Steve Osborne, Ben Hillier’s first big break came as a programmer for U2’s 1993 album Pop. This led to production/mixing duties for Blur and Graham Coxon (interview, Resolution V2.4), precipitating a lengthy career that’s seen Hillier work with the likes of Elbow, Clinic, Doves, Natalie Imbruglia, and on numerous Depeche Mode albums. A self-confessed vintage synth addict, Hiller co-owns two studios: London-based The Pool, which has undergone a major transformation with the injection of a vast collection of analogue gear, and the ecologically friendly Agricultural Audio facility based in Sussex. In recent years, Hillier has developed his collaboration with British singer/ songwriter Nadine Shah. Following Shah’s Hyundai Mercury Prize-nominated 2017 album Holiday Destination, Hillier found himself not just producing, but co-writing and playing most of the instruments on her latest ‘Long player’, Kitchen Sink.
I’m not into the producer/schoolteacher-type scenario — we work together apart and rebuilt in a slightly different way to take them to the level they needed to be at. That was always the hard part because Martin could be very attached to a song for a lot of different reasons. For example, a chord having to work in such a way that it blended with the vocal.
Is part of that reconstruction about having to fit in with the collective vision you have for an album? To a certain extent. Depeche Mode are an extraordinary band in that they’ll only give you the songs they want on the record, and I think Martin writes an awful lot more than that. He’ll
Were you a fan of Depeche Mode prior to working with them? I wouldn’t say I was a mega-fan. I really liked their first record but lost touch by the time they’d made their second or third, so there wasn’t a driving ambition to get them to sound a certain way or create a definitive Depeche Mode that I wanted to revisit. I tuned back into them when they started making records with Flood at a time when rock records started being made with synths. Is the desire to realise your own vision for a band ever a consideration for a producer? It’s very rare that you get that opportunity. I like to be driven by a band’s ambition, which could include them saying they’ve really like what I’ve done on a record. That’s happened before, but first and foremost I see myself as someone that helps a band realise their ambition and I find that’s the healthiest way to do my job. I understand Martin Gore had very welladvanced demos. How does a producer advance a song that’s already wellprogressed? That’s often the hardest thing, but it can work both ways. We did a song called Precious (Playing the Angel) and the demo wasn’t a long way from the finished version. When Martin [Gore] writes a song you need to make sure that Dave Gahan has bought into the treatment of it, but the demo was great right down to a lot of the key sounds so it was just a question of not fucking it up. You have to watch your ego a bit and make sure you don’t feel the need to have input when the best input you can have is to say, yeah, that’s brilliant! And with Martin, I’m guessing his demos were often brilliant? The flipside is that while his demos were very good, sometimes the songs had to be ripped
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Summer 2020 / 29
/ Hillier with Marin Gore and Dave Gahan at Jungle City Studios NYC
Martin Gore spends a year writing songs but will only play you 12 spend a year writing songs but will only play you 12. I was always happy when he gave me songs that were unfinished because it meant he’d let me in a bit more. By Delta Machine, he’d let me have a lot more input purely by giving me stuff that wasn’t finished, and that meant I could surprise him.
Dave Gahan’s influence on the songwriting front appeared to scale up at that time. Did that cause friction in the band? There was a bit of friction; just the fact that you’re in a band with a songwriter like Martin Gore means that if you want to get any songs on the record they’ve got be really very good to
/ Drumming at eco-friendly Agricultural Audio studio
get anywhere near that level. Dave was just getting into songwriting, and although we felt that would be difficult at first it turned into a godsend because if we needed something in a certain area we could work one of Dave’s tracks into that. Blur was very different, I understand, because Damon Albarn would come in with just a vague idea. Does that mean you were all fighting for creative input? You have to trust the band and that’s how they trust you. If the band’s not into something, you really don’t want to push it too far. I’m not into the producer/schoolteacher-type scenario — we work together and implicit in that is to trust their judgment and vision. If you promote ideas through the lens of listening to the band, you’ll typically end up agreeing on something. How did programming for U2’s Pop LP become one of your very first assignments? I worked with Steve Osborne for about five years and engineered for Nellee Hooper, Stephen Street and Gil Norton. The U2 record was part of a very big team, and I worked with Steve on a remix for that. It was supposed to only be for a week but we came back six weeks later. They were running three or four studios simultaneously — Flood was there, Alan Moulder, Mark Stent, Howie B — it was mayhem!
/ Hillier with his beloved EMS VCS3 synth “one of the most creative pieces of equipment I’ve got”
30 / Summer 2020
Are your memories of working on the production side or the relationships you formed? U2 were a very generous bunch. They’d invite us to gigs and we’d go out a couple of nights drinking. Bono would ask if we wanted to stay over, so we’d say, “yeah, alright then”. They were really nice, friendly people. If you’re not the
person taking all the flak on those sessions you’ve got a responsibility to keep things as light as you can. If you’re sitting there looking miserable and everybody else has all the pressure on them then you’re not doing your job. You’ve recently finished producing Nadine Shah’s latest album Kitchen Sink, is that a co-writing project? I have a very different relationship with Nadine to other artists. As a kid, I started off as a musician but after moving into engineering didn’t play at all. As I got further into production I ended up playing some things on some records but never pushed myself forward as a musician. When I first started with Nadine, it was presented as a co-writing project, but I started playing instruments which forced me back into playing again. With the last record, Nadine wasn’t always able to turn up to the studio every day, so because I couldn’t book a load of musicians in advance I ended up playing pretty much everything and writing all the backing tracks, which was great fun. I guess you’re now seeing things from the other side of the glass, so to speak? It’s a whole different ballpark. I was never much of a guitar player, so my technical limitations were always a frustration and I find it extremely hard work, but I do get other people in to help as often as I can. Ben Nicholls, who plays bass, is a great musician and Pete Wareham is a really good sax player who throws all sorts of crazy shapes on things. Having that input is fantastic, so I feel more like a band member when making Nadine’s stuff.
If you promote ideas through the lens of listening to the band, you’ll typically end up agreeing on something stuff is such a rich world of creativity. I’m not a massive fan of soft synths. What I love about modular and analogue synths is that you’ve got complete control over them to make stuff from the ground up, and that’s the way I like
making music. Anyone who works with modular synths will tell you it gets to be a right pain in the arse if you want to do something quickly, so I’ll always go to a hardware synth for that but rarely use MIDI.
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Are you still addicted to hardware synths, and do you feel that technology has moved forward much? I still have a huge collection of synths and it’s a shame that the vintage ones are so bloody expensive now. That said, there’s loads of new and fantastic modern synths and the modular
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/ Analogue synths, and a pair of Studer 089 mk1 late ‘60s (germanium transistor) mixers at Agricultural Audio studio
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Summer 2020 / 31
/ The drum kit’s in the container (what’s in the pipe?)
/ With artist Nadine Shah and bass player Pete Jobson (I Am Kloot)
What don’t you like about MIDI? I don’t like the feel or sound of it and I’ll always use an analogue sequencer or a drum machine over a MIDI sequencer because they have a specific feel. MIDI sounds a bit loose to me and unreliable timing-wise. I’m more interested in instruments these days. I’m buying more guitars and basses, now that I think I can play them, and I’m still a sucker for a good compressor. The one piece of equipment I was really lucky to buy quite early in my career was the EMS VCS3. I bought it when nobody wanted them and I use it on everything. It’s one of the most creative pieces of equipment I’ve got because you can use it as a synth or play stuff and mix through it.
What first attracted you to The Pool studio in London? The size of the rooms. I worked in Liverpool with people like Elbow, Doves and Clinic, and Parr Street Studio 2 had these massive live rooms where you could leave loads of things set up and make a mess. Getting a really great drum sound might involve a heavily modified drum kit with all sorts of things dangling over it, but you could leave that set up and work creatively around it and I was really struggling to find a place like that in London. The Pool has a weirdly dead acoustic, which is great because the first thing an engineer worries about with a big space is whether there’s a lot of reverb going on.
Do you prefer working in a studio that’s more attuned to a band environment? With Blur specifically, I just loved having everybody in the same room because it meant that we didn’t have any communication issues. In a traditional studio, it’s very easy for everything to be about sound rather than performance. You can spend hours fiddling with the EQ on a bass drum and not even notice the drummer’s getting too tired — or bored — to play. When everyone’s in the same room it’s fast, you know if people are getting pissed off or excited and can react to that. Now the studio has evolved to the point where the control room is much more established with a big Neve desk, and through my terrible eBay instrumentbuying habit I’ve purchased a truckload of things that probably won’t get used but are quite good fun to have around. Agricultural Audio sounds a very different style of setup. We built Agricultural Audio after I met a producer called Ben Hampson and another guy who had a workshop on a farm. We built control rooms out of straw because it’s good ecologically and the acoustics are amazing. Because straw’s not rigid, you don’t get any low-end standing waves as there’s nothing for the sound to bounce off. At The Pool you can almost mould the acoustic forensically by building areas around the gear you have, but at Agricultural we get to use all of the outdoor space. Sometimes we’ll just pick up old diesel tanks and use them as reverb chambers, so it’s a really creative environment. Do you feel the art of engineering is less appreciated today? It’s still appreciated but there’s a lot less opportunities for people to be engineers. As a musician you very rarely get to work with an experienced engineer and I think it’s a skill we should fight to preserve. It would be a real shame to lose such levels of expertise. When people work with a good engineer, they know it.
/ Hillier and Nick Webb at The Pool studio, London
32 / Summer 2020
The Resolution 2004 interview with Hillier can be read here: http://bit.ly/Ben-Hillier
The most important thing is to present the best version of yourself possible
Segun Akinola Who scores the Time Lord? KEVIN HILTON discovers the Doctor Who composer has a fascination with electroacoustic techniques and a mix of musical influences
omposing music for film and television programmes can be a challenge at the best of times, creating something that is memorable and supports the story and characters without overpowering the action. Even more challenging is taking over writing for a well-known movie or TV franchise and coming up with something fresh while at the same time honouring what has gone before. This daunting task faced Segun Akinola when he took over scoring long-running BBC science fiction series Doctor Who in 2018. Not only did the young composer have to take over from Murray Gold, who established a new orchestral style when the adventures in time and space were re-launched in 2005, but also he decided to look further back in the show’s musical heritage. While he has not moved completely away from orchestra-based scores, Akinola reintroduced electronica, a style Doctor Who popularised during the ‘60s and ‘70s through the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Born to Nigerian parents and brought up in Luton, Akinola had been making a name for himself in film and TV composition by the time he got the call for the Time Lord. From music
lessons while at Bedford Modern School, he went on to study at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, graduating with first-class honours in 2014, before attending the National Film and Television School (NFTS), where he gained an MA in Composing for Film and Television. Starting out working on documentaries and video games, Akinola received a Jerry Goldsmith Award nomination for Dear Mr Shakespeare: Shakespeare Lives (2016) and was named BAFTA’s Breakthrough Brit the following year. In 2019 he was nominated as both a Rising Star at the Screen Nation Film and Television Award — for the acclaimed
/ Recording orchestral cues at AIR studios
Summer 2020 / 33
Electro-acoustics is as much a natural part of composition for me as orchestral writing Panther (2018). It was refreshing to see a big movie featuring something authentic to African music but which was incorporated in a Hollywood sound. I was determined to do the same thing and got the opportunity on the Series 11 episode of Doctor Who, ‘Demons of the Punjab’. I talked to the writer, Vinay Patel, and did a lot of research to incorporate Indian music that felt authentic and worked with the story.
/ Akinola conducting a string section
documentary Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016), Wonders of the Moon (2018) and Doctor Who — and Discovery of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards. This last nomination was for the soundtrack of The Last Tree (2019). Like much of his work, the music in this coming of age drama is clearly influenced by a variety of styles and genres; although primarily orchestral, it also features ethereal touches that have more discordant, almost electronic tones. Similarly his soundtracks for the two most recent series of Doctor Who range from full-on John Barry stabbing brass and string stings (the ‘Spyfall’ two-part opener of Series 12) to the Indian atmospheres in Series 11’s ‘Demons of the Punjab’. Do you come from a musical family? Yes, in the sense that they all listened to music. There was a cacophony of influences on the radio and records, from R&B to church music to classical/orchestral to jazz and big band. My Mum sang and was more likely to play Nigerian music, while my Dad introduced me to U2 and other contemporary bands. My sisters got the opportunity to learn musical instruments and although neither was interested in becoming a professional musician, they were music lovers and that had an impact on me. It was a very rich mix. Has your cultural and musical background influenced the way your write and produce? What I heard at school and at home definitely informs the way I work now. I was born in the UK but as a British Nigerian I am aware of both my upbringings. It doesn’t feel like there is a 34 / Summer 2020
specific location to it, though. That’s something Ludwig Göransson did with the score for [Marvel superhero movie] Black
Was writing music for film and TV always your goal? I was doing a lot of music at school and playing piano in outside lessons. I was also a big fan of creative writing and I read a lot of books, so I developed a natural love of storytelling. From both of those I discovered I was interested in a career in music but at the same time realised I was more interested in cinema and films because of the storytelling aspect. I knew that music helps tell the story. That led to me going to music school, where I studied composition, and from there I went to the NFTS and learned composing specifically for the screen. When did you get into recording? I was recording at home from a young age. I was about 12 when I started learning about music technology and microphone patterns. It’s been part of my musical education because I was going to the library to get out every book about music technology and recording they had. From there I was getting down ideas and learning how to speak the language. Originally I wanted to be a record producer and arranger. I was incredibly influenced by producers like Quincy Jones and I realised if I wanted to be a producer I would have to communicate with an engineer to achieve my ideas. What kind of recording set-up did you have when you were 12? I didn’t have much at that stage. I was figuring out the best things to get and spent a lot of time in the music department at school. As I upgraded things I made the best of the resources I had. A little later on I was able to get a computer and got into recording using programs such as Sibelius, which was good for notation. Later still I got a set-up that would be more recognisable today, with a sound card and a laptop. At that point I was using Logic and then Audacity. I was learning all the time.
What is your home studio like today? It’s small and comprises basically a sound card, an audio interface, a computer, a number of screens and a MIDI controller. It’s quite a streamlined set-up that provides everything I need. I use Logic for writing and run video files in Pro Tools. If there’s a reduction in the number of cues or if the cut changes, I only need to change the master session once. As well as Logic and Pro Tools I’ve got Vienna Ensemble Pro for orchestral samples. I generally use plug-ins as synthesisers — including SoundToys, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Cinesamples and a couple of Spitfire’s orchestral libraries — but I also record things and make a synthesiser out of it. For example I hit a set of bongos with a soft beater to create the sound of a timpani. ‘The Orphan 55’ episode of Doctor Who Series 12, I bowed a guitar and slammed my backdoor to make noises that I then synthesised. It felt right for the story. I recorded those sounds on a Zoom audio recorder, which I take with me when I go walking in London. I record atmos and create pads out of that. Where do you record the orchestral parts for your scores? I do use big commercial studios, particularly in the last few years. At some point I have recorded at any of the three major scoring studios: Abbey Road, AIR Lyndhurst and Angel, although very sadly Angel is now closed. I use studios when orchestral is the way to go. Generally the recordings are all digital unless we’re recording something in a natural state or creating a new sound, as we did for The Last Tree and Doctor Who. The classic era of Doctor Who introduced a generation of young TV viewers to electronic music. The modern series, with music by Murray Gold, was almost exclusively orchestral. What did you want to do when you got the job on the series? I was keen to draw on a number of areas: electronic and more experimental/electroacoustic styles as well as classical and pop. For me, it’s important to be part of a series sound. Things also depend on story. Episode 1 of Series 11, ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’, established a new world and I used electroacoustics to build the sound for it. Chris Chibnall (showrunner, writer and executive producer) and Matt Strevens (executive producer) made it clear they wanted ‘me to be me’. That gave me the freedom to be bold musically. When we got to the end of Series 11 I had a conversation with Chris and he said I had pushed much further than he had expected. Doctor Who involves a lot of new material every week, not just with the cues but also a different theme per episode for a character or the story itself. There is a limited amount of time to work on it but Chris gives me the flexibility to be totally creative and make a musical world.
You also reworked the Doctor Who main theme, originally written by Ron Grainer and famously realised electronically by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop using tape loops and oscillators. Was it daunting to have to come up with a variation on that? It definitely was. But electro-acoustics is as much a natural part of composition for me as orchestral writing. I felt it was real and had a direct line all the way back to the first episode in 1963. I also wanted to do a version of the main theme that was close to the Delia Derbyshire original. Chris Chibnall and I had a
conversation about whether it would be possible to take elements from that, which we did and I used them as my starting point. I did it in my way to fit the new version, which harkens back but looks forward. What advice would you give aspiring film/TV music composers? The most important thing is to present the best version of yourself possible. Your career is reliant on great work and the relationships you form. You never know who sees a piece of work or who will become your new best friend. In the end, do the best you can do.
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With hindsight, was the move from audio to video production a good business strategy at the time? It was a very savvy move if I say so myself! A lot of people knew me through my audio work so I was able to start working immediately for IBM, other major international corporations and Wall Street firms that needed corporate video work. I wound up with five editing suites, an animation suite and three road crews, so we were busy little bees. But at the end of 2004 another shift began taking place because some of our customers had started handing out Sony Handycams to their people and telling them they could produce videos themselves. So, the commoditisation of corporate video prompted another career change? Fortunately, we were by now getting requests from local police departments to do whatever we could to improve their audio and video so again, after encouragement from a brilliant former FBI Special Agent and now very good friend, I flipped the business. I took every technical course on audio and video analysis that I could find, whether on the East or West coasts. I soaked up the training like a sponge. Because I had audio and video experience, it came very easily for me. As a result, I was able to hit the ground running and had immediate success on behalf of law enforcement.
Robert Sanderson The tools of the trade may be similar, but NIGEL JOPSON finds a forensic audio analyst’s job can be very challenging
obert Sanderson is the president of Audio Video Forensic Labs, whose forensic-science laboratory in Poughkeepsie, New York offers audio and video analysis and expert witness testimony. Sanderson originally started his career in the New York music scene, working as chief engineer at Soundscape Recording Studio from the early ‘80s to mid ‘90s. When shrinking budgets and rising realty prices put paid to many well-know NY studios, Sanderson switched to corporate video and DVD production, and for the next ten years successfully operated SVS Television Productions. Now he brings 24 years of combined professional A/V experience to the forensics world. Professionally trained in audio and video authentication and clarification as well as voice identification, he has a string of legal credits for wiretap authenticity, Taser Cam Authentication and Analysis, Body Cam Authentication and so on. Unlike many skilled journeyman-engineers of the ‘80s, Sanderson has succeeded in amplifying his audio knowledge, threading his career through the 36 / Summer 2020
high-ticket media turnstiles of changing times, and building a successful business. When we caught up with him recently he told us about the history of the company and the tools he uses to help him in his work. How did your career in audio start? After an early interest in music and electronics I became a recording engineer, building and owning a state-of-the-art 24-track analogue studio called Soundscape in New York in the ‘80s. It was a fascinating career and I loved it, but after ten years there was a shift in the industry. Some of the bigger labels were building their own studios and we saw our business begin to suffer. At the same time digital audio was coming in and keeping up with new technology would have required a complete refit. The numbers didn’t work. I had always been fascinated with TV production and the original business model for the recording studio had been to do film work so, after 14 years, I decided to sell the business and convert the facility into a television production studio. SVS Television Productions was born.
Working with audio for legal cases might not seem as exciting as music production to some people, how do you motivate yourself? I was really buoyed by the prospect that I could be effective in this world and help get to the truth, and talking with my counterparts in the industry I understood that I couldn’t make a go of it if I dedicated the company solely to law enforcement. I decided to broaden my target market and accept defence as well as civil work. Working on both sides of the fence, I could see how misunderstandings and misinterpretations led to confusion at trial. Most lawyers had no idea about how to interpret their audio and video evidence properly. Instead, they tended to go with their preconceptions. But I knew if I could provide clear, intelligible evidence, I could give jurors something that they could understand and agree with. Your work is very specialised, what type of audio analysis equipment do you use? I often felt that there was something lacking in the world of audio and video technology. The market is relatively small so manufacturers need to develop equipment on a budget. I was always bumping into cases that couldn’t be solved using the existing technology, so I developed relationships with some manufacturers and started making suggestions. Some of them listened and some of them didn’t. I first discovered CEDAR at an AES convention and we quickly fostered a close working relationship. At the time, I was actively looking for solutions that were more effective than what I had. My other systems were either
/ CEDAR forensic noise reduction module FNR is Sanderson’s most essential tool
too time-consuming to use or not robust enough when processing longer surveillance files. So I took a leap and decided to purchase a CEDAR Cambridge Forensic System. CEDAR’s business model of constantly improving filters which people pay for just once is a big deal for me. Do some specialist media authentication equipment manufacturers deploy prohibitively expensive charging structures? A lot of manufacturers in this industry charge annual maintenance. Independent labs — even state police labs — have budgets and they can’t afford these fees. I look at this as paying rent on my own equipment and it’s untenable. Which type of audio are you dealing with day-to-day? Many of today’s covert recordings are made on inexpensive digital recorders. Typically, we find that the wanted speech and other human sounds are either extremely low in volume or overdriven to the point of distortion. Noise reduction is the most requested activity at our lab. Removing buzzes, clicks, pops and interference while maintaining speech intelligibility is a real challenge. It can’t and shouldn’t be done with off-the-shelf software or in a recording studio because it requires equipment designed specifically for speech extraction in a forensic environment. That means not changing the speech. So you need to keep track of the processing applied to background audio — while making speech more intelligible — but without altering the wanted audio from voices? The new CEDAR Cambridge forensic noise reduction tool FNR is the most useful and essential tool I have. However, I never use just one module. Forensic analysis is like finding a needle in a haystack, so for many projects I use almost every module. I suppose that if you are new to this and you’re looking to push buttons and just turnover work, well, you may have other choices. But if you’re looking to do real forensic analysis — which isn’t just pushing buttons but interpreting the material properly — that’s where Cambridge shines. It digs deeper into the noise to extract more usable speech and utterances. Result: speech is more intelligible but most importantly, the speech
/ Sanderson in his Poughkeepsie studio
content remains unchanged so the interpretation of it is as accurate as possible. I suppose the audio files you work with might be quite large? I work on audio clips ranging from a few seconds to many hours and I need an audio processing system that can contend with heavy demands while providing fast processing speeds. With CEDAR Cambridge, I can leave extremely long audio processing overnight, wake up and it will be done. It also generates a full report of just how the material was processed. So, this is my equation: I need to be on the cutting edge of technology, I need better technology, innovation and I need reliability. What type of audio evidence court cases do you work on? My business is mostly violent crime, large environmental accidents and horrific personal injury cases. I also deal with surveillance that often needs to be addressed right away, so we have a steady stream of jobs with short deadlines. It’s fascinating and it’s challenging but if you’re thinking about making a difference, it’s the place to be. My clients now include Attorney Generals,
District and Federal Courts, Public Defenders, police departments, big brand companies, private investigators, most insurance companies as well as other governmental law enforcement organisations around the world. Sorry, but I can’t talk about actual projects. How would he sum up working in the audio forensic field? More and more, video and audio go together and there are components from both areas that need work on a given piece of evidence; audio rarely stands alone. Because I have a background in both it really helps my clients because they don’t have to go to two separate experts. This can mean a lot to them because whenever they engage an expert, they are actually taking a risk and it’s either on their own or their client’s dollar. They want to minimize that risk as much as possible. Regarding CEDAR, I’m very proud of the relationship that I have with the guys. Their technology leads the way and I no longer have to use filters that were built twenty or thirty years ago. Since CEDAR isn’t that well known in the USA I sing their praises whenever I can. www.avdetective.com Summer 2020 / 37
STMPD Studios Atmos in Amsterdam — GIJS FRIESEN visits the new studio of DJ/producer and Dua Lipa collaborator Martin Garret
J and producer Martin Garrix leads a typical ‘DJ lifestyle’: touring around the world, performing at big festivals like Ultra Music Festival, Lollapalooza and Coachella and collaborating with artists like Dua Lipa, David Guetta and Macklemore. But even though he may be ‘living his dream’, he is also a man with a plan for the future. Besides producing tracks he’s interested in developing in other directions as well. With this in mind he acquired FC Walvisch, one of Amsterdam’s most famous recording and post production studios. Many international artists already found their way to this studio, including Big Sean, Yungblud, One Republic, Young Thug, David Guetta and of course Garrix himself. As an audio post production studio they have worked on productions like Netflix’s How To Sell Drugs Online (fast), CBS’s Evil, and Showtime’s The Loudest Voice. Garrix changed the name to STMPD recording studios, pronounced ‘Stamped’, which is in reference to his label STMPD RCRDS. The outside of the building — one of those buildings that are a dime a dozen on one of the many business parks in Amsterdam — doesn’t 38 / Summer 2020
give away much of what’s going on inside. But when you enter, you immediately get a taste of the relaxed atmosphere that simultaneously exudes professionalism. What you will also notice right away is that the people at STMPD studios don’t make compromises. They go for
/ Welcome to Amsterdam!
an A+ with everything they do and each of the 8 studios in the building is proof of that.
“Garrix just doesn’t go for second place”, says Rob Bekhuis, one of the in-house audio engineers. But he is not the only one, the whole team seems to have the same drive to take everything to the highest level. Over the last two and a half years all studios have been updated and rebuilt. All six members of the STMPD recording studios team were actively involved in this process, in a very democratic way. Studio manager Helena Bouscher: “To give an example, in Studio 4 we wanted a classy
1920’s vibe, but with a modern touch. I created a mood board and we had some healthy discussions over that. When we all agree on something, our ideas go to Martijn (Garrix) and he gives his final approval.” But the involvement of the team — and Garrix — doesn’t stop there, they all stay actively involved until the studio is finished. Senior sound designer Eelco Bakker was overseeing the technical part of the rebuilding process and helped to make sure all studios were in line with the philosophy of the company: delivering a mix between traditional quality standards and today’s production workflows. Flexibility is an important part of this: all studios can be used for both music recording/ mixing and audio post work. Even the flagship Dolby Atmos Premier Mix Stage that has just been finished is also used for listening sessions every once in a while. The only studio that is a bit of an exception is Studio 1. “This studio is rented out on a continuous basis to Sony Music. And no, it is not a coincidence that you will find our vintage Sony MPX3036 mixing console in this studio!” Studio 1, 2 and 4 were completely renovated and updated over the last two years. Studio 3 is the only room that has kept the old layout and ‘living room feel’, with pyramid foam on the walls. Bakker: “For many people, a studio is a place with this foam on the walls. And even though it is a bit old fashioned, it does help to give the room this casual and relaxed atmosphere”. The tools are far from old fashioned though, with an Avid S6 console, Merging Horus converters and Neve pre-amps. Plus a very nice Casio/Yamaha toy keyboard collection.
/ Studio 1 is permanently rented to Sony Music
this STMPD recording studios has found a way to bridge the gap between traditional studios and producers working with a laptop. “You have to accept that a laptop has become an instrument.” says Bakker. “So how
can you facilitate that? The Genesys is connected to our own Pro Tools HDX system via Merging Horus converters. But besides that we have also connected it to an external RME soundcard. Plug that into your laptop, together
Bring your own laptop
The acoustics of studio 1, 2 and 4 have been completely redone, with the help of Pinna Acoustics. Both studios have a Neve Genesys Black mixing console. This is fully analogue but can be controlled digitally. With a plug-in you can control and automate the analogue Neve modules, with their classic 1084 and 88R EQ and dynamics, all from within your DAW. With
/ Senior sound designer Eelco Bakker
/ Superstar DJ Martin Garrix (with UEFA cup) at Amsterdam Dance Event, October 2019
/ Just part of the huge selection of outboard
Summer 2020 / 39
/ Studio 4 control room with Neve Genesys Black
with a USB and HDMI link, and from that point on your laptop is controlling the Genesys and all its inserts and sends, you can work from the sweet spot, you can use the PMC (MB3 XBD) monitoring and you can also make use of all the classic outboard we have.” The outboard at STMPD recording studios consists of a cornucopia of classic hardware. Pultec EQM-1S3, Tube Tech CL-1B, Urei 1178, Thermionic Culture The Phoenix, Chandler Limited TG-1, classic Eventide units and a Retro Instruments Sta-Level — “This is a remake of a mono broadcast compressor/limiter from the fifties. It is a little bit like a Teletronix LA-2A. Johnny Cash used it a lot on his vocals. You instantly get that warm ‘fifties feel’ when you put something through it!” Besides the outboard available in each studio you can also make use of Lunch Boxes with different flavours of gear. “The classic L.A. pop chain for vocals is a Sony C800G through a Neve 1073 and a Tubetech CL1B. It’s very popular, so we have set this up in Studio 2, 3 and 4, ready to go. If you need anything else,
/ In-house engineer Rob Bekhuis at the Neve
like Chandler, SSL or API, you can always get that by using our lunch boxes.”
STMPD recording studios has a nice collection of musical instruments as well — all kept in perfect condition — like a Ludwig Classic Maple drum kit from 1964, a Fender Rhodes, several Stratocasters, Telecasters and Les Pauls plus various amps. “It’s all about efficiency and functionality,” Bekhuis says. “It’s not there for show, we keep it in perfect shape so it’s all ready to be used by clients.” Besides these classic instruments there is one particular plug-in that can be labelled as ‘instrument’ as well these days: AutoTune. Bekhuis: “The way artists look at this form of processing has radically changed over the last few years. Nowadays a lot of artists want to record through Autotune. They want to have a mix on their headphones that sounds like a finished record, so we have a template to facilitate that. We can make a separate mix in the control room, but usually everyone in there also wants
/ Mix Stage — 38 Alcons Audio CRS12 and CRS8 speakers are used for surround and overhead
40 / Summer 2020
to hear that ‘finished mix’. Autotune has become the new normal.” Bakker does both audio post and music work, Bekhuis focuses mainly on music. And one thing never changes in that field: musicians don’t like to keep office hours. “There are times when STMPD recording studios is open for 24 hours. Also because people from different time zones may want to work at different times in our studio. This can lead to long sessions. I’ve been in writing sessions that lasted for 20 hours and while I got more and more tired, they were used to a different time zone so they started waking up more and more during the session!” Besides music recording/mixing, STMPD recording studios is traditionally well known for audio post production work, for instance ADR. “This studio has been doing that kind of work for many years. And through word of mouth we make sure we keep getting new clients”, Bouscher tells me. But there is another reason why people find STMPD recording studios for this type of work. Herman Pieëte, one of the top film sound designers and mixers in The
/ Herman Pieëte operates the Avid S6-M40 in the Mix Stage
/ The spacious Studio 4 recording room
Netherlands, has his own studio in the STMPD recording studios building and also brings in ADR and Foley jobs. Pieëte already had his own studio in the complex before Garrix took over the place. “We have been working together for a long time and were all happy with the situation, so when Garrix took over we decided to keep things as they were”. Pieëte was also involved when the team decided they wanted to upgrade their film mix stage.
Premier league (Atmos)
On a sunny day the STMPD recording studios team went out for a few drinks and decided to upgrade the old 7.1 mix stage. The initial idea was to make it high-end, but still accessible to many clients, so nothing too fancy. But on inspection, it turned out a lot of the acoustic materials behind the panels were in desperate need of replacement. When it became clear this had to be done anyway, the idea was “to be at least 7.1.4 ready”. Laurence Claydon from Mill Road Technologies was contacted to help create a design. One of his design concepts met the requirements for Dolby Atmos Premier certification, the highest Dolby certification level. Currently there are only 9 Dolby Atmos Premier Studio mix stages around the world. When the team heard this was within reach, they decided to go all-in and go for that. Together with Pinna Acoustics, Claydon and Alcons Audio the quest for Atmos Premier Studio Certification had begun. The final result is impressive. The studio has five Alcons Audio CR3 front speakers, for surround and overhead thirty eight CRS12 and CRS8 speakers are used, there are four CB362 subwoofers for LFE and another four CB151SL for surround LFE extension. All speakers — except the subwoofers — have the same Pro-Ribbon high frequency driver, which creates a very homogenous sound. Watching a small excerpt from Gravity immediately showed this. The ease with which you can locate the sound in this big room and
/ Avid S6 in Studio 3
the depth in the sound is incredible. Besides that there is an impressive amount of detail in the low end. “With this room, we want to be able to compete with the level of quality in L.A.. At the moment Amsterdam is working hard to become a bigger player in the movie industry. With our studio we hope to give the Dutch film industry another boost”. Established artists, producers and filmmakers will find everything they need at STMPD recording studios. But Garrix and his team also thought of young producers with smaller budgets. There are two smaller studios that don’t have all the bells and whistles the other studios do, but they do have a great monitoring setup — PMC IB1 and Genelec ‘The Ones’ — and good acoustics. Bakker: “These studios are built so you can take your laptop with you and check your mix on great monitors in a room that is acoustically perfect.” And there is another way STMPD recording studios
thinks about younger producers with less experience. Every studio is equipped with a Dateq SPL dB meter. Bekhuis: “Everyone knows listening at high levels can damage your hearing, but it is tempting to turn up the volume anyway. We want to create some awareness and teach young people about listening levels.” It is almost a cliché, but the market has changed drastically over the last few years. STMPD recording studios seems to have found the perfect way to adapt and offer exactly those things that artists, producers and filmmakers are looking for. And all of it at the highest possible level. The saying ‘reach for the stars, you may end up on the moon’ doesn’t apply to STMPD recording studios. It would have to be changed to something like ‘reach for the stars, and don’t stop until you’re there’. With that attitude Garrix and his team have created a place that is truly ready for the future. www.stmpdstudios.com
/ Production room Studio 6 with Genelec ‘Ones’
Summer 2020 / 41
Pop Music Production
aving released my PWL From The Factory Floor memoir book in 2010 about my time working as chief engineer for producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman and artists such as Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue during the 1980s, I then had the compulsion to write about my experiences at Strongroom Studios in the 1990s. I spent the majority of that decade producing pop acts such as East 17 and Boyzone with my production partner, Ian Curnow. We scored #1 UK hit singles with both of those acts and my
aim was to write a book that was part academic (for researchers and students to reference), part memoir and part ‘How To’, with regard to pop music production techniques. Included in the book is a complete guide to my ‘TopDown/12-Step’ mixing system that I still practice today.
/ A younger Harding with a wall of Platinum hits
/ At PWL L-R Pete Waterman, Ian Curnow, Connie Stevens, Tricia Leigh Fisher, David Gresham, Phil Harding
42 / Summer 2020
The story so far…
After the pop explosion of the 1980s, dominated by the SAW/PWL sound and records, something had to change for pop
music in the 1990s. PWL tried to copy the American swing-beat sound of the late 1980s but it did not work as well for them on the latter Kylie Minogue albums, such as Rhythm Of Love and Let’s Get To It. Both albums failed to match the chart success of the earlier PWL-produced Kylie albums, and very soon Kylie would leave PWL Records to sign for a record label with more credibility. The UK Acid House scene exploded in the early 1990s but this was too mature and club based for pre-teens and teenagers too young to get into those clubs.
Photo credits: Lead, Mike Banks www.recordproduction.com; others, Phil Harding
PHIL HARDING, the hit-maker behind a host of ’90s stars swaps his mixing desk for a writing desk
Smash Hits magazine had come to dominate and inform pop music fans by the early 1990s and one of their favourite bands were NKOTB [New Kids on the Block] from the USA. Clearly the time was right for a UK version of NKOTB and Take That were manufactured by manager Nigel Martin-Smith to be exactly that. I will turn to my interview with songwriter John McLaughlin [chart toppers for Westlife, McFly, Liberty X and more] to support these ideas: “I think in the 1990s the time was right for BoyBands for a few reasons. Coming off the back of the 1980s everything got a bit serious and electro [electronic dance music] was dying out. Then I think, for young kids, there was a moment there to introduce to the market, shiny, nice BoyBands. So I think it’s all about timing and I think then, in the 1990s, it was all about TV. “All the TV channels were geared towards kids, so therefore you had an opportunity to put younger music on TV on Saturday morning, and that’s what helped break bands and then when you were recognised on TV and the video support, then you’re in the papers and all those things add up to the perfect storm.” (McLaughlin, 2015, personal interview). John describes the media culture around Pop and BoyBands of the 1990s very accurately and it is clear that BoyBands were ‘of their time’ in the 1990s. Promoting acts to the children’s Saturday morning television shows and magazines such as Smash Hits was often enough to chart a single.
Top Down Mixing
This system is a reflection of my working practices as a producer, engineer and mixer in the 1990s. In what follows, I suggest that the methods I used then are still useful in the context of modern popular music mixing. To do this, I conceptualise mixing in two different ways, specifically, as a ‘top down’ and a ‘bottom up’ creative practice. ‘Top down’ in this concept, refers to starting a mix with the lead vocals and
/ Harding’s ‘Top Down’ mixing technique: start with the vocal
then working ‘down’ through the arrangement to the drums. ‘Bottom up’ mixing refers to the opposite. ‘Bottom up’ mixing begins with the drums and ends with the vocals. The latter method has, in my experience, been the traditional routine in rock, pop and dance music genres since the 1970s. ‘It will be all right at the mix’ and ‘it’s all in the mix’ are phrases I have heard in recording studios since I started making records in the mid-1970s. By this time a multitrack recording, requiring a final stereo mixdown session, was already a very well established part of the production process. Ultimately, the mixing process is something that needs to be performed, practiced and mastered by every creative music person in this
time of diversity. Composers, musicians as well as engineers and producers, will find themselves in the mixing seat, due to budget or time constraints in an age where budgets for all types of recorded music and audio have fallen by 50% or more since the 1990s. The following 12-step programme still serves me well after forty years of experience as an industry practitioner and is a framework for others to experiment with. It was during my BoyBand production period in the 1990s that I tested the idea of starting a mix with the vocals. Possibly it was the large production-based projects that Ian Curnow and I did with East 17, and in particular their 1994 Christmas #1 single ‘Stay Another Day’ that led to my testing this system. I was mixing this track in the summer of 1994.
Summer 2020 / 43
/ Book extract
pop music, it can work for any mix that contains vocals. One may need to adapt the starting null-point for other digital audio workstations (DAW) and software but this has worked very well for me on hardware such as the SSL G-series and Pro-Tools software.
On recording orchestras…
/ Kneeling chairs were a thing in the ‘90s…
It was the day before going on a family holiday and I had a huge mixing task in front of me of over 50 vocal audio tracks together with multiple keyboards, drums, bass and a full orchestral arrangement, programmed by Ian Curnow, including the Christmas tubular bells. All of this was across 48 tracks of analogue tape, so some sub-mixing had already been done in Cubase Audio in our production suite at Strongroom Studios. Nevertheless there were at least 10-16 tracks of vocals to be dealt with, as quickly and efficiently as possible so that I could get home at a reasonable time for our holiday journey the next day. Apart from the usual lead and harmony vocals from vocalist Brian Harvey, there were also counter-chorus vocals from band member Tony Mortimer and four-part chorus harmony vocals, all double-tracked, from each band member in the chorus. Then there were a large quantity of chorus harmonies, each quadrupletracked by session vocalist Tee Green, plus verse harmonies and answers from the band members and Tee. Finally, there was a backing vocal counter-melody on the outro of the song, again quadruple-tracked by Tee Green. As the family holiday deadline loomed, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment and decided that I would start the mix with Brian’s lead vocal, supported by the main song pad synthesizer for some musical perspective. From that day on, this has been my adopted mixing method for every record I have mixed regardless of genre. I believe this does not just work for BoyBands or 44 / Summer 2020
For a Jamie Shaw album in 1999, Ian Curnow and I were commissioned to produce eight tracks with full pop orchestration backing, we used Whitfield Studios and Angel Studios with the above ‘Classic Studio Set Up’. I was not happy with the results technically due to restrictions on panning — I wanted to pan the 1st violins left and the 2nd violins right, including the MD’s overhead room mics. Fortunately, six months later Ian and I were asked by Decca Records to produce two more tracks for Jamie in the spring of 2000, these were for another single and a repackaged version of the album. These sessions allowed Ian and I the opportunity to work with a different orchestral arranger. This time I approached Pip Williams, for whom I had assisted many years before as a junior engineer. I knew that Pip would understand my desire to re-create the sound and the studio setup of the Marquee Studios, as he had produced and arranged many orchestral overdub sessions there in the 1970s and 1980s. Pip Williams recommended that P&E book Lansdowne Studios for the orchestral session, and he was also happy to come to the P&E studio for pre-production session to audition the arrangement ideas. It was during these sessions that Pip told me I was searching for ‘The Beethoven Studio System’ for orchestral recordings. The classical maestro Beethoven used this same orchestra positioning for his concerts. Figure 9.2 shows an approximate copy of the Beethoven studio setup that I have described: My ideal setup would have the violas and celli further back than figure 9.2 depicts. It is interesting to note that a studio assimilation of the Beethoven Orchestra formation is my reflective perception of how an orchestra should be heard by the contemporary pop
music enthusiast of the 1990s. My knowledge of this system stems from my experiences at The Marquee Studios in the 1970s and there is little commentary to be found in researching this system today. I believe many current creative technicians would benefit from a basic understanding of the difference between the classic semi-circle formation compared to the little-used Beethoven Studio setup. I do believe that the majority of modern day technologists could adapt the latter system if the opportunity arose within their recording budgets. One of my strongest recollections of this system at The Marquee Studios was the day I assisted Marquee engineer, Geoff Calver, for the string overdubs on David Bowie’s 1975 album, Young Americans, with Tony Visconti producing and arranging. I remember Tony coming into the control room saying that he had arranged the strings on the assumption that we would be using our standard string setup, which he really liked. On this particular David Bowie session Tony told Geoff that there were a couple of spots in the arrangement where he had the first violins playing a part which would gradually be taken over by the second violins, so the sound would pan from left to right, across the stereo spectrum. I remember thinking that he had created this stereo soundscape out of The Marquee’s studio configuration, which was generally arranged with the musicians in long, narrow banks, one behind the other. Pop Music Production (Perspectives on Music Production) is published by Routledge. A signed copy can be ordered from http://philhardingmusic.com/shop
/ The proud author with his books
Resolution crazy song lyrics 2020 makes no sense at all, so listen to some non-sense Alan Branch Artist Song
Elton John Solar Prestige a Gammon (Caribou, 1974) A great example of why overanalysing lyrics can be pointless and that melody rules. Bernie Taupin was asked to purposely write gibberish lyrics, as they were fed up with people asking song meanings. Elton still managed to sing a tune people loved! “Oh ma cameo molesting, Kee pa a poorer for tea, Solar prestige a gammon, Lantern or turbert paw kwee”
Artist Underworld Song Pearl’s Girl (Second Toughest In The Infants, 1996) Why? “Rioja, rioja, Reverend Al Green, Deep blue Morocco…” A song named after a greyhound. Karl Hyde writes a lot of brilliant ‘stream of consciousness’ lyrics. But at least I know who ‘Old man Einstein, crazy in his attic’ is about — right, Dave S… ?
John Broomhall Artist Song
The Muppets Mah Nà Mah Nà (Episode 101, 1977) It’s iconic and hilarious. “Mahna Mahna do do do do do Mahna Mahna do do do do”. The song was written by Piero Umiliani and sung by ‘Bip Bippadotta’ (a.k.a. puppeteer and creator of The Muppets Jim Henson), and the two Snowths (voiced by Frank Oz).
Simon Clark Artist Song
Brian Eno Anything from Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy), 1974 Because tracks like ‘Back in Judy’s Jungle’ never fail to make me smile and, in typical Eno style of the time there is always the suspicion that he’s being a bit smutty (laughs in a Beavis & Butthead manner).
George Shilling Artist Song
Manfred Mann Do Wah Diddy Diddy I had the honour of re-recording this with original vocalist (and blues expert) Paul Jones for a TV ad jingle being overseen by Malcolm McLaren. Jones claimed not to be able to remember the lyrics and had me write them out…!
Chris Bailey Artist Song Why?
Fatboy Slim Star 69 (2001) “They know what is what but they don’t know what is what, they just strut… what the f**k” — Total genius of a dancefloor classic from Norman Cook. Reminds me so much of a residency on a Thursday night playing to a packed out Opera House in Bournemouth. Complete nonsense but brilliant. The king of catchy short vocal hooks.
Artist Genesis Song Supper’s Ready (Foxtrot, 1972) Why “There’s Winston Churchill dressed in drag. He used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag. The frog was a prince The prince was a brick, the brick was an egg, the egg was a bird.” Peter Gabriel has never made sense (except possibly to himself), but he is whacky and inventive and I love it! Happy days from being ten years old and listening on headphones.
Rob Speight Artist Song
Dan Deacon Lion with a shark’s head (Twacky Cats, 2004) Dan Deacon has been described as an absurdist musician. For lyrics which really reflect the absurdity of the situation we all currently find ourselves in “And now the lion’s playing drums and the drums are made of dragons…”
Philip Newell Artist Song
Bob Dylan Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat, 1978) I never understood a word of it (well, perhaps ‘the’), although I think it is an absolutely great track. I’m not sure if it was genius or insanity, but I love it!
Artist Hooverphonic Song 2 Wicky (1996) Why “Prophet six zero zero nine one, This is the flight number of our galactic sun… S-H one zero one five one This is the serial number of our orbital gun.” Much effort has been expended by listeners, trying to divine the cosmic inference of these lyrics. Production pros will instantly recognise that, stuck for words, the vocalist can always read out a few model numbers off the back of the synths in the control room.
Bert Gedling Artist Song
Desmond Dekker The Israelites (The Israelites, 1969) Trendy Brits in the ‘60s and ‘70s loved Jamaican music, but found the obscure patois somewhat difficult to understand. They sang along, but frequently with wrong lyrics. Jamaican culture was so alien, for white teens of the era ‘Rude boy’ songs may as well have been sung by Martians. “Get up in the morning, ache in me head, sir, Taste in me mouth like a parrot that’s dead, Ooh, ooh, me ears are alight.”
Kevin Hilton Artist Song
Peter Sinfield The Song of the Sea Goat (Still, 1973) “The sea goat reads the flight of birds and writes upon the sand; Gold waterfalls of autumn wheat slip through a pointing hand…” We could fill this playlist with lyrics by ‘poet’ and King Crimson member Pete Sinfield. Summer 2020 / 45
/ The Wessex Studio A88 console
Creating a legend As the Neve 1073® channel celebrates its 50th anniversary, BERT GEDLING looks back on how it came to dominate the sound of an era
f you were equipping the ultimate recording studio and had unlimited budget to play with, what’s the betting that your choice for the stereo front end would be a pair of Neve 1073 mic preamp/EQs? While there are plenty of high-end dualchannel preamps and EQs on the market, not to mention a whole bunch of software plug-ins, there are very few that can compete with the legendary status of the 1073. Revered around the world for its warmth, low-mid punch and subtle harmonic distortion, the ‘character’ of the 1073 has helped artists and producers create some of the world’s finest music thanks to its ability to coax such pleasing sounds from signals. The Neve business, started in 1961, continues unbroken to this day under the corporate umbrella of AMS Neve, together with its sister business Advanced Music Systems. Always manufactured in the UK, the 1073 celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion AMS Neve has brought the 1073 story full circle with the release of the 1073 OPX (review, Resolution V19.3), a new Octal Microphone/Line/Instrument Preamplifier that is designed to meet the needs of the modern studio environment.
story starts in 1970 when there were just a handful of top-quality recording studios in the UK. One of them, Wessex Studios, commissioned Rupert Neve to build the A88 console, the first to feature 1073 preamps. “Rupert Neve’s reputation lay in producing high-quality broadcast consoles,” Crabtree says. “In broadcast facilities, signal isolation is key, so Rupert insisted that the 1073 modules mounted into the A88 had to have input and output transformers that could keep the signal
pure and free from any degradation. As they were mounted into a console, they also had to produce great results on every signal source and this was something the 1073s excelled at.” Sound quality was a key factor in Neve’s console success and when the 8014 and 8028 desks were introduced, they were also fitted with 1073 modules. Producer and engineers loved them so much that by the late ‘80s people were stripping 1073 modules out of old Neve consoles and creating their own preamp racks. As their popularity grew, they became harder to get hold of, which made them even more valuable and sought after. Crabtree believes that there are two key reasons why the 1073 has maintained its status as the world’s most desirable preamp. The first is Neve’s commitment to sourcing only the highest quality parts from the UK, and the second is that its analogue design is led by members of the team who worked with Rupert, and completely understand the technology and sound of what makes a Neve product. Heading this team today is lead designer Robin Porter. As the successor in title of Neve’s business, AMS Neve is the only company with access to the original 1073 designs and specifications in minute detail. These, says Porter, include some pencil-on-paper details that have never been published.
Wessex tales… from 1970
So what is it about the 1073 that makes it the mic preamp of choice for so many leading producers and engineers? What is its history? What gives it such a unique tonal quality? What makes it sound so special? AMS Neve’s managing director Mark Crabtree says the 1073 46 / Summer 2020
/ Neve wiring shop in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire in the ’70s
heart the 1073 Classic is the same as it ever was — and each unit is rigorously auditioned before shipment to guarantee Neve quality.
The transformer story
/ Robert Sibbald at the controls of an 8014, Craighall Studios, 1971
“Our classic 1073 modules do not deviate from these blueprints,” he explains. “The modules we are building now use the same boards, fibreglass tracking, connectors and switches that we used in the ‘70s models. We continue to use thru-hole components and point-to-point wiring to maintain the ‘handcrafted’ feel for each unit, and ensure that we remain true to those ‘70s blueprints. The units sound exactly as they would have done when new in the 1970s, when they were creating the recordings that made them legendary before time took its toll on the old unit’s components.” Porter adds that the transformers now used in Neve preamplifiers are also manufactured to the exact specification of the original Neve transformers from the 1970s, as opposed to the later Carnhills. “We own and follow the original, incredibly detailed pencil-on-paper designs created by Rupert and his team of engineers in the late 1960s,” he says. Of course, there have been some minor improvements over the years — the old carbon E-series pots, for example, were updated in the 1980s to SFER conductive plastic pots, which feel nicer, have less rotational noise and are more durable. But at its
Audio engineers love to obsess over components and when it comes to Neve products questions are often asked about the transformers — in particular, the difference between Marinair, Carnhill, and St. Ives. Marinair transformers originated from Marinair Radar, a company located close to Neve’s original workshop in Harlow, Essex. Marinair designed and manufactured precision radar equipment, which required highly specialised, precision transformers that the company manufactured in-house. By 1964 Rupert Neve had personally designed the LO1166 gapped Output Transformer and class A driver amplifier, which he installed in his first transistorised console destined for Phillips Records Ltd. Six years later this same Output Transformer was used in the very first 1073 modules on that famous console destined for Wessex Studios. When it came to input transformers, Rupert initially used round octal transformers manufactured by Gardners. He later made use of his local connection to the Marinair company when Marinair’s designer Peter Hurst and Neve engineer David Rees collaborated with him to develop the 10468 (TF10003) Microphone Transformer and 31267 (TF10005) Line Transformer. These Marinair transformers were approved for use in early Neve consoles and preamps, initially in round 11-pin B11A based format in mid-1968 and in the current ‘square can’ format in December 1968. “Marinair Radar eventually ceased trading and the Neve input and output transformers were sourced from a company called St Ives Windings,” says Mark Crabtree. “Some years later St Ives Windings was acquired by Carnhill and manufacturing of the Neve input and
/ Freddie Mercury at the Mountain Studios 1975 Neve 8048
output transformers continued under the Carnhill name throughout the 1980s. It should be noted that other companies also manufactured the LO1166 output transformer, namely the Moorite company.” Crabtree adds that in order to assure ultimate quality and deliver a performance that is completely faithful to the original, all Neve transformers are once again manufactured in the UK under the Marinair® trade mark. “These are exclusive to Neve and we can guarantee that every transformer used in every Neve product meets the specifications laid out in Rupert Neve’s original 1964/1968/1969 designs,” Crabtree says. “Our chain of provenance to the original specifications of the transformer design, production, and quality control ensures that the transformers used in our 1073® preamps achieve the trusted Neve sonic characteristics that our discerning customers demand.”
What else is in there? It’s all gold…
AMS Neve still manufactures the 1073 Classic microphone preamp to the original hand-wired specs and using the same high quality components that play such an important part in
AWA R D S 2015
AWA R D S 2015
REWARDING QUALITY AND INNOVATION
REWARDING QUALITY AND INNOVATION
Resolution Awards Winners 2015.indd 3
Resolution Awards Winners 2015.indd 8
The Deﬁnitive Mic Pre/EQ Neve 1073DPX Dual Preamp and EQ with extra features
Visit ams-neve.com/where-to-buy to ﬁnd your local Neve dealer
DESIGNED & CRAFTED IN ENGLAND BY NEVE ENGINEERS ThirdPg_Horiz_Resolution_1073DPX_2018.indd 1
Summer 2020 / 47
the unit’s sound quality and reliability. The connectors, for example, are military/aerospace grade gold-plated Amphenol 143-018 series connectors, while the printed circuit board edge connectors are also all gold plated for reliable gold-to-gold contact surfaces. Gold also features in the three bank Elma sensitivity switch, which is plated in this expensive metal — as are the rotary equaliser frequency selector switches. To ensure low noise and low distortion, the 1073 Classic incorporates highly stable metal film resistors throughout the audio signal path. High quality Mullard/Philips aluminium electrolytic capacitors and Tantalum coupling capacitors are also used extensively to keep leakage and clicks in the signal path to a minimum. With its instantly recognisable Marconi knobs, rugged all steel modular enclosure with side panels for good screening and fully de-coupled power supply wiring, the original design of the 1073 has hardly changed in 50 years. Part of its appeal lies in the ease in which it can be maintained, as all active components are mounted on plug in printed circuit boards for straightforward servicing.
The 1073 in other guises
When Rupert Neve’s company delivered an A88 console to Wessex Studios in 1970, it broke new ground. Not only was this the first 24-track desk installed in London, but it was also the first time recording professionals got to hear the newly designed 1073 mic pre/EQ channel input module. The console was an instant hit and was quickly put to work recording King Crimson’s controversial third album Lizard. As well as the 1073 Classic, AMS Neve also offers 1073 variants that are more cost effective and/or designed to suite different types of workflow. These more modern units make extensive use of motherboards and so use high quality components appropriate to their design. For the 500 Series format, the company has
48 / Summer 2020
/ King Crimson’s album Lizard was the first 1073 recording
split the preamp and EQ sections to offer them separately as the 1073LB and 1073LBEQ (LB stands for ‘Lunch Box’). Other variants include the 1073 DPA (dual preamp), the 1073 DPD for digital connectivity; the 1073 DPX, a pair of classic pre/EQs with extras such as DI, phantom power, inserts, level meters, and headphone out; the 1073N, a standalone preamp that uses updated components and circuitry to allow backward compatibility, and the recently launched 1073OPX, an Octal Microphone/Line/ Instrument Preamplifier that is designed to meet the needs of the modern studio environment. There is also a software collaboration with Universal Audio, which has seen the 1073 made available as a UAD plug-in. Designing new variants without compromising the integrity of the original design takes a great deal of thought and care, says Robin Porter. Take the 1073LB, for example. “There is a lot of hardware in a 1073 module, even without the EQ, so getting the LB design to work in such a small chassis did require some small changes,” he explains. “For instance we used relays to change the gain as opposed to using the 3-bank Elma switch. This maintains the signal path faithfully but allows us to package the circuitry into a single slot 500 series unit.” Similar clever design choices were made during the creation of the 1073OPX. Feedback showed that customers wanted a product with the sonic character of the original 1073 but with functionality that was more geared to the
/ AMS Neve MD Mark Crabtree
modern studio environment, and AMS Neve’s R&D teamtook note. “The 1073OPX has gain increments of 1dB steps, which allows for greater accuracy across stereo pairs of groups of preamps,” Robin Porter explains. “This is a must-have feature on a remote-controlled preamp that can save and load settings automatically. In addition, the new USB/Dante digital option opens the door for many more possibilities, as engineers, artists and producers can now connect the 1073OPX as a primary audio interface with eight preamp outputs and two monitor returns into any connected computer or Dante network without using any additional equipment. The 1073OPX is the first Neve outboard unit to including a Dante digital card, which will future proof the 1073OPX as Dante networked audio becomes widely adopted in years to come.”
A Day in the Life
Emre Ramazanoglu Modern production pros are multi-skilled — Emre drummed, programmed, engineered, and mixed Noel Gallagher’s Man Who Built The Moon — what’s his day like?
am Since become a father a few years ago I’ve not had to worry about oversleeping. After something like a Mexican wrestling assault from an angelic mini-me, I find myself barely upright in the kitchen feeding the aforementioned tiny terror. A moment of standing still, thinking ‘woah’ is common now. The recent lockdown really hit most audio-pros pretty hard. In my case pretty much all my work instantly stopped and I was left wondering what the hell just happened! I’ve always worked in a few different areas of pro audio and this diversity has come into its own during this crisis. 6.30am In the breakfast lull I quickly check emails, WhatsApp, Messenger, texts for updates, revisions and (even) approvals! One of the more expensive parts of lockdown was realising pretty quickly that due to the closing of schools I would need a mirrored rig at home. One reasonably painful-£ MacBook Pro and associated peripherals purchase later (Caldigit hub, Audeze headphones, SPL Phonitor and a new bunch of hard drives) I migrated my
system and installed my iLok, Waves USB and Steinberg elicenser hub into a solid project case, which now lives in my backpack complete with a long USB extension cable. This mirrored rig allows a vital part of my post-Corona routine, running stems/mixes and making revisions before hitting the studio. I’m currently mixing some scores for a new Netflix series being produced in LA, so there has been a lot of very early morning mix revisions and deliveries. I also signed up for a number of online-service websites when there was literally nothing on, so occasionally I’ll approve one of these and this early morning spot is ideal for mixing or running these off. I also usually do a fair amount of sound design and mixing for couture shows, and as the pandemic became apparent, all shows were cancelled for 2020! This was a blow, but a small amount of work has resurfaced in the form of online content and promo videos, so my morning often contains a little bit of sound design or running off movies for instagram/ tiktok etc. I’ve gotten to know Shutterstock
/ A Rattly and Raw Organ
(great for working with video in PT2020) better than I ever imagined thanks to Catalina’s distaste for 32-bit Quicktime! 8am With public transport not the best option right now, I get on my bike and grind off to the studio. This 30-40 mins of exercise has been one of the unexpected bonuses of this crisis and I’ll definitely be keeping it up. 9am My band (Ill Considered) just started a partnership with New Soil (a unique and forward-looking label-type venture run by one of my favourite people in the business, Fred Bolza) so most mornings there has been some sort of strategy, content ingestion, promo, artwork or album-related admin to deal with. We’ve just finished our first seven day recording session (at Livingston studios), so I’m also using this pre-session time to start going through the hours of recordings, and planning the next stages of recording. Summer 2020 / 49
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/ Popped out for coffee
/ Emre was interviewed in Resolution V15.6
some creative processing of demo elements on the last of the four tunes of this EP, with combinations of pedals, amps and plugins. 1pm Lunch, I usually grab a few moments here to bother my manager with diary juggling, invoice queries and some general strategy chats. He has been the most supportive and smart partner you could wish for during this period! 6pm The session is usually wrapped up now and today I’m jumping on my bike again to head to Noel Gallagher’s new studio to check out an Apple Mac Pro we have on loan to test. I get there — and it’s the wrong machine! I jump back on the bike and head home.
9pm With my child in bed, some relative calm follows, so I check for any new cues or revisions from LA, mirror my home studio’s work drive and then spend an hour or so working on new products for my sample company Rattly And Raw. This slightly tangential coding and design work actually seems to keep me sane(ish). I’m just finishing our newest product: “The Celebrated Fictional Mega Organ Of Steamlord Cornelius”. It’s a huge 50 voice organ with a different take on sound choices… It includes, whales, elephants, car horns, screams, ship foghorns and many more!
FORWARD THINKING AUDIO GEAR
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JOSEPHSON ENGINEERING josephson.com
During lockdown, working entirely native with my computer at home, I decided it would be essential to incorporate a fully-native system into my HDX studio, to embrace the benefits this brings to mixing. After weighing up many options I built it round an Arturia Audiofuse with 8pre expander (review Resolution V18.7), and I’ve spent several mornings wiring and integrating this properly into my studio so I can still make use of the only hardware I use while mixing, the Roger Meyer 456HD-500 analogue tape emulator. These have been the single greatest benefit to my tracking and mixing I can recall. 10am I’m currently producing the first of several Steam Down EPs for Decca records, which is a powerful blend of grime, new UK jazz and hip hop. Each day is pretty varied and today we’ll be starting by recording a singer in the Netherlands using Audiomovers Listento with a method I worked out early in lockdown (see Resolution V19.3 Remote Production Special). Following the remote session, we’ll continue working on a rough mix of one of the more ambitious songs so we can get a clear perspective on the sound choices and final arrangement tweaks before cutting backing vocals and more horns next week. The rest of the day will be taken up recording sax and more vocals from the artist as well as refining other arrangements and getting into
Dave Hill Designs SHW 0914.indd 1
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50 / Summer 2020
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/ NEW at NAMM 2020: all the gear / Hearables: AI audio / International Year of Sound 2020
/ AMS RMX16 500: digital classic re-born / RØDE NTG5: it’s the little perforations / Genelec Aural ID
/ Chris Sheldon: mixing Rocketman / Paul Butler: Bees guitarist in L.A. / MIDI 2.0
/ Such Sweet Thunder: AoIP links analogue / Military Wives: recording the choir / Microphone special
/ DPA 4560 binaural headset: immersive / Avid Pro Tools: new features / Arturia Creative Suite
/ Warren Huart: Produce Like a Pro / Dave Pemberton: A Day in the Life / The sound of multi-Oscar winner Parasite
V19.1 | January/February 2020 | £5.50
/ SSL Origin mixer: a 4k core / CEDAR DNS 8D: Dante de-noiser / AMS Neve 1073® OPX
/ Good Morning Britain: Covid-19 news / Tim Bran: remote recording guide / DJ Hardwell’s Curaçao studio
V19.2 | March/April 2020 | £5.50
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V19.3 | May/June 2020 | FREE
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REPORT / Cameron Craig: mixing Melua / Tommaso Colliva: Zoom music video / Remote production special
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