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REPORT

REVIEWS

REVEALED

/ AI: sound engineering / Spotify: binaural commercials /Aloha’s in-sync remote musical collaboration

/Grace m908: immersive control /Lectrosonics DCR822: receive & record /Genelec GLM 4 — calibrate your senses

/Cole Whitecotton: battling deepfake audio /Studio tour: coping with COVID /Resolution Awards 2020 Winners!

V19.6 | Winter 2020 | £5.50

The

Interview

Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx Morten Lindberg Xxx


Genelec RAW

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For more information visit genelec.com/raw


/ Contents

16 V19.6 | Winter 2020

News & Analysis 5 6 54

Leader News News, studios, appointments A Day In The Life Russell Cottier takes a COVID-safe tour of London recording studios

Columns

12 Crosstalk It’s “None More Black” for Rob Speight, who ponders the fascination for dark mode 41 Playlist Resolution bids 2020 farewell in song 48 Artificial intelligence in sound engineering Algorithms learn from their own experience, forming in the learning process multi-level, hierarchical ideas about the information they’re fed. Feed ‘em audio… says Robin Reumers

Morten Lindberg

Craft

16 Morten Lindberg An immersive audio pioneer, a Norwegian record label, a record amount of Grammy nominations, and a recordbreaking immersive audio reference room 24 Cole Whitecotton Deepfakes and audio forensics — we learn all about ‘CSI: Audio’ from a member of the National Center for Media Forensics (NCMF) in Denver

24

42

27 RESOLUTION AWARDS 2020 Winners supplement

Technology

42 Genelec GLM 4 Managing monitors — Thomas Lund explains the science of listening — and previews the fourth generation of Genelec Loudspeaker Manager software 46 Aloha by Elk A new service for fibre broadband and 5G, finely tuned to the needs of musicians, aims to make in-sync remote musical collaboration a reality

46

50

50 Binaural commercials Spotify headphone listening is an opportunity for 3D creativity

REVIEWS 14 Grace Design m908 15 Lectrosonics DCR822

54 Winter 2020 / 3


/ Welcome

Leader

Nigel Jopson

EDITORIAL Editor Nigel Jopson nigel@resolutionmag.com

CONTRIBUTORS George Shilling, Jon Thornton, Dan Daley, Dennis Baxter, Danny Turner, Russell Cottier, John Broomhall, Simon Clark, Mike Aiton, Bob Katz, Bill Lacey, Piper Payne, Tim Oliver, Erica Basnicki, Catherine Vericolli, David Kennedy, Phil Ward, Rob Speight and Gijs Friesen

ADVERTISEMENT SALES EUROPE Sean Leslie +44 (0)20 7993 4704 sean@resolutionmag.com US & INTERNATIONAL Jeff Turner +1 415 455 8301 jturner@resolutionmag.com

PRODUCTION AND LAYOUT Dean Cook, The Magazine Production Company +44 (0)1273 467579 dean@resolutionmag.com

PRINTING Gemini Print Southern Ltd, Unit A1 Dolphin Road, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex. BN43 6NZ

MANAGEMENT Publisher Dave Robinson dave@resolutionmag.com Published by S2 Publications Ltd +44 (0)1543 57872 info@resolutionmag.com 192 Longford Road, Cannock Staffordshire. WS11 1QN ©2020 S2 Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher. Great care is taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this publication, but neither S2 Publications Ltd or the editor can be held responsible for its contents. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publisher. S2 Publications Ltd. Registered in England and Wales. REGISTERED OFFICE Gowran House, 56 Broad Street, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol, BS37 6AG Company number: 4375084

O

2020 Vision

ur Playlist page this month features tunes chosen by contributors to play out this year… it’s not a fond farewell! Our thoughts are with those who have personally suffered in 2020 — and with our live sound brethren — whose established careers have been abruptly put on hold. However, despite the tribulations of health pandemics and political upheaval, the audio industry has proved remarkably inventive and resilient. Designers and equipment manufacturers continue to make groundbreaking products, which we celebrate on page 27 with our Resolution Awards 2020 Winner’s Supplement. I’m reminded of the worry which gripped our industry when the commercial studio sector fell off a cliff. It soon became obvious there would actually be more (‘project’) studios, and much more equipment made and sold — just different setups — with more innovative designs. The changes we suddenly had to make in 2020 were probably going to happen anyway, eventually. Workflow adjustments have made us more productive and the world a little more

environmentally secure. Why should sports commentators drive to broadcast studios when they can work from home with USB mics? Actors can do remote-controlled ADR without travelling to city centres (page 40, Resolution V19.3). Musicians can contribute to projects locally with producers managing their recordings remotely. As Mike Aiton revealed in our Autumn edition (‘Is it remotely possible’, page 46), it is possible to monitor HD video and surround audio, with low latency, in seven countries with multiple collaborators. ‘I know a change gonna come, Oh, yes it will,’ (thanks, Sam Cooke). A change is also coming for me personally, as I’ve decided to leave the editor’s chair at Resolution, and in 2021 I’ll be moving on. This was a magazine I loved to read as a recording engineer, and it was my privilege to be its editor. Thank you to all my colleagues, interviewees and industry friends, without whom I would not have been able to bring the best-informed readership in this industry such fantastic content. Fade out, 2020. See you on the next track, it’s going to be a great remix! Nigel Jopson.

Nigel

Editor

/resolutionmagazine

@resolutionmagazine

Winter 2020 / 5


News

MPG 2021 Awards shortlist

The Music Producers Guild revealed the shortlist for its 2021 Awards, which will take place on 10th June 2021. Women are once again strongly represented, and for the first time a woman is featured in all but one category. Names include Marta Salogni, (UK Producer Of The Year), lau.ra (Re-mixer Of The Year), Georgia (Breakthrough Producer Of The Year), Grace Banks (Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year) and Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia (Album Of The Year). MPG also announced the election of two new directors, Matt Taylor and Katie Tavini. Olga Fitzroy said: “Being re-elected to a board that is now 60% female, in a part of the industry where women are often under-represented, is a significant step for the MPG and I’m proud to be a part of it.”020 program committee co-chair.

Online learning — Trinity College partners PreSonus

The Music & Media Technologies (MMT) programme at Trinity College Dublin has partnered with PreSonus, adapting to a new online lecturing format, to enable students to carry out their creative and technical audio projects remotely. MMT lecturer Jimmy Eadie said: “We are delighted about the potential of this industry and academic partnership between ourselves here in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and PreSonus. Through this support, the students will avail of the professional sound quality that PreSonus products afford. We hope to develop this partnership further in the coming years.” The MMT programme is a 12-month full-time or 24-month part-time Masters course in TCD.  6 / Winter 2020

Around the world in 80ms Remote Recording Network (RRN), Riedel Communications, TV Skyline, The Black Project, and 13 other partners collaborated in the production of a landmark virtual live event on Nov 22-23 that brought together teams working remotely across four countries and three continents. Headed by Peter Brandt, CEO of RRN, the show represented the first-ever fully decentralised production of a live, global music event. The on-site production team worked with a minimal cast, with the director working remotely and in real time from Vienna, the LD from Munich, and the lighting operator from Frankfurt. FOH and broadcast sound was mixed in Cologne, and the parallel sound recording was controlled in 5.1.4 from Valhalla Studios in New York. The TV Skyline Skycenter in Mainz acted as a hub for camera control, image mixing, and stream delivery, while teams in Berlin managed quality control and remote audience aspects. The technological heart of the production was the Riedel ROC, the communications and signal control centre through which all remote production connections converged.

Leiting’s immersive Game Sound Lab One of China’s leading video games publishers, with over 45m players across the country enjoying its mobile and PC releases, recently commissioned a 5.1.4 game audio studio based around Genelec Smart Active monitors. The studio engaged system integrator DMT to install a pair of Genelec 1234As as its main stereo monitoring system, with a 5.1.4 immersive system comprising eleven 8330A nearfield two-way monitors in all positions — complemented by a 7370A subwoofer. All the monitors were supplied in a polar white finish, and the entire system was configured and calibrated by DMT using GLM loudspeaker manager software. “For a games company like ours, an audio studio is a must,” commented composer and game sound designer Knuckles (Jianyu) Zhang, who led the studio project.


APPOINTMENTS

API #4 for award-winning Heavyocity Heavyocity, a collective of composers and sound designers creating virtual instruments, has purchased and installed a new API 1608-II analogue console. The console is being installed in Heavyocity’s facility in Yonkers, NY. The team has been working on three API THE BOX consoles since 2014, using them to produce over 30 VIs, with hundreds of accompanying demo tracks that have amassed millions of plays and views. Heavyocity was started by Dave Fraser and Neil Goldberg, who met at Berklee in 1989. “We’ve loved our BOX consoles and wanted to stay with API; we love the sound of the 1608-II and it’s been an amazing addition to the facility. The headroom is pretty mindblowing and the ability to have 16 mic inputs plus four stereo aux returns has been the perfect starting place for us to cut larger sessions in house,” says Fraser.

Lawo remote-configure Multichoice South Africa’s Multichoice, Africa’s largest satellite TV service provider, successfully completed the rebuild of their Studio 6, which is mostly utilized by SuperSport, a content brand specialising in live sport production across 40 channels. The installation, carried out by local system integrator and Lawo supplier Inala Broadcast, comprises a vm_ dmv-based Lawo V__matrix multiviewer solution and a Lawo mc²36 audio console combined with an A__stage64 stagebox and a Nova73 router. Anthony Teunen, Lawo’s System Engineer, who configured the new Studio 6 setup and supervised the hand-over, called Studio 6’s new audio infrastructure “an innovative small console-large router scenario.” The configuration for the Multichoice studio in Randburg, Johannesburg (South Africa) was configured remotely from Theunen’s office in Belgium. For health and safety reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, on-site visits were strictly limited.

Riedel Communications announced the appointment of Renaud Lavoie to the newly created position of senior vice president technology. Reporting directly to founder Thomas Riedel, Lavoie will drive technological innovation, advance Riedel’s video solutions portfolio, and strengthen expertise in IP-enabled hardware and software. Lavoie moves into this strategic new role after serving as managing director for Riedel Montreal. Lavoie was named MD of Riedel Montreal upon Riedel’s acquisition of Embrionix. Prior to creating Embrionix, Lavoie founded and served as president of Brioconcept, an electronics consulting company, he was previously a senior hardware designer for Miranda Technologies and co-founded esports performance company GScience. Calrec Audio has recruited Helen Jones as operations manager. Jones has re-joined Calrec and in her new role will ensure manufacturing and operations meet the demands of the business for quality, on-time delivery and team development. As a former engineer at Calrec, Jones understands broadcast customer needs and requirements, and has a strong track record in the industry. Calrec GM Sid Stanley said: “The COVID era will bring new challenges to our supply chain and the way we work. Helen’s role will be to ensure that operationally we stay ahead of a fast evolving and changing business environment.” Jackie Davidson and Peter Thoms have been elected performer directors by PPL-registered performers. They will sit on both the PPL performer board and main board. Davidson (JD Management) and Thoms (founder member of band Landscape, remembered for the hit ‘Einstein A-Go Go’) were elected during the PPL Annual Performer Meeting. Peter Leathem, PPL CEO, said: “We warmly welcome Jackie Davidson and Peter Thoms to PPL, whose experience will play a crucial role in PPL’s continued strong performance. I would also like to thank Crispin Hunt and Mark Kelly, as they step down, for their commitment and contribution to our work.”

Winter 2020 / 7


/ News

APPOINTMENTS Iron Mountain Entertainment Services has appointed Beth Greve director and global head of sales. Greve is responsible for the acquisition, retention and growth of new business. She oversees global sales and account management teams and partners closely with the marketing team to maximise relationships within the entertainment industries. Greve was chief commercial officer at GoldieBlox; chief commercial officer for the World Surf League; senior vice president of digital at Discovery Networks; chief revenue and partnerships officer for AwesomenessTV; and head of entertainment content west, business development at YouTube. Iron Mountain is the leading physical and digital asset preservation and archiving service for the Entertainment industry. Focusrite appointed Matt Pliskin as Focusrite pro broadcast and immersive audio sales manager, and Peter Tilley as Focusrite Pro educational and post-production sales manager. This strengthening of Focusrite’s Pro sales team reinforces a long-term sales growth strategy for the brand. Pliskin is promoted from his previous position as Focusrite Pro senior solutions specialist. In his new capacity, his responsibilities will include strengthening relationships with the broadcast community in the US and Canada. Tilley is promoted from his previous position as Focusrite Pro western regional sales manager. In his new position his responsibilities will include strengthening relationships with the educational community.  Michael Jähnel has joined Klotz AIS to reinforce the company’s ProAVM business unit. Assuming the role of sales and product manager, broadcast, he will be based out of the manufacturer’s headquarters in Vaterstetten, Germany and serve as an interface between AV consultants, customers and the Klotz product development department. Jähnel has been active in the broadcast sector for more than 20 years and previously worked as a sales and product manager for a German systems integrator. Due to his extensive industry knowledge in video technology and cabling, he will also actively support the Klotz AIS Fiber Division.

8 / Winter 2020

House of Glass chooses System T Italian producer/remixer Gianni Bini, owner of the famed Viareggio-based recording studio House of Glass in Tuscany and one of the prime movers behind the Ocean Trax record label, has a simple ambition: to be the best. “My mission is to achieve the state of the art in every step of production,” he says. The new installation at House of Glass consists of a 64-channel SSL System T S500 surface, Tempest Engines, and Network I/O AoIP Stage boxes, featuring SSL’s SuperAnalogue mic pre technology.

“Upgrading to System T installation was quite simple,” recounts Giovanni Blasi from SSL’s Italian reseller Cablateam. “We removed all of cables interconnecting the Duality console to the remote patchbay. All recording areas to all wall boxes are kept and normalled to the existing external analogue mic preamps via patchbay. In each area we physically added a SSL Network I/O SB i16 so HoG can decide to connect the mics directly to the SSL stagebox or via external analogue mic preamps.”

PMC loudspeakers opens new factory

Baptie buys Neve Genesys G32

Monitor manufacturer PMC has opened a new factory in Bedfordshire, UK, to cope with burgeoning demand for its CI series. “In addition to the flourishing custom installation market, CI monitors also form an integral part of our systems for Dolby Atmos, and we anticipate a sharp uptake in demand,” says PMC’s owner Peter Thomas. Based on an industrial estate in Sandy — 10 minutes from PMC’s head office in Biggleswade — the new factory covers 6,000 ft2 and includes additional warehousing. Alongside the latest manufacturing equipment, PMC has invested in facilities for acoustic testing and critical listening. PMC is also increasing its staff resources to support the expansion.

“Strongroom Studios in London has been my base for many years and until recently I had a production suite there,” explains Baptie (Resolution V4.8). “Whenever I needed to mix, I’d use the VR console in Studio 1, so I wanted something that replicated that sound and that workflow. the Neve Genesys mix bus comes from the same family as the VR so it feels familiar, plus is has a whole host of other features that I love such as Neve preamp circuitry and easy DAW integration via the GenesysControl plug-in. I also love its modular design, which means I can expand the console at a later date.” Baptie recently mixed a live event featuring Rex Orange County and mixed singles for Moses Sumney.


O R IO N S T U D IO S Y N ERGY C O R E

Drum recording. Solved.

Ambitious bands obsess with drum sound. With high-resolution conversion and extensive I/O, the cross-platform Orion Studio Synergy Core has no trouble being the heart of your drum recording setup. Capture and shape the sound of your music’s foundation with 12 low-noise discrete preamps and 64-bit AFC™ clocking technology, neatly housed in one rack unit body.

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Add to that 50 analog-modeled plugins, DC-coupled ins and outs, and hard bypass on the preamps, and you can be assured the rest of the band isn’t left out.


/ News

Japanese Label uses Pyramix for Atmos

The principal of the UNAMAS Label is the renowned engineer, Mick Sawaguchi, who has won the Japan Professional Music Recording Award six times in recent years. Ten out of his 18 immersive audio titles were released on Amazon Music HD at the end of September 2020 in Dolby Atmos. Pyramix 25th Anniversary version was used with the VAD (Virtual Audio Device) employed to control a Mac-based Dolby Atmos Production Suite Renderer via a RAVENNA/AES67 network. Atmos recordings include UNAHQ 2011 — Astor Piazzolla by Strings and Oboe. The performance of 22-year-old up-and-coming oboe player Kanami Araki who plays the lead on Movements 1, 2 and 7 and Shiori Takeda, a key member of the UNAMAS classic series, is a must-listen.

Grundman remasters Herbie Hancock classics

Bernie Grundman has remastered all LPs in the new VMP Anthology: The Story of Herbie Hancock, an 8-album, 11-LP set curated by Vinyl Me and Herbie Hancock himself, to celebrate his 80th birthday and more than 60 years of altering the landscape of jazz. Grundman mastered a number of the original releases, including 1973’s breakthrough Headhunters, and the 2016 Grammy Album of the Year, River: The Joni Letters. Grundman recalls the original Head Hunters 1973 mastering sessions, “When they brought that in, I was working at A&M at the time, running their mastering department. Well, that record was shockingly different from what I expected a Herbie Hancock album to be”. The new box set includes albums from every major era of Hancock’s career — from his early albums as a bandleader to his later fusions of jazz with funk and hip-hop, and his Grammywinning work from the ‘00s. 10 / Winter 2020

AES Show Fall 2020 a virtual success

From the opening of Audio Engineering Month to the final week of Livestream Technical Program and featured events, the AES Show Fall 2020 Convention attracted overwhelming support from attendees, presenters and exhibitors alike. In spite of the unusually difficult task of taking the AES Show online, sessions from top industry professionals and showcases by leading partner brands flourished, drawing virtual crowds and interactions to a variety of presentations afforded by the new online format. Nearly 4,400 AES Show attendees logged on from 70 countries to take in over 300 live-streamed sessions hosted by more than 600 presenters and panelists on all things audio, from workshops on the latest tools and techniques, to the Special Events series featuring Finneas, Jackson Browne and friends, Imogen Heap and more. Rounding out the AES Show experience were a host of activities both on-demand and in real time, including student and career events and the “7 Audio Wonders of the World” Tech Tours series, offering virtual walking tours of great studios.

Miloco’s new East London Super Symmetry Studios A new multi-room studio is good news for Mile End, East London, and for management operation Miloco. The complex features an SSL studio with a good-sized tracking space, along with a smaller programming and writing studio. There’s audio and video lines between the studios, adding to the flexibility of facilities.  Studio A’s control room houses a 48-channel SSL 4000 E/G+, Apple Mac Pro 2x3.46Ghz 12-Core with 48GB RAM, fed by a Apogee Symphony MKII 32x32 and with a Universal Audio UAD-2 Octo Core card. Classic analogue outboard includes Manley Massive passive, Urei 1178, two 1176, Lexicon 480L and PCM70 reverbs, Tube-tech PE

1C plus two CL1A, and a couple of Distressors. Monitoring by ATC and a comprehensive 8-channel Hear Back System complete the picture. Plenty of instruments are available with a Ludwig Super Classic 1961 kit, Fender Jazz and Tele plus Martin guitars, Ampeg and Fender amps. Studio B is a high-end production studio, designed to adjust to every workflow. Housing an SSL Nucleus and UAD Apollo systems, the room will accommodate five people, with a good selection of synths, outboards and plug-ins. With published day rates of £450/£350, and Victoria Park a 5-minute walk away, the future looks good.

ALL SET FOR SHOWS AHEAD CES, [Digital]

11-14 January 2021

INFOCOM, Florida

12-18 June

NAMM, Believe in Music [Digital]

18 January

Summer NAMM, Nashville

Prolight + Sound

13-16 April

AES Education Conference, Nashville 22-25 July

PLASA Leeds

11-12 M ay

PLASA, London

MPTS, London

12-13 May

NAB, Las Vegas

High End, Munich

13-16 May

BPM, Solihull

Midem Cannes

1-4 June

Musikmesse, Frankfurt

ISE, Barcelona

1-4 June

LDI 2021, Las Vegas

15 July 5-7 September 9-13 October 16-17 October 22-24 October 19-21 November


PROGRAMMABLE ANALOG PROCESSING FEATURING THE MC-3 MULTI-BAND COMPRESSOR

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P R O F E S S I O N A L

A U D I O

H A R D W A R E

A N D

S O F T W A R E


Columns

Crosstalk Rob Speight

Black is Black We work in the dark, why do we have to look at it?

Black text on a white background causes less eye strain and is more legible

12 / Winter 2020

display polarity is particularly advantageous for small character sizes: Implications for display

Photo: BenoniStudio

W

hen Darth Vader uttered the immortal words; “Commander, tear this ship apart until you’ve found those plans!,” he was obviously a bit peeved. The same way that David Prowse (RIP) was probably a little miffed to find his voice replaced by James Earl Jones. Imagine Dengar’s frustration when he lost Vader’s bounty to Boba Fett, and all this Dark Side stuff… how depressing. Remember when Anakin became Vader and cried out, “Nooooooooo!”? Well that was my reaction when Avid excitedly announced the latest version of Pro Tools last month with Dark Mode! What is this fascination with darkness? We work in it most of the time why do we have to look at it? Why make one of the worlds foremost DAW systems look like one of the worst? So many questions! Not being one to impose my inane opinions on Resolution readers without at least a smidge of research, I decided to earn my money and do a little bit in the time honoured tradition of journalism. In 2013 a research paper from Piepenbrock, Mayr and Buchner snappily titled ‘Positive

design,” the group discussed and displayed how black text on a white background caused less eye strain and more legibility than the inverse and concluded that: “The findings are in line with the assumption that the typically higher luminance of positive polarity displays leads to an improved perception of detail.” Now I don’t know about you, but often times when working in a studio with a mixing console and monitor speakers, I find that the video monitor is not at the optimum viewing height, angle or distance away from the engineer and small text makes it worse. Why do people like dark mode? Is it because it looks sexy? Even I look sexy all dressed in

/ What is this fascination with darkness?


black — just no one wants to look at me. It certainly makes colours pop and I personally love to be able to use colours in my editing and mixing environments — it makes big sessions infinitely more navigable. But what about brightness? Is the amount of light coming off your screen less? Isn’t that what damages eyes? It actually depends on the type of display you are looking at. Back in the good ole ‘90s when most of us were using CRT displays the amount of light generated was the same regardless of the colour. This is also true for LCD screens that use a backlight which shines through the pixels on the screen. It has been shown that, in layman’s terms, the brightness over stimulates certain cells in the eyes which can lead to myopia (short sightedness), whereas the opposite is true in the inverse. (See ‘Reading and Myopia: Contrast Polarity Matters’ by Aleman, Wang and Schaeffel).

They use it because it looks sexy and manufacturers like it because it uses less energy, and makes people like me write articles about their products [It’s ok Rob, 2020 is nearly over — Ed]. Yet thankfully the new release of Pro Tools wasn’t just so people could darken their worlds further. It also includes great new features including audio to MIDI, Melodyne included, full integration with their new Carbon hybrid DSP audio interface and lots of lovely new time saving features for post production and Dolby Atmos production specifically. Thankfully after taking my Dark Helmet off and untangling my Schwartz it didn’t take long

for me to find the option to turn the retina blasting original colour scheme back on, and hence peace was once again restored to the galaxy.

• Positive Display Polarity Is Particularly

Advantageous for Small Character Sizes: Implications for Display Design: https://bit.ly/Resolution-Ref1 • Reading and Myopia: Contrast Polarity Matters: https://bit.ly/Resolution-Ref2 • Will blue light from electronic devices increase my risk of macular degeneration and blindness? https://bit.ly/Resolution-Ref3

OLED pixel power-saving

There is one other type of screen which is yet to become popular in desktop computing but is found more and more in both laptops and phones, specifically because of its power saving operation, and that is OLED. An OLED works differently because each individual pixel emits light itself when electricity is passed across it. What this means is that each pixel is only consuming the power it needs and when it is off, it is erm, off! In contrast (see what I did there) the LCD and CRT are beaming light across the entire display constantly. This is why Dark Mode has become so popular in portable devices because it extends battery life. OLEDs are also thinner (therefore lighter), can be flexible and have a better viewing angle, higher brightness and contrast and fast response times. On the Dark Side OLEDs are expensive, don’t read well in sunlight and have a shorter lifetime. Where does this leave us? In a galaxy far, far, away from where I actually started this piece or closer to finding out who my father is? Let’s be honest, these days Dark Mode is just a marketing tool. More of a marketing tool than Apple’s Nightshift (other nightshifts are available) which changes the ‘dangerous’ blue light to one that is more soothing and less likely to interfere with your circadian rhythms as described by David Ramsey, MD PhD, MPH in his article ‘Will blue light from electronic devices increase my risk of macular degeneration and blindness?’ People like Dark Mode because it is different.

/ Too dark? Take those shades off, Rob!

Winter 2020 / 13


The Reviews

Comprehensive bass management

Grace Design m908 Control freak JON THORNTON arranges his Atmos

T

he M908 is the latest monitor controller from Grace Design, delivering multichannel and immersive audio monitoring in formats up to 24 channels. The system comprises three parts: the Audio Control Unit (ACU) is a 2u rackmount unit, which contains all audio I/O as well as the associated DSP. A separate PSU is supplied, compact enough to sit neatly at the bottom of a rack. The RCU remote, attached to the ACU via the supplied (and usefully long) cable, handles both operation and configuration. The RCU will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used the M905 stereo monitor controller — although slightly larger to accommodate additional controls. As standard, the ACU comes with 68 potential digital inputs (AES/EBU, ADAT, USB2 and TOS-LINK), 24 digital outputs (AES/EBU) and 16 channels of balanced analogue outputs. Options allow a further 32 channels of I/O over either Dante, MADI or DigiLink, and up to 16 analogue inputs. Additional rear panel connections are available for word-clock, an external talkback microphone, talkback footswitch and output. Getting the whole system integrated with our 7.1.4 Atmos room was a cinch. As the majority of I/O is on standard DB25 pinouts for both analogue and digital signals, switching out our house MTRX+ DADMan system was simply a matter of moving three connectors from one to the other. The review unit was also supplied with a DigiLink option, so that also plumbed easily into the studios ProTools HDX rig. It’s a good thing that the RCU remote is such a nicely engineered and tactile piece of kit, as you’ll spend a chunk of time with it for initial configuration. The UI will be familiar to anyone 14 / Winter 2020

has used the M905. The large colour TFT shows both the current operational status, and also via pressing the Setup key in conjunction with other function buttons, navigates around a series of screens for configuration. The process is helped by some well thought-out and useful information screens — but can be a little fiddly at times compared with a PC based GUI like DADMan.

Allocating DSP resources

Configuration operates at two distinct levels. The first of these is ‘Workflow’, which means allocating the system’s DSP resources. Each Workflow configures a certain number of speaker channels and additional outputs, including stereo cue outputs, the internal headphone monitoring system and two talkback circuits. The top line here is that each output channel requires one of the available DSP channels, of which there are a maximum of 24. So working with an Atmos 11.1.8 arrangement, for example, will limit the total number of additional cues, talkback channels etc. Within a Workflow, a number of input sets can be defined and named, drawing on any combination of physical inputs in any channel arrangement, up to the maximum defined in the Workflow. These appear at the top and bottom of the main display, and can be recalled by the adjacent pushbutton. Up to three control room speaker sets can also be defined — again routing to any combination of analogue or digital outputs. Very useful in our room, which uses a combination of powered Neumann monitors, some with analogue signal inputs and some with digital. These are recalled by dedicated keys on the remote, and again can be configured in any channel arrangement up to the maximum.

Each speaker-set can have comprehensive bass management and LFE channel gain, with a choice of HPF and LPF frequencies and slopes. This can also be quickly enabled and disabled on each speaker-set. In addition, each speaker output can have delay, level trim and up to 12 bands of fully parametric EQ for room correction set (subject to a maximum of 85 bands of EQ in total). Saving a Workflow in effect saves all of the configuration for input sets and speaker sets, so effectively these work like presets. Once configured, the M908 really is a joy to use. The main control volume control is nicely weighted and solid, and pushing it switches control to the internal headphone circuit. An easily accessible mute / solo system for individual speaker channels is provided, and this is handled neatly without increasing the push-button real estate by scrolling through pages, with the core set of channel mute / solo buttons then mapping to additional channels or groups of channels — and again, how these are mapped is user configurable. There’s a comprehensive talkback section, with the RCU having a built in microphone, and (DSP channels in the Workflow allowing) an additional talkback mic input on the ACU. Each of these can be mapped to be controlled by the RCU talkback key and/or a remote talkback switch, and either of the two channels routed independently to any cue output. Downmixing is also well catered for, with downmix templates provided for folding down to 5.1, LCRS and stereo (LT/RT and LoRo), and the ability to tweak downmix values within these templates. In fact, in terms of functions and routing possibilities, I found it hard to think of something that, after a little interrogation of the manual, the M908 couldn’t do. And to cap it all, the overall audio quality is astonishingly good. If I was building a new multi-channel studio from scratch, I’d give m908 serious consideration. Granted, it doesn’t have the ultimate I/O capability of a maxed-out MTRX / DADMan / MOM combo, nor the deep integration with EuCon to the ubiquitous Avid control surfaces. But once you have spent the time getting it set-up, it’s cheaper (especially taking into account the room correction EQ), quieter, and ergonomically far superior in use. Another winner from the Grace brothers.

VERDICT PROS  Audio quality; ergonomics of operation; quiet; flexible routing; comprehensive talkback system; room correction EQ as standard; does everything you could want in a monitor controller. CONS

Initial configuration and set-up can be a little fiddly at times; doesn’t have the ultimate I/O capability of some competitors.

www.gracedesign.com


Lectrosonics DCR822 STEVE MORANTZ, CAS, is on-set with a new dual-channel digital receiver

T

he DCR822 receiver is the successor the very popular and still widely-used UCR411a series of portable field receivers. The 411 series has been around for over 15 years and is still used widely today for feature films, documentary work, and scripted TV production, and has earned its reputation as one of the best front end receivers in the business. The DCR822, in the short time I have had to use it, blows it away. The new receiver, which is roughly the same size as the 411a series, is a dual-channel digital receiver with their new Vector Diversity technology and has a built-in recorder as well. It is backwards compatible like the DSQD half-rack receiver (review Resolution V18.5) introduced a year ago, and can be used in Digital mode and Digital Hybrid modes on a perchannel basis. Its Digital modes include D2 for mono digital transmitters (the DPR plug-on unit, the DBu and DBu-Lemo belt pack units, and the DHu handheld transmitter), Stereo digital modes (Duet unencrypted, DCHX encrypted), and Digital Hybrid modes (SM and SMWB Series, LT, HM Series, SSM, WM, and HH Series). Like all True Diversity receivers, the 822 has two receivers per audio channel. Where the Vector part comes in is that the two signals from the two front ends on each channel have a phase alignment step, so that the best signal-to-noise of the RF signal is achieved before it is demodulated. The DCR822-A1B1 bands can tune in any frequency between 470 and 608 MHz (Lectrosonics Bands A1 and B1)

/ Battery or 12V DC operation with auto switchover

while the DCR822-B1C1 band tunes from 537692MHz, primarily for export markets, including the UK. The receiver offers a SmartTune function to automatically select the best (quietest) frequency from among the 6000 choices offered. The usual things we’ve become used to and trusted from their receivers are also included, like IR Sync and a USB connection, for use with the Lectrosonics Wireless Designer system management and frequency coordination software. The 822 has two TA3 audio outputs that can be selected as either analogue or AES3 digital. The unit can run on either external 12VDC, or 4xAA lithium batteries — which enables 6-8 hours of run time. There is an auto switchover feature so that if you are powering the unit from a central DC source, and the power fails, the 822 will then run uninterrupted on the batteries. With the way projects are filmed these days having not to worry about switching from battery to power is a great feature.

Paramount performance

First off the range is amazing! The first time I used it I was working on a show, filming at the Paramount lot in Hollywood. The scene and talent were on the second floor of a building, down the hall, in a room in the back. I was outside, below, on the first floor. I had to ‘remote’ my powered antennas, Comntek IFB signals, and Duet digital IFB sends to the second floor. I put the DCR822 on my cart with the whip antennas and dialled-in my two Lectrosonics DPRs on boom microphones, and recorded three hours to the micro SD card. I kept an eye on the RF signal levels which were at full strength the entire time. Over the three hours not one drop out — and the audio was crystal clear. I have since used it for an earwig feed on one channel and a VOG (Voice of God microphone on set) on the other channel, simultaneously — as well as using it as a receiver for the Duet system. The show I am on now has a 4-person crew and, until I got another M2R receiver for the Duet system, I had

my fourth crew member use it as his IFB receiver. On my current show we do a lot of car-to-car stuff with earwigs, transmitting from 2 vehicles, and it handled the job perfectly.

Backup recorder

An interesting and unique feature of the DCR822 is that it can be used as a backup recorder for your bag-rig cart or main cart, and even as a stand-alone recorder in an emergency. The unit records to a microSDHC card, and can record 1-4 tracks, depending on how the receiver is being used. The new Vector Diversity technology, the ability to record, as well as the flexibility of either digital, Digital Hybrid or both at the same time on different channels gives you a lot of choices. This backward compatibility gives us a path to grow with the new products as they come out with more digital units, and still be able to use our existing products that we have trusted for many years. The 411 series has been around for more than 15 years and the ‘SM’ for almost as long, and these are still the standard today for the type of work I do. Lectrosonics doesn’t rush things out into the market — they have built the perfect mouse trap and are always looking for ways make all our lives easier in the always changing wireless world. As we usher our way unto the digital world, with first the D Squared system and now the DCR822, I am looking forward to what Lectrosonics will be bringing in the future. Los Angeles-based production sound mixer Steve Morantz is an Emmy Winner and 5-time Emmy Nominee, 2-time CAS Awards Nominee, owner of Morantz Sound, Inc.

VERDICT PROS  Amazing range. Continuously tunable tracking filters, digital receiver maintaining compatibility with existing equipment. On-board Recording .BWF file format. CONS

At £2,611 (exc VAT) this is serious kit, but a good investment for the future.

www.lectrosonics.com

Winter 2020 / 15


The Interview

Morten Lindberg High Resolution — PEDER CARLSSON & NIGEL JOPSON in conversation with an immersive audio pioneer

Photos: P. Carlsson

Joy is the key word to making experiences that others can enjoy


/ Is this the ultimate immersive control room?

N

orwegian sound engineer and music producer Lindberg started his career in 1992 with his production company Lindberg Lyd (featured Resolution V6.4), specialising in classical music productions, followed by the formation of record label 2L. The label specialises in high quality recordings featuring Norwegian composers and performers and an international repertoire, reflected in the Nordic atmosphere, recorded in inspiring acoustic spaces. “The beauty of the recording arts is that there is no fixed formula and no blueprint. It all comes out of the music.” The 2L record label has received many Grammy nominations, mainly in the Best Surround Sound Album category. Lindberg has also been nominated in categories such as Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. In an unusual (and uncomfortable for the Recording Academy) situation, Lindberg held the record for most Grammy nominations without a win, with twenty-eight through 2019, until 2020 when he finally won his first Grammy for Best Immersive Audio Album [LUX]. Resolution spoke to Lindberg about his career, his recording philosophy, and his magnificent new reference immersive audio control room, with an array of Genelec monitors arranged in a dome 7.1.4 configuration. When did you decide on a music career? From early childhood I had a very keen interest in electronics on one side and on the other hand, I played trumpet. So I grew up playing in wind bands when I was a kid. At some point in my late teens, I met with an old violinist who showed me two microphones and an open reel

recorder. That was the focal point where my two main interests from childhood came together into recording art. How did you acquire your recording skills? I had followed a musical path in my education at an early point. But when I discovered the art of recording, I shifted into an audio school and spent two years learning the basics — electronic methods of recording, the fundamental

techniques of the craft. This was the early ‘90s and I believe my time at the Recording Academy was the last class that actually physically edited analogue tape. From then on, digital workstations were where we were heading. My training certainly helped with the fundamentals of audio engineering, and as my main interest was acoustic music, it helped me focus on obtaining a lower noise floor and better resolution in our recordings.

/ TrondheimSolistene recording Reflections [2L-125-SABD] at Selbu church

Winter 2020 / 17


You’ve spoken before about how you have a long-term plan for quality in music. Can you explain more about that? I think pop music is very often about the ‘here and now’. A pop release has quite a short time-span: a release week, news interest the following month, and then maybe the tune lives for a year. Of course there are exceptions — we also have ‘classics’ in pop, rock, and jazz. But in classical music, we’re actually creating products that are not a ‘newsflash’. This reflects in both how the products should be created, what kind of release-content is made, and why people are making these recordings — not least how they are presented to consumers, how they’re marketed. In 2020 you won a Grammy for Best Immersive Audio Album [LUX, Anita Brevik, Trondheimsolistene & Nidarosdomens Jentekor], did it make a difference to your career? Well, we didn’t really see that Grammy Award coming, because we’ve had 36 nominations across the past 15 years so that was …quite surprising! It was quite a joyous moment, but it didn’t make a difference at all. The projects I work with are not necessarily commercially motivated. These projects come to me because a composer or musicians have a profound wish to make exemplary-sounding recordings. We don’t go out in the market with a focus of ‘what do we think the consumers would like to have now’? We go do the musicians and composers and ask, “what do you really want to create now?” That’s how you can get everyone involved to perform their maximum. We are not working to any kind of templates. So rather than defining what a product should be, we look at it’s ingredients and say — what can we make from these ingredients? And that usually makes for quite a strong product.

/ Genelec W371A SAM woofer system reaches down into the tactile aspect of sound

How has digital audio evolved since your training? The whole concept of quality in digital audio has developed enormously since I left the Recording Academy in the ‘90s. Early in my music career I worked mainly in classical music production, doing venue recordings, editing, mixing and mastering for CD. At that time there was a development with the major classical labels, who

wanted to cut back on both volume and time and money spent on classical recordings. So at some point I realised that if we were to keep going and further develop the audio quality and the experience we wanted, then we also needed to create our own label — to set the foundation of what it really takes to make a classical recording that makes a difference. So that’s when we started the 2L label.

By having a three-dimensional reproduction, you give the brain extra information to work with 18 / Winter 2020

Can you take us through the workflow and process of making an immersive recording? A good recording project starts with a conversation with the composer. Often I bring the composer into the studio and we listen to recordings together. We talk about how the three-dimensional soundscape can actually enhance the experience of the music that is to be composed. If this listening session has been successful, it will inspire the composer to think three-dimensionally in the orchestration of the work. I usually get a score back, where I dig into it with slightly different eyes than a conductor would — I look at what could be the sound contrasts. What is the treble, and what is the fundamental bass of this music? How can we arrange a soundscape in a live room for this to work? I literally make a stage drawing, which suggests how the musicians in the orchestra or the voices in the choir are could stand or sit in the room to make the sound image. I send that out to the performers and the composer, it might come back some practical objections — communication-wise or sightlines. Then I will


/ Interview

re-work the stage layout, and furthermore, go into the score and see if there are any conflicting balances. We could often have the situation where the composer at that stage says: “Oh, okay. Then I could change the composition slightly to make even more use of the space, distance, and directionality”. So it’s quite an interactive relationship with the performers, the engineering side, and the composition, not unlike how a studio session would evolve with an arranger and the music taking shape there and then. But in classical music, there are a few more moving parts, maybe with a larger-scale orchestra. So it needs to be prepared and thought-through in advance. How does this pre-production process feed into the microphone setup? We choose a venue for each recording which will compliment the musical work and the instrumentation. We often use quite large spaces, large concert halls, or medieval churches. In this live room, my technique as a recording engineer is really, really simple. I take the configuration of the speakers for immersive that you see around us here, shrink that down into a miniature microphone array with the exact same time of arrival and directionality, and this microphone setup takes centre stage at the recording venue. Then all the musicians or voices in the ensemble are arranged physically around that microphone array.

We work with any type of music that can naturally balance in a acoustic space

This is basically how balance is done with these recordings. If we need more second violins, then the whole second line in the group take their chairs forward half a meter. If we need less trombones — one meter back. That’s how we balance this.

Not every instrument can sound great in all venues with the small diaphragm mics you use, how do you handle EQ? The potential ‘shrill’ of young voices and treble strings is an interesting topic, especially with the unforgiving on-axis response of the DPA 4041

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Winter 2020 / 19


/ Recording the Kleiberg Mass for Modern Man

microphone. On the technical side I work actively with the angling of the microphones within the array. Aiming slightly above usually helps. But more importantly, my role is both as an engineer and as a producer. This means I get to directly interact with the musicians with the sole purpose of creating the recording. All classical musicians are trained to project their sound 150 feet down the aisle of the concert hall. The first thing I do is to move our mentality towards a more intimate communication with the listener. This type of sound-making affects both texture, timbre and articulation. Then volume is the next step. It’s the same with both singers and instrumentalists, but a string player is best for demonstration. The first 80% of added energy results in volume and enhanced dynamics in a musical sense. But adding more vertical power from the bow to the string from that point only results in distortion and a shrill

harshness. With this in mind the musicians manage to produce a more beautiful sound for me to record, and it does not trigger the 3.7kHz resonance of the DPA 4041. In those situations where I succeed with this approach with a full symphony orchestra, magic occurs and the string players start pulling out their earplugs. It makes all the difference in the world on how they control their sound-making. Basically all the ‘mixing’ is done during recording. So the post-production in this concept of working with audio is really more about editing, and mastering. The mastering is not a very manipulative part of the process. Often it comes down to simple level control and formatting for distribution. How can you adjust these aspects of the recording so precisely without relying on extra audio processing? Creating a reliable monitoring environment for

/ Genelec 8320 extending the 7380 sub bandwidth, so that Lindberg can check the full-range content of the LFE channel

20 / Winter 2020

venue recordings is quite challenging. Often the ‘control room’ is some temporary set-up: for stereo work I used to employ a pair of Genelec 1031s, but it took so long to find a reliable speaker placement, I switched to using headphones for monitoring. What I actually need to know is exactly what each microphone is picking up, and that is something headphones can deliver. I developed a technique where I could do a matrix in our workstation, so I could move in angles and listen to the relationship between all the microphones in the microphone cube. Having said that, I have lately come back to using speakers as well on recording sessions — but that was only after I started working with the new Genelec ‘One Series’ SAM (Smart Active Monitor) system. I discovered I can do quite a quick setup calibration using the GLM (Genelec Loudspeaker Manager) which integrates with the monitor’s internal DSP circuitry, it’s trustworthy, and using the Genelecs rather than eight hours with headphones is better for the ears. I still need to use headphones while recording to get that ‘direct injection’ from the microphones, and really identify what they are picking up. But I can alternate with speakers, to give my ears some relief during the day. You’ve been called an evangelist of immersive sound, what extra value do you think an audience gets from immersive sound rather than stereo? When we started to experiment with immersive audio a decade ago, what we expected to gain with adding the height dimension was to simply increase the level of detail and the level of resolution — the ‘size of the canvas’ available. But that was not what we got. What we got by adding this third dimension to the soundscape was an emotional component — the emotional impact to the listener was increased.


/ Interview

I think this result should lead to further investigation, not only of our hearing, but how our brain interprets sound as music. By having a three-dimensional reproduction, you give the brain so much extra information to work with. If the information you bring is logical and correct, then your brain says: ‘I recognize this, I can work with this… relax.’ The opposite is the case if you have a sound-stage with conflicting information, let’s say conflicting time of arrival, phase issues — then your brain will spin — working really hard to try to decipher ‘what is going on here?’ Give your mind and your body a lot of information, correct information — and it will have an easy time — and an easy time means enjoyable listening.

was also a consideration, so we ended up using the 8341 monitors in the ceiling. For all the seven channels in the bed layer on the floor we used 8351B monitors, extended by the W371A woofer system. Genelec call the W371A an ‘adaptive woofer system’ — how does it integrate with the other loudspeakers? All the Genelec ‘One’ models we used have full bandwidth capabilities on their own, so the intention with the W371A was really to reach down into that tactile, haptic aspect of sound, to reach down into the part of the sound

experience which transitions from audio into the vibration range. Within the often-quoted narrow 20Hz-20kHz definition of human hearing, we’re actually forgetting our body and sensory system is way more complex than our ears alone. Our whole body is actually a very sophisticated sensory system. The body’s experience of music is much broader than our traditional definition of audio. There are different directivity modes you can use on the W371A woofer which might help out if you’re in a smaller or compromised room — but in a room like this, which is spacious and has an overall good sound quality — I found that the basic

Can you walk us through your studio setup here, the monitoring system and the formats you’re working on? This is our room for post-production: editing, mixing and mastering. This is my first new control room, designed after we started working with immersive audio ten years ago. It’s shaped a little bit different than a traditional stereo room, meaning that as a listener your place is in the centre. Most of the shapes and measurements of the room are symmetrical; not only between left and right — which we are familiar with from stereo facilities — but also from front to rear. The speakers in this room are in what we call a 7.1.4 configuration. We arranged the placement of the speakers to ensure compatibility for both Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D in one setup. All the monitors in this room are from the Genelec ‘Ones’ series. I found that the coaxial design gives amazing imaging, not only in surround, but extending to the height dimension, preserving the precise details of the audio source. For the height speakers that are mounted in the ceiling, weight

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/ After 28 Grammy nominations, Lindberg finally took home this trophy in 2020 #43357 - Televisual ad 2019 - Resolution.indd 1

19/11/2019 13:40

Winter 2020 / 21


TRUST HONEST ACCURATE TRANSPARENT 150 movies later still no complaints!

- Hans Zimmer

/ The DPA 4041 mic array echoes loudspeaker placement

complimentary mode of the W371A sounds to me the most open and natural extension into the tactile area, where it kind of moves your belly. In a consumer situation the LFE channel will be bandwidth-restricted. So anything above 120Hz will just be rolled off. But when we work here at the mastering stage, preparing the files that are to be distributed, we need to know what is in that LFE channel above that cut-off frequency. So in addition to the traditional arrangement, we have added an extension upwards, which is just a simple full range speaker, just to give us a checkpoint into what is truly the content of that LFE channel before it is distributed. How would you sum up your musical objectives? You need to bring together composers, musicians, and audio engineering into a process which results in a unique product, not just a technical document or something that goes on a stage, but something that truly takes full advantage of all the possibilities from that coming together… ‘joy’ is the key word to making experiences that other can enjoy. You need to find your own joy in making them for other people to be able to enjoy them. We work with any type of music that can naturally balance in a acoustic space, and immersive audio is an ingredient that helps us bring that essence out into the consumers’ homes. Where do you think we are right now in the development of immersive sound recordings? Initially immersive had a quite restricted audience, mostly home cinema listeners with the Blu-ray format. But I think after a decade, we are now coming to a point where immersive audio is mature and it’s ready for the streaming world. We already see that with streaming services for movies, with Dolby Atmos implemented. It works beautifully. By the transition to streaming immersive audio, we can actually reach a large-scale audience very, very quickly. Right now, we are in the final stages of refining the content for these immersive streaming services. So I really hope and believe that we can reach a larger audience with music in immersive quite soon.

quested.com | info@quested.com

22 / Winter 2020

I take the configuration of the speakers, shrink that down into a miniature microphone array with the exact same time of arrival and directionality


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Craft

The detection of fakes is going to get more and more difficult also working on a program named SemaFor, whose point is to identify semantic inadequacies in deepfakes. While other areas of professional audio are in a state of flux, one field is experiencing rapid growth with the production of more and more source material every day — whether ‘deepfake’, surveillance, reportage or law enforcement. This is audio forensics, the use of advanced audio analysis and filtering to try to extract voices and meaning from badly-captured and noisy recordings, as well as methods of validating and presenting the resulting evidence to courts and other bodies. Strangely, there’s currently no formal qualification in this field. If your aim is to become ‘CSI: Audio’, what can you do? The University of Colorado in Denver is trying to rectify this missing training: sign up for a Master of Science in Recording Arts and you can focus on Media Forensics in the MSRA-MF degree programme offered by their National Center for Media Forensics (NCMF). The intention is to take students from a wide range of disciplines and prepare them for careers in the fields of audio and video forensics, as well as other areas of hi-tech crime fighting. We caught up with one of the NCMF team, Cole Whitecotton, to discover what it takes to be and audio sleuth.

Cole Whitecotton Deepfakes and media forensics — NIGEL JOPSON discovers CSI: Audio

A

report from Deeptrace, the Netherlands-based cyber security group, identified 7,964 deepfake online videos at the start of 2019. After nine months, the figure nearly doubled to 14,678, and has been growing since. In March 2019 it emerged criminals had used artificial intelligence-based software to impersonate a chief executive’s voice, ordering a fraudulent transfer of €220,000. The CEO of a UK-based energy firm thought he was speaking on the phone with the boss of his firm’s German parent company, who asked him to send the funds to a 24 / Winter 2020

Hungarian supplier (according to the company’s insurance firm, Euler Hermes Group SA). In April 2020, Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists released a deepfake video of the Belgian Prime Minister Shophie Wilmès making a speech linking Covid-19 to the climate crisis. “There is a broad attack surface here — not just military and political but also insurance, law enforcement and commerce,” says Matt Turek, programme manager for MediFor, a media forensics research program led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the US defence department. DARPA is

How did you become involved with the NCMF University of Denver, Colorado? I’m an alumnus of the programme, having graduated from it with a Master’s degree three years ago. At the time, the Center was doing work for DARPA — the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — and I became involved right at the beginning of the project. DARPA is the organisation responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the US military and, when I completed my Masters, the Center opened up a position that combined working on the project together with classroom support and online teaching. Is this part of the initiative to identify ‘deep fake’ audio? We were one team out of many working on detecting deep fakes. Our job was to generate fake audio and video materials that some of the other teams then tested to try to detect them. One of these was using straight-up machine learning AI, and others were working with hybrid versions that were a mix of learned and trained algorithms along with traditional


/ Interview

It’s an arms race and I don’t think it’s ever going to go away methods like green screen, rotoscoping, and so on. We had meetings at least twice a year and met a lot of people ranging from big name universities, to the FBI, to companies like Honeywell, that are involved in AI. The project is moving to the next level now, to what they’re calling Semafor, or semantic forensics. I think that there’s going to be even more research into deep audio fakes during this stage. Is finding fake audio harder than detecting a fake image? Right now, not so much, but I think it will be. Companies like Lyrebird have made a lot of progress towards imitation and generating new, fake voices. Adobe also had something that they released as a beta version a while back [Adobe VoCo, Resolution V16.1] but after a couple of months they decided to pull it, because it seemed dangerous. All of these companies have been working to remove the robotic sound that for decades has been the tell-tale of a fake voice and, just like there’s thispersondoesnotexist.com I think that there’s going to be thisvoicedoesnotexist.com or something similar soon. The detection of fakes is going to get more and more difficult. Moving away from the DARPA project, can you tell us about NCMF’s courses? There are two areas of teaching audio forensics at NCMF; there’s the Masters programme and there are the training courses for law enforcement. In our new classroom, we have racks of equipment at the back of the room, and there’s a station back there that allows you to use the various systems and see them working. In my day, we had a sort of offshoot — a closet really — where we had all of the audio

equipment, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with it. But now that it’s in the room it’s easy to fire it up to show it to the whole class. Unfortunately, we can have anywhere from eight to ten students in a class, so not everyone has the chance to use the systems but, after the demonstration, the students and trainees can start to experiment and learn what they can do. How do you demonstrate audio forensic equipment to a class of students? For example, our former Associate Director Jeff Smith has a good example of CEDAR processing that he loves to demonstrate during our three-day course on forensic audio analysis and enhancement that’s geared toward people working in forensic labs. He talks with loud music in the foreground to simulate a bar, and then uses reference audio from a CD to remove the music in real-time using the system’s Time Align and Cross Channel Adaptive Filter modules. A lot of times that we do this, no-one

even hears that there is somebody talking in the original… and then we remove the music. It’s a great example of ‘here is something that sounds like nothing’ and then finding the meaning in it. The biggest reaction for people who don’t really have a lot of audio background is: “I didn’t know that was possible… I see stuff like this on TV and movies but I always assumed it was Hollywood magic!” We run into that a lot.

Winter 2020 / 25


Huge amounts of forensic data are being generated foundation that they can then build on. Enhancement is one part of this, audio authentication is another, understanding how audio is generated is another, and so on. Then we add the things you need to know if you’re going to become a forensic expert — things like report writing, testimony and how to present what you did.

/ Jeff M. Smith Associate Director NCMF (and Chair of the AES Technical Committee on Audio Forensics)

You’ve mentioned the CEDAR Cambridge Forensic System. Can you tell us more about your use of that? The aspect I like most about CEDAR is the real-time stuff. It’s almost like the difference between a node-based system and a non-linear editor. I love how you can connect this process to that process, and how the UI shows you a visual representation of what audio is coming in, what’s going out, and what each process is doing. Another feature that Jeff really likes is how you can create markers in modules like the spectrum analyser and then transfer them to other processes like Debuzz, or the EQs, to create the right filters. We also love to use CEDAR for background images. It looks so cool that anytime we do any classroom pictures we have its UI up in the background. Because you can have a bunch of different windows open for

a single project, it’s also how CSI looks. But that brings up another point. I’m sure that a lot of people get into this field because of shows like CSI, and their expectations can be way too high because of that! Is operating audio equipment part of the course? We’re not here to teach our students specifically how to use CEDAR. We have many different audio and video systems and this is important, because each law enforcement agency has different tools from the next. So when the students come to us they can see those they know right next to others that they don’t. Every tool does something slightly different, and everybody has its own way of working. The Masters programme is designed to make sure the students have a broad

So the focus is more on understanding the theory and workflow? Anybody can push buttons, but you have to understand what the buttons do, when you would want them to do it, and why. That’s all part of the course, preparing the attendees for working in different fields such as an FBI lab, or in local law enforcement, or in private companies like Target or Walmart. The first semester concentrates on legal stuff - the federal rules of evidence and what it means to be an expert witness. Then we have semesters that concentrate on audio, or on video, or on MatLab or Python scripting, and so on. We’ve also had people who have come here to help them develop their own forensic tools, but they don’t necessarily have the computer science and coding skills necessary. If they did, they would also need a certain amount of luck… having the right idea at the right time. I can’t remember the number of times when people have said to me: “oh, that idea was obvious, I could have done that” — but they didn’t. So we ask them: “The person who did that probably had no more information than you, so why didn’t you think of that idea first?” It’s something that’s really worth thinking about. NCMF occasionally carries out fieldwork, and we noticed that you put out a press release about a counter-terrorism case that the Center worked on a while back. Can you tell us anything about that? Jeff and Catalin (NCMF Director, Catalin Grigoras) are rock stars of the US forensic world, really well known and well regarded, so people come to us to ask for help and we sometimes work pro-bono with local police and other agencies. But I can’t tell you anything more than that. What I can tell you is this — huge amounts of forensic data are being generated. The amount keeps growing and growing and growing, and that’s the biggest problem: dealing with the immense amount of digital data by cataloguing and categorising, as well as making sure that you’re not missing relevant information and not handing over irrelevant information. It’s just going to get worse as time goes on. It’s an arms race and I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.

26 / Winter 2020


Awards 2020

AWARDS 2020 REWARDING QUALITY AND INNOVATION

Resolution Awards 2020 Recognising outstanding quality and innovation in professional audio

C

oronavirus hasn’t stopped the music. If anything, the speed with which we received nearly 2,000 votes shows interest in audio equipment is close to 0dBFS! Designers have created innovative products and, somewhat unexpectedly, many pro-audio manufacturers prospered. In November, Focusrite announced revenue grew more than 53% to £130.1m in 2020. Phil Dudderidge, founder and executive chairman, said: “2020 will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Group has benefited in many respects by the growth in demand for our music and recording products, no doubt because so many people, professional musicians and amateurs alike, are having to work at home or having more time to enjoy their passion for music creation.” Meanwhile, British online retailer Gear4music said it served 482,000 customers in the six months to September 2020, up 47% on 2019. The same was true on the other side of the Atlantic. “As soon as the shutdown occurred in March, our sales went through the roof,” said Dusty Wakeman of microphone-maker Mojave Audio. North American online retail also blossomed. “We saw our overall business grow more than 200% during the worst lockdown months, mostly from ecommerce. We’ve emerged significantly stronger since,” said Bobby Montemurro, vice president, sales and marketing, Alto Music (a top 10 US gear retailer). Resolution Awards recognise quality and innovation in professional audio; nomination is our accolade. The winning products here have been judged to be outstanding in these respects by the best informed readership in the industry. Nigel Jopson, editor nigel@resolutionmag.com

© 2020 S2 Publications Ltd. All rights reserved / 27


ANALOGU E MIXER /SU MMING DE VICE

Winner: Solid State Logic ORIGIN As the first large-format analogue mixing console from SSL in over a decade, the ORIGIN generated considerable excitement when previewed at the 2019 AES show. A purely analogue, inline, dual channel design, with 16 busses, E Series ‘Black Knob’ EQ, 2 listen mic compressors and the classic Bus Compressor, it certainly painted a wide smile on the face of anyone in search of analogue power for band and ensemble recording. The lack of automation features kept the list price to a sweet spot of £33,500 — but with mic preamps switchable from super linear and clean to something more coloured, and unity-gain fader-bypass switches, the console is ideal for DAW-based workflows. The PureDrive mic pre, a new design based around modern FETs and transistors, delivers flavour: “Punching in the Drive button really takes the input stage into the realms of doing what analogue consoles do best — colouring with saturation,” wrote Russell Cottier when he reviewed the ORIGIN in Resolution V19.3. “It sounds just as good as the SSL Variable Harmonic Drive [Duality console], if not

better. Punching a rock vocal, slamming snare or a heavy kick though this stage can really add something special; 2nd order harmonics are introduced at lower gain levels, then as the gain is cranked the 3rd order harmonics are introduced. A light touch across a full 32 channels of a mix can really add a significant weight and thickness.” With 88 inputs at mix-down the ORIGIN represents a console of significant capacity, but with a physical footprint less than 2m wide there’s no requirement for a control room with a huge footprint, power provision and cooling to install the console. “Only time will tell if we have achieved the right balance for today’s hybrid production workflow,” said SSL director of new products, Niall Feldman, “but our instincts tell us that ORIGIN has all the right ingredients to take its place in the legendary legacy of SSL consoles that have helped reshape music production”. www.solidstatelogic.com

Nominees AMS Neve

API

BURL

A ‘small format console with a large format sound’, based on the 80-series console range and priced at £17,950 / $24,950. The 8424’s dual-input channel strip allows for seamless switching between recording and mixing inputs without additional patching. Simple input connectivity is via 24 line-level inputs, dual 1073® preamps, and dual Instrument DI channels. The 8424 offers an analogue mixing platform with 24 DAW returns across 24 channel faders or, for larger sessions, a 48-Mix mode that allows a total of 48 mono inputs with individual level and pan controls to be mixed through the 8424’s Marinair® transformer-coupled stereo mix bus – additional features include Stereo Insert, 2-band shelving EQ and Neve’s proprietary Stereo Width control.

The 2448 has quickly become sought after as a mid-sized console that packs API’s large format punch. The 2448 is available in 24, 32 or 48 channel sizes, with eight busses. This console features an in-line configuration, offering the bonus of two signal paths on each channel. The 2448 also offers Final Touch automation as an option. The API 2448 boasts both 1550A parametric EQ and 560 Graphic EQ giving you the choice of two of API’s flagship EQs. The four stereo returns section boast 500 Series slots to accommodate your favourite 500 series EQ or compressor. The stereo buss section includes API’s 529 stereo buss compressor, delivering the unmistakable API mix buss sound thanks to its 2520 and 2510 op-amps and choice between old/new compression types.

The Burl B32 Vancouver is a 1U rack-mounted, Class A, 32-channel analogue summing bus, with a switchable nickel transformer option. With the Burl B32 Vancouver, you can select eight mono inputs or 24 stereo inputs “to give your digital recordings the sound and separation that analogue consoles provide”. Burl has made its name by concentrating on the audio clarity that comes from its careful component selection. Signal paths are kept to a minimum on the Burl Vancouver, with no capacitors in-line and Class A circuitry throughout for the most transparent sound. Now fitted with BURL’s ‘NextGen Analog’ circuitry, the Vancouver features BOPA8 op amps, which the company say delivers tighter bass and higher definition throughout the audio spectrum. The B32 Vancouver allow selection of the BX5 nickel core transformer, to add greater warmth and a fuller sound to your recordings, and a +6dB Gain button to drive your mixes that little bit harder.

www.ams-neve.com

www.apiaudio.com

www.burlaudio.com

8424

28 / Winter 2020

2448

B32 Vancouver


/ Resolution Awards 2020

D AW/ S O F T WA R E S U I T E

Winner: iZotope RX8 The two-time Engineering Emmy Award-winning RX Advanced now allows audio professionals greater audio fidelity, whether repairing streamed dialogue with new features like Spectral Recovery or correcting pitch modulation with Wow & Flutter. The Batch Processor and Loudness Control have also been revamped, saving users precious time when repairing or delivering audio files. RX 8 doubles the previous 16-tab limit, allowing users to view and edit up to 32 files within RX Audio Editor. Horizontal scrolling is now built-in to the Spectrogram Display, the scroll gesture on a trackpad or mouse moves audio across the X-axis for fast edits. New RX 8 Standard features allow production pros to instantly adjust guitar recordings with Guitar De-noise, to rebalance their mix and create or isolate stems with the improved Music Rebalance, and to prep music

for streaming with the updated Loudness Control. Both the standalone audio editor and the included plug-ins allow users to surgically fix audio problems and music performances with RX 8. De-Hum now features independent

frequency reduction bands, and a redesigned, intuitive interface. Loudness Control instantly loads preset loudness targets and conforms production audio to broadcast requirements, monitoring levels using the built-in numeric and history plot readouts for integrated, short-term, an momentary loudness. Spectral Recovery (Advanced Only) restores frequencies above 4kHz, turning bandwidth-limited audio into clear recordings. Wow & Flutter (Advanced Only) corrects pitch variations and fluctuations associated with tape, vinyl and optical transfers. Wow has been designed to fix longer, sustained pitch drift, and Flutter to correct pitch variances that occur at faster rates. RX8 is available in three versions: Elements ($129), Standard ($299), and Advanced ($1199). www.izotope.com

Nominees CEDAR

Merging

PreSonus

The top-tier audio restoration platform has been updated, introducing a new impulse noise eliminator, Retouch 8 and improved performance. The new INR is a real-time impulse noise reduction module that was developed as a more powerful alternative to CEDAR’s Declickle. Retouch 8 is the next version of CEDAR’s spectral editing suite and adds two new capabilities: Matching and Repair. Matching makes use of machine learning to identify unwanted sounds. The user marks one of the offending sounds and the software searches for all other instances, a threshold control allows users to bias decision-making. Having identified all of the matches, they can be eliminated using the appropriate Retouch tool.

Merging Technologies has worked closely with Dolby to achieve full communication between Pyramix and the Dolby Atmos Renderer, and also to bridge the Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 maximum bed size and traditionally larger bus sizes available to Pyramix users. By detecting when a user is mapping the bus-based channel to an object, Pyramix sends the correct metadata to the Dolby Atmos Renderer. Merging is well-known for its powerful MassCore engine, providing near zero latency in a multicore CPU. Pyramix 25th has made the long-awaited shift to Native multithreading for performance improvements. New features include Flux Spat Revolution and OSC support, cloud-based licenses and playback engine performance improvements.

Studio One 5 introduces a fully integrated live performance environment – the Show Page combines playback of backing tracks with patch management for instrument players in a single window. Composers and arrangers will appreciate V5’s new dedicated Score View for the Note Editor. Based on PreSonus’ Notion music composition and notation software, the new Score View is available on its own or as a companion side-by-side view with the Piano and Drum Views, allowing users to enter, view, and edit notes in standard music notation. “Improvements to an already great DAW, intuitive score editor, Show page, useful Listen Bus” was the verdict when we reviewed in Resolution V19.4.

www.cedaraudio.com

www.merging.com

www.presonus.com

Cambridge v13

Pyramix 25th

Studio One 5

Winter 2020 / 29


D I G I TA L M I X E R / C O N T R O L L E R

Winner: Solid State Logic System T V3.0 In July 2020 SSL announced the latest version of its System T broadcast platform, which is designed to expand AoIP integration for direct console routing control for ST 2110-30 and AES67 streams, as well as providing an embedded operating system upgrade for remote production and increased IP expansion and connectivity. This version of System T, v3.0, provides new functionality across the whole console range, including the S500, S500m and TCR. Users who have already committed to the System T platform will be pleased to see enhancements like NGA and immersive audio, and DAW and dynamic automation. System T control surfaces and TCRs run embedded OS Windows to “provide a mission critical platform with an advanced feature set”. For broadcasters, the advantages of reduced development cycles and advanced feature deployment are significant. System T V3.0 migrates to Windows 10 Embedded, from Windows 7 Embedded. Transitioning to Windows 10 allows continued updates, including Microsoft’s latest security additions, plus additional future console features layered above

the embedded OS. “With this new level of management and control, the System T console becomes your routing control system for AoIP of any variety,” said Tom Knowles, SSL broadcast product manager. From V3.0, System T fully supports running TeamViewer directly on-board the consoles for remote access, enabling remote support, configuration and at-home control as if you were sat directly in front of the console. Working from anywhere in the world with a standard internet connection, you can directly access the console and all software control features via any computer or touchscreen device. The presets feature for channel and bus paths has been completely overhauled. Multiple processing blocks can now be stored and recalled at the same time. Filters allow the user to selectively choose which processing block is stored, ensuring only the processing they have intentionally saved is recalled whenever that preset is loaded. www.solidstatelogic.com

Nominees Avid

Lawo

Softube

An eight-fader EUCON control surface designed to work in conjunction with Avid’s Pro Tools Control app for iPad, to provide hands-on control of software. Featuring eight motorised, touch-sensitive faders and knobs as well as touchscreenintegrated keys, soft keys enable the user to perform complex tasks at the press of a single button to speed up your process. EUCON also makes it possible to switch between several workstations at the touch of a button. Up to four S1 units can be chained together to provide a 32-fader surface. The £1040 (ex VAT) S1 can also be connected to the Pro Tools Dock to add dedicated transport controls and more. You can cascade up to four S1 Controllers and the Pro Tools Dock to expand your Set-Up at any time.

Ruby’s Power Core mixing engine provides nearly 400 channels of AES67 and Madi signal capacity in a 1U-high rack space. Expansion slots offer the option to add extra mic, line, studio, AES3, Madi and Dante signal capacity as required. The SMPTE 2022 reliability standard enables IP networks to cope with the unexpected, with protocols to prioritise delivery of real-time digital audio over AoIP. SMPTE 2022-7, also known as Seamless Protection Switching, enables simultaneous dual transmission of identical audio streams via independent network paths, with instant, undetectable switching to backup.

Softube’s €599 10-fader controller comes with two software-based component-modelled analogue console emulations, Tube and Discrete, which offer filtering, saturation and more. The ten faders can be configured to control volume levels, high and low cut filter values, drive and drive character (with emulated desk saturation) and more. The interface allows for switching/ paging the ten faders, catering for mixes with hundreds of channels. There are three Send modes for faders, and the enhanced integration with Studio One, Cubase, Cakewalk and Reaper means you can directly control DAW faders, Pans, Mutes (rather than those in the plug-in) and DAW Sends. Seamlessly expands the hands-on Console 1 experience, bonus Spacialization, Drive and Filter capabilities.

www.avid.com

www.lawo.com

www.softube.com

S1

30 / Winter 2020

Ruby Radio Mixer

Console 1 Fader


/ Resolution Awards 2020

D Y N A M I C S ( H A R D WA R E )

Winner: Rupert Neve 5254 A dual-channel diode-bridge compressor inspired by the classic 2254 compressor, developed by Rupert Neve in the ‘70s. Based on the circuit found in the acclaimed Shelford Channel (reviewed Resolution V18.3), the Dual Diode-Bridge Compressor greatly improves on old vintage units without sacrificing the tone. “A diode bridge is a very unique sound characteristic compared to other types of compressors. It is possible to create a cleaner sounding diode bridge than we have here, but we were after a particular flavour of harmonic content”, says Dennis Alichwer, engineering manager, Rupert Neve Designs The unified Timing control on the £2,999 (ex-VAT) 5254 consists of six selectable settings, chosen for different applications – a departure from the slow, fixed attack of the vintage units. Fast and MF settings are designed to help clamp down on more transient signals like drums, plucked string instruments and fast vocals. Med and MS have slightly slower attacks and releases which allow more transients through, while

having a slightly longer recovery. Lastly, Slow and Auto are both significantly slower and feature complex nonlinear release times, with smoother, less audible level control. Fast mode increases the speed of both the attack and release for each setting, effectively doubling the number of time constants from 6 to 12. This allows for a dramatic increase in attack as compared to the 5254 compressor’s vintage ancestor, the 2254. In addition to the Timing control, the diode bridge compressor can be further manipulated by the Ratio, Threshold, Gain, S/C HPF, S/C Insert and Link controls. The RATIO control has six selectable positions on the rotary switch and allows the user to set the slope of the compressor curve with ratios of 1.5:1 through 8:1. The S/C HPF is 12dB/octave with continuously variable frequency control from 20-250Hz.  www.rupertneve.com

Nominees Bettermaker

McDSP

Warm Audio

Bettermaker’s new Bus Compressor (£1650 ex VAT) treads a now familiar path for the Polish hardware manufacturer – digitally controlled, recallable, high quality analogue hardware. This 1U box includes front panel control of all functions, either directly or indirectly. A number of extras are provided compared to the SSL design from which this device takes inspiration. A Mix control enables parallel compression, and a HPF Sidechain is continuously variable from 20-370Hz; you can even monitor the Sidechain signal or the Insert Sidechain. A big advantage is the option to change from Peak to RMS, the latter being much smoother and more ‘invisible sounding’ than the traditional Peak mode, especially when compressing heavily. “It sounds fabulous, and glues the mix beautifully instead of pumping unnaturally” said George Shilling in his Resolution V19.3 review. “Further warmth and goo is provided with the VCA THD knob which lets you drive the THATS VCA into harmonic distortion.”

The APB-8 (MSRP $4,499) is an eight-channel version of the amazing APB-16, as reviewed in Resolution V18.4, with identical functionality and capability. Seamless ‘analogue processing as plug-in’, simple hook-up, great sounding processors, lovely saturation — or pristine clean. Combining the flexibility of software with the fidelity of premium analogue processing (in-the-box control, hardware process) — each channel can be controlled by an AAX, AU, or VST3 plug-in. APB-8 and APB-16 can be combined on the same Thunderbolt bus, in any combination, up to five units, for up to eighty channels of analogue processing. Processing options include compressors, mastering limiters, transient enhancement devices, multi-channel and multi-band applications. The APB-8 (and APB-16) now support Logic Pro X 10.4.x and later versions, and Cubase 10.x and later versions.

Since 2011 this Austin, TX company have built up a range of studio outboard based on classic designs. The Bus-Comp is an all-analogue, 2-channel, stereo VCA bus compressor based on classic SSL circuitry. An additional HPF grooms the sidechain, rooting out lows from the detector circuit. Frequencies are 30, 60, 105, 125 and 185Hz and it works a treat, preventing the low end wreaking havoc with stronger settings. Reviewed in Resolution V19.5, George Shilling said: “As with any SSL or clone it is easy to make things pump or grab in a slightly undesirable manner. However, having the lower 1.5:1 Ratio and the provision of the HPF both mitigate that in many situations.” USA-made CineMag transformers may be inserted into the signal path, driven by discrete operational amplifiers. “There is added richness to the juicy upper mids where the ear is most sensitive” Shilling enthused, “a sense of scooping out some wallowy muddiness lower down the spectrum, and a tightening up of the bass end.” Great value at £649 (inc).

www.bettermaker.eu

www.mcdsp.com

www.warmaudio.com

Bus Compressor

APB-8 Analog Processing Box

Bus-Comp

Winter 2020 / 31


E Q ( H A R D WA R E )

Winner: Bettermaker Mastering Equalizer A high-end hardware EQ combining Pultec-style equalizers with three band parametric EQ and lowpass/high-pass filters, with front panel or plug-in (AAX/ VST/AU) control. All functions are available from the front panel; the plug-in enables control from your DAW and, of course, setting storage; there is on-board storage also provided within the hardware. You can use the EQ in stereo, or as two channels: left and right, or mid plus sides. The HPF is selectable at 12dB or 24dB per octave, and there is an optional Resonance mode with a variable percentage. The Low Pass filter ranges from 2kHz-38kHz and is fixed at 12dB per octave. There is also a Pultec-style shelving attenuation band with roll-off at 5, 10 or 20kHz. The other Pultec-style bands are also present: the low band has conventional settings at 20, 30, 60 or 100Hz where you can boost and cut simultaneously for that famous curve,

and the DAW plug-in graphically displays boosts and cuts as they’re made. The High Boost band has the usual frequency choices

plus a few extra: 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20 and 28kHz, along with bandwidth and boost knobs. Four parametric bands each have +/-15dB boost or cut, a huge Q range and wide overlapping frequency ranges: EQ1: 23Hz– 400Hz (bell/low shelf), EQ2: 80Hz–2kHz (bell), EQ3: 400Hz–10kHz (bell), EQ4: 1kHz–23kHz (bell/high shelf). In our review Resolution V18.1 review, George Shilling declared the sound “silky-smooth and extremely clean and musical”. Shilling continued: “The analogue circuitry is excellent, and the digital control works very smoothly. Particularly for mastering, the ability to save settings in a DAW is a bonus. Having such a comprehensive range of EQ styles in one unit is very handy and could well save you chaining units.” www.bettermaker.eu

Nominees Drawmer

Manultec

Radial

The 1974 is a true ‘parametric’ equaliser, with the four bands having fully variable frequency controls and offer cut and boost of +/-12dB’s. However, unlike EQ’s with a no bandwidth adjustment, or a simple switch, the two mid bands have completely variable filter bandwidth controls enabling the user to focus in on very narrow sections of the audio spectrum or apply a broad natural sounding filter, or, of course, anything in between the two. The £844 (inc) 1u EQ, 4-band parametric inspired by 1970s-era gear. Dual-channel potentiometers provide control over Low, Low-Mid, High-Mid and High EQ bands. The Low-Mid and High-Mid bands allow adjustment of frequency, bandwidth and boost/cut, while the Low and High bands allow adjustment of frequency, boost/cut and slope. Boost and cut range for all bands is ±12 dB. A Peak setting for the Low band adds a narrow bell shape to the 12dB per octave low-cut filter at the knee frequency just before it rolls off, providing extra low-end weight without sacrificing clarity in the lowest frequencies.

Some producer members of our nominatingpanel have esoteric taste! “The minimal, yet beautiful design offers a timeless appearance and makes this equalizer an absolute joy to use” say the boutique, Cologne-based manufacturer. The Orca is a €3805 (inc) solid state mastering EQ with all-passive tone sculpting circuit. Hand-crafted in Manultec´s custom shop in Germany, hand-wired with Vovox conductors. Low boost (shelf) is stepped, +14db at 80 Hz-100Hz, low cut (shelf) –14db at 150 Hz / 330 Hz; Focus Bandwidth control offers high boost (bell), and high boost is stepped and switchable 3-12KHz. The editor paid attention when we mentioned hand-wound inductors for treble boost. Discrete opamp make-up gain powers the output transformers. In an unusual configuration ‘to handle high levels without overloading’, the 1/2 dB steps Gain control is placed before the output amplifier.

Inductor coils again (like the Orca), but in a compact and cost-effective (MSRP $800.00 inc) package. The Q3 features four controls: top-end boost, mid-range cut, low frequency bass boost, and gain makeup to offset the signal loss that occurs when using passive equalization. Each of the three EQ bands employs a 12-position switch with a different preset curve at each position. These are carefully crafted to introduce subtle accents. Each EQ setting is augmented with a miniature toggle switch that enables you to attenuate the curve for more subtle effects. When the SHIFT switch is set to the right, the effect of each curve is gentler. When moved to the left, it is bolder. Perfect for use with the Radial Workhorse and API Lunchboxstyle racks.

www.drawmer.com

www.manultec.com

www.radialeng.com

1974

32 / Winter 2020

Orca

Q3


/ Resolution Awards 2020

I N T E R FA C E ( A - D / D - A )

Winner: Antelope Audio Orion Studio Synergy Core The Orion Studio Synergy Core is a well-specified 24-bit, 192kHz Thunderbolt 3 and USB audio interface that features 12 discrete preamps with six DSP processors, plus two FPGA FX processors. More than 50 of Antelope’s Synergy Core FX, modelled on hardware studio units past and present, can be used in real-time.   “Guitars sounded clear and defined, the pres managed to capture the transients of my drum kit. There was plenty of gain for ribbon mic overheads and my favourite chain of 1073 into a Blackface 1176 for vocals was easily achievable in the virtual AFX rack” said Russell Cottier in his review of the Orion Studio Synergy Core in Resolution V19.3. Cottier found the reamp

outputs on the front panel particularly useful, enabling him to chain from the reamp output, through a Marshall Jackhammer and then back into the Orion Studio. The rear of the unit offers eight combo-sockets, two inserts and a pair of monitor outputs on TRS, with 16 line outputs on two DB25 connectors, in addition to an array of digital I/O with ADAT Toslink ports and S/PDIF connectors. The dynamic range of the mic preamps is -121dB while the A–D and D–A converters offer

124dB or 128dB respectively. If those extra dB are required, you can bypass the preamps using a ‘direct’ option. The four front–panel pres have Hi-Z input switching, while mic level, line level and phantom power options are supported on all 12 analogue inputs. When we reviewed the £2,215 (inc VAT) unit, Antelope bundled the Auto-Tune Synergy plug-in (normally €249) — which has the facility to operate in ‘near real-time’ via the Synergy Core’s DSP. While noting that the ‘Direct mode’ offers CV/Gate connectivity, Cottier concluded his review by saying he saw “a promising future for the 3rd Generation Synergy Core”. www. antelopeaudio.com

Craft Album-Ready Recordings on Your Desktop

Z E N TOUR SYNERGY CORE

1 8 × 2 6 D E S KT OP A UDI O I NTER FA CE W IT H ONB OARD R EA L -TI ME PLU G IN PROC E S SI NG

Winter 2020 / 33


I N T E R FA C E ( A - D / D - A )

Nominees Arturia

Audiofuse Studio

The £799 (inc VAT) desktop unit features four ‘Discrete Pro’ preamps fed by frontmounted mic/ line combi XLRs, with channels 5-8 served by rear TRS connectors, channels 5-6 include the option of RCA sockets with a built-in phono pre-amplifier. There’s a total of 18 ins/20 outs, Bluetooth functions, two pairs of analogue speaker outputs and stereo headphone output, ADAT and S/PDIF inputs as well as sampling rates up to 192kHz 24-bit. Unusually comprehensive connectivity includes Bluetooth streaming to monitors or a channel in your DAW, USB-C, ADAT, MIDI and Word Clock connectors. The included Creative Suite covers software effects and virtual instruments. www.arturia.com

Crane Song

PreSonus

The HEDD Quantum AD/DA Converter is a 24-bit, 192kHz A/D-D/A converter featuring master word clocking, with clock outputs and a digital meter. Legendary Crane Song designer Dave Hill has made it his mission continuously improved the (already amazing) clocking of digital converter products; when he redesigned his Avocet IIA he managed to achieve the sub-picosecond jitter clock called ‘Quantum’, which is now available in the £3,799 (inc VAT) HEDD. The benefits are pristine imaging, depth of sound and detailed transient response. The classic HEDD DSP emulation of Triode, Pentode and Tape Emulation is also provided. Usefully, the A/D and D/A section of the interface can be run at different sample rates — at the same time.

Controls from PreSonus’ FaderPort V2, with a USB-C interface featuring two XMAX mic preamps, 24-bit 192kHz A/D-D/A converters, headphone and line outs. An eye-catching feature is the price: under the magic $300 point in the US, and typically £260 (inc VAT) in the UK. By default, controls are configured for PreSonus’ own excellent DAW, Studio One; for Pro Tools (HUI) the Next button is held while powering up, and then the Touch button pressed. For Logic (MCU) the Next and Mute buttons are pressed. “Amazingly good value” was our review conclusion (Resolution V19.5), with controls instantly configured for all major DAWs, and two preamps offering 80dB of clean mic/instrument gain.

www.cranesong.com

www.PreSonus.com

HEDD Quantum

RootOne

LEAPWING.COM

34 / Winter 2020

ioSTATION24c


/ Resolution Awards 2020

MICROPHONE

Winner: Schoeps CMC 1 Production sound pros must have been out in force at our ballot box, as the CMC 1 forged ahead in our Awards voting. The CMC 1 is the German mic-manufacturer’s new Colette microphone amplifier, about one-third the size and 40% lighter than the well-known CMC 6 microphone amp. Importantly, it is compatible with all components of the Schoeps Colette system and can be used in place of the CMC 6 ‘without compromise.’ “Now why, you may ask, am I excited to be given, not a whole new Schoeps microphone to review, but just a redesigned head amplifier?” asked Simon Clark our BAFTA-winning reviewer (Resolution V19.6), production sound recordist, and head of production sound at the UK’s National Film & Television School. Movie and TV sound recordists love modular microphones — if you’ve every visited a movie set, the reason is easy to see — as soon as the director calls for a wide shot, the sound

person’s job becomes a tricky task of covert mic concealment. “The only component which

needs to be on the set is the capsule itself,” Simon explains. “Head amplifiers and High Pass filters can be at the operator end of the boom pole connected by a so-called ‘active cable’.” As with everything audio, the devil is in the detail: this is where Schoeps continue to excel, having pursued a high-quality program of ‘uncompromising miniaturization’ over the last years, whilst making sure their users’ investment in capsules is validated. The CMC 1 is not only smaller and easier to conceal, with superb build quality, it also has a lower current drain (2mA from the Phantom supply important for battery operation). CMC 1 also boast an extra 4dB maximum SPL handling over the CMC 6, and (for modern movie sets) features Schoeps’ excellent Radio Frequency Interference shielding. www.schoeps.de

Nominees AEA

DPA

Josephson Engineering

Legendary ribbon mic designer Wes Dooley has done it again: a stage-proof directional ribbon mic capable of handling a quoted maximum SPL of 135dB. Our reviewer (Resolution V18) Jon Thornton: “Go as close as you dare with the high pass switched out and that massive proximity effect is on tap for stadium like snare sounds. Or switch the filter back in for something a little more natural and acoustic. The same goes for electric guitar. It pretty much sounds great straight out of the box, and playing with distance and the filter setting is mostly all that’s needed. It ‘just works’ on vocals too.” The £995 (ex VAT) mic gives great results on a wide range of sources, including ribbon sound for vocals in a live environment.

With the DPA 4560 CORE Binaural Headset Microphones you are, in effect, miking-up the outside ‘earhole’ surrounded by your pinnae. The system is an ingenious combination of a pair of 4060 CORE miniature omnidirectional microphones, mounted on two earhooks ‘borrowed’ from DPA’s 4266 Flex headset. The matched 4060s are handpicked on sensitivity within ±1.5dB. Two foam windscreens options (large/small) are supplied to offer a comfortable fit and some damping of wind noise. DPA are not the first to have come up with the idea of a binaural rig on the human head, but this is by far the highest quality system commercially available. “Superb, low-noise, realistic binaural capture which will surely become a benchmark.”

An FET largediaphragm condenser microphone with a fixed cardioid polar pattern. The £2,125 (ex VAT) Josephson C705 uses a single diaphragm cardioid capsule derived from the C715 — which reviewer Jon Thornton called “a modern classic” in his Resolution V16.7 review. The capsule uses a 5-micron gold-metallised diaphragm and boasts acoustic ports to create its cardioid polar pattern, which provides improved directionality at low frequencies. It also features the same discrete cascode input circuit and the symmetrical balanced transformerless output circuit of the 716, which is used for buffering the capsule as well as converting the impedance. As a result of its low impedance, the C705 works with a great range of preamps and input stages.

www.aearibbonmics.com

www.dpamicrophones.com

www.josephson.com

KU5A

4560 Binaural

C705

Winter 2020 / 35


MONITORING

Winner: Genelec 4430 The Finnish studio monitor company launched the 4430 as a product to “give the AV world exceptional sound quality over IP”. It’s a two-way active installation loudspeaker. Our nominating panel noted the useful features of delivering power and sound to multiple loudspeakers over a single network cable, and controlling them remotely using software. It seems voters in our 2020 Awards agreed, with the 4430 just passing the PSI Audio A14-M v3 monitor by a narrow margin (3.2%). To be clear: no AC power required! This opens up a world of potential applications in broadcasting, movie making, and even in music recording environments outside of conventional studios. When our editor heard the sound quality and peak handling of these little Genelecs, he asked where the flux capacitor was hidden! The 4430 accepts both Dante and AES67 IP audio streams, and derives power via both PoE and PoE+ Power-over-Ethernet formats, with

the 4430’s proprietary internal power supply helping to deliver an impressive 104dB of short-term SPL, via two integral 50W Class D amplification stages feeding the woofer and tweeter. As well as receiving both power and audio-over-IP, the 4430’s single rear panel CAT connector also allows access to Genelec’s Smart IP Manager — a downloadable software

tool running on Windows 10 that allows installers to configure an almost unlimited number of rooms, zones, loudspeakers and audio channels, and includes device discovery, a versatile room equalisation tool set, system organization and status monitoring. The 4430 supports up to eight audio channels in a stream with sample rates of 32–96kHz and 16/24-bit resolution. Streams can be managed by both Dante Controller and Dante Domain Manager software, as well as legacy balanced line analogue audio. The 4430 delivers a frequency response of 45Hz–23kHz (-6 dB) via a 5-inch woofer and 3/4-inch metal dome tweeter, and the 4430’s compact, lightweight enclosure utilises Genelec’s trademark Minimum Diffraction Enclosure and Directivity Control Waveguide technologies to ensure neutral, uncoloured sound. www.genelec.com

Nominees Adam Audio

PSI Audio

Quested

Despite their affordability, the T-series range of monitors are still based around Adam’s wellregarded Accelerated Ribbon Tweeter. The £518 (per pair inc VAT) T8V utilises a Class–D bi-amp pack providing 20W RMS to the tweeter and 70W RMS to the woofer. Adam state a pair of T8Vs can produce peak SPLs of 118dB at 1m. Balanced XLR and unbalanced phono inputs are provided, with a slide switch to select between them. A pair of three-way slide switches offering -2dB, 0dB and +2dB adjustment for both the LF and HF. When we heard these at NAMM, we felt they gave a good account of themselves given their position in the market.

The new £1867.2 (per pair exc VAT) v3 model of this classic and well-respected monitor replaces the previous externally manufactured tweeter with a specially developed driver, which is manufactured entirely in PSI Audio’s own Swiss factory. While A14-M was already popular with smaller studios and mobile applications, the new version surpasses it, especially when it comes to reproducing high frequencies. Designed to work in harmony with the full range of A series monitors, the A14-M also make ideal rear speakers in a surround sound setup or can be developed into a more powerful system by adding the A225-M sub — thus protecting your investment.

The V2104 is the latest (and smallest) model in Quested’s V-Series range of active, powered, monitors. The ported, direct radiator design utilises a 4”/100mm paper cone bass driver and a 28mm /1 1/8th” soft-dome high frequency unit. Power is derived from a 2-channel class D module, chosen primarily for its sonic performance and also for its compact dimensions, keeping the cabinet size to an absolute minimum. The diminutive size of the V2104 makes it the perfect choice for a portable monitor with the special edition MiniRedz version including a shoulder carry case. The £1,700 (per pair ex VAT) V2104 can be paired with the SB8, SB10 or QSB112 subwoofers to extend its frequency range, or create several configurations from Stereo to 5.1 surround and more.

www.adam-audio.com

www.psiaudio.swiss

www.quested.com

T8V

36 / Winter 2020

A14-M v3

V2104


/ Resolution Awards 2020

PLUG -IN

Winner: PSP InfiniStrip A modular ‘infinitely’ configurable channel strip plug-in (AAX, AU, VST, VST3, RTAS), which includes 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, with three alternative view modes. “After a week of mixing on various projects using InfiniStrip, I noticed a few stand-out things,” wrote Grammy-winning engineer Alan Branch in Resolution V19.4. “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 you’re after.” PSP have already added a sample-accurate Brick Wall Limiter and a Saturator module since our review. In an era in which plug-in awesomeness frequently challenges CPUs, the Infinistrip’s economical ways will be welcomed, especially by laptop users. The zero-latency processing is a persuasive feature for production pros without FPGA-style interface processing. A deserving winner, and a bargain at $199. www.pspaudioware.net

Nominees Leapwing

Liquidsonics

sonible

Three faders (Sub, Thump, Punch) with adjustable crossover frequencies (32-56Hz, 62-104Hz, 110-196Hz) add subharmonic content. The analysis-synthesis algorithm generates clean, phase-aligned subharmonics for a subtle and musical addition to your bass that fits the original sound, without being hyped or artificial. We handed the £179 RootOne to our editor to review for Resolution V19.4. This bass-challenged tape era engineer certainly appreciated the RootOne’s subharmonic abilities. “The Harmonics channel conveys 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,” he wrote.

A reverb dedicated to the intense acoustic demands of surround room simulation. Available in two editions, both supporting channel formats from stereo up to 7.1.6 for use with the latest Atmos bed workflows. “The reverbs are just stunning,” said reviewer Jon Thornton. “There’s a lushness to larger spaces that never really sounds synthetic, and early reflection patterns manage to avoid sounding coloured or phasey even when emulating very small spaces or ambiences. …the ability to apply scaling to nearly every parameter in every plane is eye-opening in terms of sound design and creating immersive sound.” A Professional version at $399 offers extended multi-channel editing capability.

A €129 plug-in which delivers customtailored reverb by adjusting its processing to the individual characteristics of the input material, and creates a navigable range of styles from scratch. A menu enables selection from Drums, Snare, Guitars, Keys, Vocal, Speech – then a Learn button tailors spectral and temporal settings to the recording. “It has the knack of adding just the desired amount of room — and very tuneable it is as well,” said reviewer Nigel Jopson in Resolution V19.4. He made the point that EMTs and Lexicons were designed in an era when most recordings were made in great acoustic environments, whereas modern recordings might require a different type of more realistic room. “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.”

www.leapwingaudio.com

www.liquidsonics.com

www.sonible.com

RootOne

Cinematic Rooms

smart:reverb

Winter 2020 / 37


PREAMP

Winner: Neumann V 402 The V 402 is Neumann’s first-ever stand-alone microphone preamp — although the company has created several generations of top-quality preamp modules for its mixing consoles, such as the V 476 B of the ‘80s. “All Neumann microphones, classics as well as current models, have highly unique sound characteristics”, explains Ralf Oehl, the Berlin company’s new CEO. “The V 402 provides the ideal signal path for all Neumann microphones because it is free from any colouration whatsoever. No artificial additives could make the sound of a Neumann U47 or U87 more desirable than it already is. Perfection cannot be perfected!” The V 402 is a dual channel microphone preamplifier carefully designed to maintain the sonic integrity of the original signal. Its unique transformerless circuitry amplifies the microphone signal without unwanted coloration

or sonic artefacts, such as noise and distortion. While this is also often claimed for simple preamps such as those in audio interfaces, Neumann say the V 402 is built to much higher standards. “It took an elaborate development process with extensive series of measurements and critical listening tests to create a preamplifier worthy of the Neumann name,” comments portfolio manager Sebastian Schmitz. “And we’ve

included the monitoring side, too. The V 402 establishes a fully transparent signal chain extending from the microphone all the way to the engineer’s ear. Finding the best microphone position has never been easier.” The V 402 is equipped with a ‘studio grade’ headphone amplifier ensuring monitoring quality at the recording stage. Independent volume controls for each channel enable a latency-free monitoring mix without affecting the recorded signal. It features 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 inputs maximum gain is +60dB, 10Hz to >100kHz (-3 dB@ 40dB Gain). The €2,749 (MSRP) V 402 comes in a 2U 19” rack enclosure. www.neumann.com

Nominees API

Grace Design

Millennia

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 ‘knee space’ 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.

The mk2 streamlines the company’s 2-channel microphone preamp concept by paring away functionality in favour of optimised, audiophilestyle preamp performance. While its predecessor offered converters and an M-S matrix, the m201mk2 focuses on refining the fully balanced signal path, resulting in additional dynamic range. A new power supply design provides “the lowest noise performance we have ever achieved”. Noise (referred to input) at 60dB gain, with a 150Ω source 22-22kHz is quoted as 127dB. Default mode offers 18-64dB of gain in 2dB steps, or 28-74dB in ribbon mode (which shifts the gain range up 10dB while deactivating 48V phantom power, bypassing the decoupling capacitors and optimizing the input impedance). The rear panel features two XLR outputs per channel, a handy feature enabling a separate feeds during recording. MSRP $1,895.

The Millennia HV-316 is a 16-channel remotecontrol Ethernet mic preamp designed for ‘adverse environments and mission-critical applications’ such as live touring rigs, scoring stages, location recording, and multi-room studio complexes. HV-316 uses the same high-speed transformerless design as the well-respected HV-3 series (channels matched to 0.08 dB) and can seamlessly operate on a single Ethernet network — up to 384 redundant audio channels — letting you remotely control Gain, Polarity, Pad, Mute, channel Linking, HPF, and selectable ribbon or phantom paths on every channel. You also have unlimited scene recall scripting and virtual scribble-strips. The HV316 includes a high-quality AKM A-D converter chip delivering 32-bit/192kHz resolution and >130dB of dynamic range thanks to its multi-paralleled architecture. An FETbased output stage (analogue output option) drives 300m cable runs with ease. Both battery 12VDC and 80-264VAC worldwide powering are possible. £3,999 (SSP inc VAT).

www.apiaudio.com

www.gracedesign.com

www.mil-media.com

312 Mic pre

38 / Winter 2020

m201 mk2

HV-316


/ Resolution Awards 2020

PROCESSOR

Winner: AMS RMX16 500 Reverb Nearly 40 years since making its debut on the professional recording scene, the iconic AMS RMX16 Digital Reverberation System has been re-launched in hardware format as part of AMS-Neve’s rack-mounted 500 Series. In keeping with its predecessor, which AMS-Neve say “was the world’s first microprocessor-controlled, full-bandwidth digital reverberator”, the new RMX16 500 Digital Reverb Module is designed to be musical rather than simply implementing mathematical algorithms. Great care has also been taken to replicate the complex sonic characteristics of the original unit’s analogue and converter circuitry, which played a big part in the overall sound. The AMS RMX16 was designed by ear, with each program tuned and re-tuned to provide as wide a sweet-spot of settings as possible by means of ‘carpet graph’ parameter tables, interactively linked control by control. These design principles are key to its longevity and have been carried forward to the

new RMX16 500 to ensure that it replicates the original’s performance. Extra features on the 500 series version include a Mix control for a percentage value of wet to dry. And there are now memory registers for saving 100 presets within. The other difference is that this new version uses a much more powerful processor, and far better

converters. “This results in incredibly quiet operation” said George Shilling in his Resolution V19.1 review, “the original used to hiss and whine in a manner that would not now be tolerated by younger engineers!” “The Room settings were good for short, thickening settings to give instruments a small amount of interesting space, and the Halls were sometimes awesome for huge and epic reverb. But the most interesting setting was Nonlin2, a richly grainy pseudogated reverb effect that shouted ‘1980s’. It still sounds great — thick, and always interesting. Similarly, the two Reverse programs have a great fade-in effect if you want something characterful.” The RMX-16 500 is £995 (ex-VAT). “This reissue seems to sound smoother and more hi-fi than the original,” and is “great to have as hardware,” Shilling concluded. www.ams-neve.com

Nominees CEDAR Audio

Eventide

Lawo

A Dante-enabled hardware unit that offers eight simultaneous channels of noise-reduction, allowing you to reduce the sound of air conditioners, traffic, rain, fan noise, and more in real time. It can also improve unflattering acoustic environments, poor mic positioning, and excessive reverberation. This is the first CEDAR with eight channels of Dante over Ethernet ports, providing industry-standard networking with minimal latency. The £4,900 (ex VAT) unit also gives eight channels of AES I/O over DB25 connections. A browser-based remote control is available. “I tried, traffic, crowd noise, hums, buzzes and even staccato transients like birdsong — all of which were sonically eaten by the black magic inside the box,” said Simon Clark in his Resolution V19.3 review. He summarised: “Extremely simple interface; lack of colouration despite powerful real-time noise reduction; Dante integration; 12v DC and mains option; insignificant latency.”

Blackhole reverb sound is not of this Earth. The Blackhole is based on one of the more extreme algorithms in the Eventide cosmos, found in rackmounted units, as a plug-in (review, Resolution V17.6), and also on the Space and H9 pedals. Blackhole features modulation built into the reverb structure itself: this modulation can be used to smooth out the rough edges of the most extreme settings and offers unique tone-shaping ability. ‘Infinite mode’ continuously layers new sound on top of a suspended reverb while ‘Freeze mode’ holds the effect in stasis, allowing musicians to play over the reverb tail. The Freeze Footswitch allows instant access to this feature. Blackhole can load as many as 127 presets via MIDI and they are also accessible in the preset list on the Eventide Device Manager (EDM).

Lawo have a new software package for its versatile Power Core AoIP mixing engine and I/O node: Power Core MAX. ‘MAX’ — short for Multiple Access — makes it possible for a single Power Core device to be the mixing engine for multiple on-air mixing consoles. “Power Core MAX lets you unlock all those resources to power two, three or even four small mixing surfaces. That’s a capability that anyone who wants to maximise their equipment budget will immediately appreciate,” says Lawo Radio Marketing Specialist Clark Novak. Power Core is an AoIP workhorse. Dual-redundant front-panel AES67 ports can accommodate up to 128 streams with a total of 256 audio channels. Four front-panel MADI ports can handle 64 MADI channels each, for a total of 256 channels, or 128 MADI channels in dual-redundant mode. Thanks to its abundant I/O capacity, Power Core can be used as a gateway between legacy audio formats and standards-based IP networks.

www.cedaraudio.com

www.eventideaudio.com

www.lawo.com

DNS 8D

Blackhole pedal

Power Core MAX

Winter 2020 / 39


RECORDER

Winner: Zoom H8 The H8 an ambitious but cost effective (£506 inc VAT) handheld recorder. It comes with a stereo X-Y pair of microphones which can be exchanged with modular mics from a range of newly-developed capsules and input modules. These include a four-capsule Ambisonic array, which the H8 can decode into a variety of stereo and multi-channel formats, and the ‘Expander Capsule’, which provides four additional mic XLR inputs. There’s also the MSH-6 mic for mid-side recording, the SGH-6 ‘hyperdirectional’ shotgun, and an unusual mid-side/shotgun. The SSH-6 mid-side stereo shotgun capsule includes a super-directional microphone for picking up sound in the centre, as well as a bi-directional side mic for picking up sounds from the left and right. This allows you to record a fully monocompatible stereo image — ideal for video projects. For example, you can capture dialogue with the centre mic, and then mix in the desired amount of environmental sound from the side mic directly on your Zoom recorder, or in postproduction. The H8’s recording sources connect to the octagonal centre section, and comprise two combi inputs for mic/ line/instrument signals, plus four XLR mic inputs. The lower section is dominated by a large colour touchscreen, while

the bottom edges house the SD-card slot, a USB port, headphone and line output mini-jacks. The touchscreen allows access to recording controls and software features, and Zoom have developed three different ‘apps’ for it, each with a different use in mind. The Podcast app lets you load up to 13 sounds into the H8, and trigger them using a touchscreen soundboard; the Music app focuses on recording and monitoring, enabling overdubs with a full mixer, with control over compression, EQ and effects; the Field app is tailored for sound designers and location recordists, and features high-resolution metering to help ensure recordings never clip. 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 multi-channel computer audio interface over USB. The Zoom H8 comes with Cubase LE and Steinberg’s WaveLab Cast software. WaveLab Cast helps finalise projects with a range of comprehensive editing and mixing tools. WaveLab Cast connects directly with podcast directories, such as Spreaker or Podbean. You can upload episodes quickly, plus directly create and publish RSS feeds. www.zoomcorp.com

Nominees iZotope

Lectrosonics

Sound Devices

Portable, one-touch recording — the £359 Spire Studio is a portable recorder featuring built-in WiFi. Aimed at musicians, it enables easy record, mix and editing on the move. Spire sets up compression and gain for recording with a one-button soundcheck, once a track is laid down, it automatically arms the next one. The integrated omni mic is supplemented by two combi-XLRs with 48V phantom. Spire includes a variety of iZotope effects ranging from reverb and delays to amp models. It provides zero-latency monitoring and the ability to sync tracks between hardware and the (free to download) Spire software. Crucially, it’s easy to export audio to Pro Tools, and Logic, or upload to storage platforms like iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

A compact, dual-channel digital wireless receiver offering double the channels of the UCR411a in the same sized package — and on-board recording. Compatible with mono transmitters from the D-Squared line (DBu, DHu, DPR) and capable of decoding signals from Lectrosonics’ stereo transmitters like the DCHT and M2R. The unit is backwardscompatible with Digital Hybrid wireless transmitters. Two TA3M audio output jacks can be independently configured as mic or linelevel analogue outputs or as two-channel AES3 digital outputs. The on-board SDHC recorder is capable of recording .WAV (BWF) files while the transmitter is sending wireless signal, making it a truly useful backup option. The DCR822 is available worldwide from Lectrosonics authorised UHF dealers, MSRP: $4,740

A portable multitrack recorder, mixer and USB interface with internal LTC timecode generator with output, designed for field recordists and filmmakers, and offering 32-bit float recording to removable SD, SDHC, or SDXC media cards. Up to five audio tracks can be recorded at 44.1-192kHz to broadcast quality .WAV file. The operator has the ability to adjust ratio, release and threshold parameters of the internal limiters when using in 16 or 24-bit mode. Other software features include a 10 seconds pre-roll buffer and auto-copy to USB drive function. The £830 (ex VAT) MixPre is powered via USB connection, L-mount lithium-ion batteries, 8x AA alkaline batteries via the included sled, or included AC power adapter.

www.izotope.com

www.lectrosonics.com

www.sounddevices.com

Spire Studio

40 / Winter 2020

DCR 822

MixPre-6 II


Playlist

Resolution bids 2020 farewell in song Which tune will we be playing on New Year’s Eve? Ed Lister Artist: Song: Why:

Ray Charles ‘Hit the road jack’ (1961) Upon leaving there’s no better way than slamming the door behind this insane year of utter chaos with some upbeat positive soul music!! “Don’t you come backkk no moree no moreeee” Good Riddance! 

Danny Turner Artist: Song:

Why?

The Police ‘On Any Other Day’ (Reggatta de Blanc 1979) I used to feel sympathy for Stewart Copeland — burnt scrambled eggs, runaway daughter, dog bit his leg. Still not as bad as 2020, buddy!

Alan Branch

Artist: D:Ream Song: ‘Things Can Only get Better’ (D-Ream On Volume 1 1993) Why? 2020, what a year, health money, jobs family, maybe a song to come together with. I worked on the original of this song, with Peter Cunnah & the lovely Jamie Petrie, as well as my good friend and incredible keyboardist Gary Meek at the Roundhouse Studio. Little did I know what an anthem this song would become at times like this — obvious choice but for sure it’ll be getting rinsed come New Year.

Ian Shepherd

Artist: Pulp Song: Running the World (2006) Why? Because they are! (“Let’s be perfectly clear boys and girls: Oh, c*s are still running the world”) 

Why?

M People ‘Moving on up’ (1993) [As a former member of M People [left in image], Tim was never going to submit this tune, but it’s appropriate! — Ed] “You’ve done me wrong, your time is up; You took a sip from the devil’s cup; You broke my heart, there’s no way back; Move right out of here, baby, go on pack your bags”

Artist: Song: Why:

Simon Clark

Artist: Eurythmics Song: ‘You hurt me, I hate you’ (We Too Are One 1989) Why? “If you had been a hammer, I’d be a broken nail, You gave me nothing — Nothing but regrets, Don’t think it’s over — It’s not over yet, You hurt me & I hate you.”

John Broomhall Artist: Song: Why?

Nat King Cole         ‘Let’s Face The Music and Dance’ A strangely positive if slightly subversive sentiment? (the lines “ Before the fiddlers have fled, Before they ask us to pay the bill, and while we still have the chance, Let’s face the music and dance” seem poignant)

Mike Aiton Artist: Song: Why:

Tim Oliver Artist: Song:

George Shilling

Arlo Parks Angel’s Song (Sophie 2019) It was my most played song on Spotify last year. I think she will be next year’s big thing. There’s a tenderness and beautiful naked vulnerability to this song, fitting for the end of 2020, a year that has impacted many of us.

Chris Bailey Artist:

Song: Why?

Ronny Jordan, DJ Krush feat. Guru (Bad Brothers 1994) “ Rotten scum has found its way to power, Time to protect projects, check the hour, I’m fed worse than just angry, Ready for action, baby”

David Knopfler ‘This Isn’t Kansas Anymore’ (Songs of Loss & Love 2020) Knopfler has a poetic and poignant resignation throughout his latest album which aptly reflect the weariness we all share at the moment. I relished adding some melancholic cello to this song and others on the album. Here’s hoping his 2021 album is a dance party outing!

Rob Speight Artist: Song:

Why?

The The ‘Good Morning Beautiful’ (Mind Bomb 1989) The lyrics man, just listen or read the lyrics! It’s so poignant and sums up so much of what has and is going on in the world. The end few lines “Oh, children, you’ve still got a lot to f*g learn. The only path to heaven is via hell” pretty much wraps the whole year up for me. All this plus the production is just amazing, so tight, and yet airy and moody.

Phil Ward Artist: Song:

Why?

Johnny Logan ‘What’s Another Year?’ (1980) Our hero sings: “I’ve been waiting such a long time; looking out for you…”. Frankly, it’s all about lockdown and being stuck at home with the kids.

Nigel Jopson Artist: Song: Why?

Quicksilver Messenger Service ‘Happy Trails’ (Happy Trails 1969) An acid-rock album — great guitar work by John Cipollina — with a Californian folksy rendition of the Roy Rogers song: “It’s the way you ride the trail that counts… Happy trails to you, Until we meet again…” Winter 2020 / 41


Technology

Genelec GLM 4 Managing monitors — THOMAS LUND explains the science of listening

G

LM 4 is the fourth generation of the Genelec Loudspeaker Manager software, designed to calibrate and control professional monitoring systems consisting of a wide range of Genelec Smart Active Monitors (SAM) and subwoofers. Despite tightly controlled directivity and point source design, two company hallmarks, it is still important to minimise the unwanted acoustic influences of a listening room, following placement of the monitors. GLM calibration ensures reference listening conditions to be met, and therefore good translation to other rooms, including clubs, cinemas, headphones etc. Based on continuous research and data gathering from thousands of studios around the world, each generation of the software has seen improvements and new features added, version 4 being no exception. The evolutional concept also reflects Genelec’s goal of providing a long life for its designs, facilitating improvements of monitors and subwoofers that have been ten years in the field or even more, for instance 8200 and 7200 series models. GLM 4 comes as another free upgrade, and the graphical user interface has had a complete makeover by renown Finnish designer, Harri Koskinen, who is also the mastermind behind the physical appearance of most Genelec monitors. His Nordic roots shine through in the UI too, 42 / Winter 2020

Active

Smart Active

8010 8020 8030 8040 8050

8320 8330 8340 8350

Subs

Subs & Woofer Systems

7040 7050

7350 7360 7370

8430 1032C S360

7380 7382

Previous

8331 8341 8351 8361

1234 1235 1236 1237 1238

W371

8130 8240 8250 8260

7260 7270 7271

/ List of current Genelec monitors and types — new and previous — compatible with GLM 4


revolving around an element representing unlimited, natural growth: the hexagon. The seamless growth potential is an elegant feature of GLM 4, because no downsides or hurdles are introduced as more channels are added to an existing setup, regardless if it happens one step at a time. There are no sudden penalties when going from single stereo to multiple stereo, when adding one or more subwoofers; or even when building huge, immersive monitoring systems. GLM 4 has also seen monitor control functionality boosted with new touch screen compatibility, solo and mutes have been enhanced; and immersive systems consisting of more than 80 devices are supported. This takes the application into new territory as an indispensible monitor control companion for DAWs, where processing and physical output resources need not be tied-up on monitoring, adding to an all-round enhanced user experience. GLM 4 runs on Windows and Mac including macOS 10.15 Catalina. It enables calibration on the local computer as well as cloud-based calibration, with an acoustical help service and guidance based on comprehensive, actual room data.

Are we receivers of sensory information from the environment, or are we actively collecting it? which time influences what we are even capable of hearing. Some ways are comparable to the capabilities needed to understand a new language, others relate to how quickly fatigue develops, but the primary reason is our modest

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Slow listening

Are we receivers of sensory information from the environment, or are we actively collecting it? Numerous recent trials have concluded the latter to be the case. Human perception is primarily based on previous experience and sensory verification, known as ‘active sensing’. Considering hearing, the brain is a highly active participant, not only in the decoding of minute temporal information, but also as the main element of a sense relying heavily on internal feedback and tuning. Hearing therefore doesn’t only have nerve impulses going from the inner ear to the brain, it also has a substantial number of efferent nerve fibres with traffic going in the opposite direction. Depending on behavioural goals, training, experience and expectations, efferent nerve fibres constantly send information back from the brain to the middle and inner ears, adjusting the reception system itself. In principle the same as vision with its saccadic eye movements: 99% of our visual field primarily detects movement, and only a tiny fraction, the fovea, registers perspective, colour and spatial details. The brain therefore regularly needs to move the eyes for a closer inspection of visual details. In contrast, the brain’s tuning of the inner ears over a range of 80dB (!) is hidden, but there is also an overt component to acute listening: head and body movement. In either case, what we hear and how we move largely depends on what has personally been experienced before. Furthermore, accurate listening takes time, as various auditory events and qualities need scrutinizing. We recently introduced the term ‘slow listening’, as a reminder of the many ways in

perceptual bandwidth. We simply cannot take in sensory stimuli comprehensively nearly as quickly as we tend to believe. In order for accurate listening not to become too time consuming, variables consequently

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Genelec’s DNA is to strive for neutral reproduction as the pinnacle of monitoring have to be kept at a minimum. Listeners should either use a room and equipment they know intimately, or they should have plenty of time to get to know an acoustic environment before any subjective tests or judgements are performed. Based on a limited perceptual bandwidth and eight hours of dedicated listening per day, getting to know a room and equipment in any detail takes at least a week, but assuming years would be safer. Great mastering engineers therefore make sure they have time on their side in many ways, so the content becomes the only variable. Bob Ludwig, for instance, even tries to avoid listening at different sound levels because of the time it takes to mentally re-calibrate. Instead, clients are invited to use headphones in case they wish to listen louder.

Headphone compatibility

Using headphones for listening is an excellent method to check a recording for artefacts, and for instance to be able to perform any work at 44 / Winter 2020

/ 3-way loudspeakers exhibit “Christmas tree” behaviour, as each driver becomes directive with frequency

all under noisy conditions. However, the main purpose of monitoring is to evaluate audio in a neutral way, and to ensure good translation to other reproduction conditions. Standard headphones don’t fulfil those requirements because they exclude the influential external ear from our auditory system, thereby breaking the link to natural listening that we have acquired over a lifetime. Traditional headphones cannot externalise sound, and they also inhibit the other essential facilitator of critical listening detailed earlier: Active sensing. Even when passing around the same set of

headphones, what you hear is therefore different from what the next person hears, so a meaningful and detailed discussion about sound quality can really only happen between people listening and moving in the same room. The most coherent way of optimising translation between headphones, if that is expected to be the primary method of playback, instead would be to rely on GLM 4 calibrated ultra-nearfield monitors, ideally based on a Genelec Ones stereo system, e.g. at 50cm listening distance [I’m waiting to review the Genelec ‘mix chair’ with 50cm head-height monitor mounts — Ed].


/ Technology

Reference monitoring

It has always been in Genelec’s DNA to strive for neutral reproduction as the pinnacle of monitoring, rather than aiming just at pleasing a listener. From the earliest, pioneering active designs of the ‘80s right through to today, the Genelec monitoring line has therefore shown a constant evolution towards neutrality in more and more dimensions, like frequency response, directivity, time, phase, immersion and envelopment. Taking directivity, for instance, it is unreasonable to impose the same, arbitrary directivity on all sources of a mix, thereby exciting the room in biased and unpredictable ways, unless the listener is situated in an anechoic room or in a completely diffused one. However, this is what most loudspeakers do, so a 3-way model generally exhibits ‘Christmas tree behaviour in both planes, as each driver becomes more directive with frequency, until the next cross-over point is reached. Taking another evolutional step, drivers also need to be at the same location in order not to colour off-axis sound at the cross-over points, or to make listener head movements produce ambiguous results. Genelec The Ones therefore combine those two important characteristics: superbly controlled directivity and uncompromised point source radiation. GLM 4 is the binding element that intimately knows each monitor in a system as well as the room, and balances all the dimensions mentioned from stereo to immersive, but without forcing a particular sound on the user.

Personalised monitoring

With its professional auto-calibration function, GLM 4 quickly establishes neutral monitoring conditions for a given system, room and listening position, or even for an unlimited number of listening positions. However, a primary requirement, such as a flat frequency response of perceived direct sound, includes

both objective and subjective factors. Adjustment for monitor and listener placement can reduce uncertainty about the apparent frequency response by 15-20dB, while compensation for listening level reduces

GLM 4 establishes neutral monitoring for a given system, room and listening position

uncertainty about the perceived frequency response by 10-15dB. Leaving both unchecked, on the other hand, leads to an uncertainty of the perceived frequency response by more than 30dB, even from an excellent monitor, pre-calibrated for a flat frequency response in an anechoic room. GLM 4 easily takes both ambiguities out of monitoring, considering your specific setting; and then the final spectral balance can be freely tweaked and stored to fit a certain application, or your preferred listening level. For instance, if working with dialogue, rolling off a few dB above 6-10kHz can improve speech intelligibility of the content; or, if you are typically listening below 80dB SPL, boosting the lowest octaves enables you to perceive very low frequency components or artefacts, that would otherwise be below the threshold of hearing. In case you are new to pro audio, and on the verge of appreciating the benefits of calibrated, neutral audio monitoring, learning to work against a flat frequency response is recommended. However, if you have long-time experience using un-calibrated monitors, the transition can be made easier by applying system-wide broad GLM 4 tweaks after auto-calibration, such as a full frequency range tilt. With a broad tilt, you don’t get distracted by a spectral balance that feels ‘off’, while still being able to take advantage of a monitoring frequency response without misleading bumps or dips. In conclusion, reliable, coherent monitoring is an essential foundation in professional audio, regardless of whether you are working in music, broadcast, film or gaming, because listening is formative. Therefore, you are not just creating the best possible program or music track, you are also investing time in solidifying or eroding a personal sensory baseline, whenever a room and monitoring system is being used. GLM 4 is the guarantee that your time is being productively spent on both counts.

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Winter 2020 / 45


Technology

Aloha by Elk In-sync remote musical collaboration — BJORN EHLERS (CMO, Elk) explains how Elk can help

M

usicians might assume they can hop onto Zoom to replicate the experience of playing together while apart. If it works for conversations, why not for music sessions? The issue is latency, the delay in all digital transactions but which we don’t notice in conversations. When talking, we do it one after another. But when we’re playing music, we do it at the same time, in sync. ‘Live’ Zoom performances aren’t what they seem. They’re edited to look like everyone’s in sync. Now there is a solution that can ameliorate the pain of latency. Here’s how it works. Computers have a lot of individual tasks, organised by the operating system (OS). The OS orchestrates conflicting and competing tasks. Tasks are completed in the order that the OS decides. If an audio sample isn’t dealt with almost immediately, the only solution is to

46 / Winter 2020

introduce a buffer, so that processing can take place in time to output continuous audio. For live music, these delays are unacceptable. And the latency isn’t constant. Rather surprisingly — it’s taken the vision of a violin maker to solve it. Michele Benincaso, our founder at Elk, studied at the Stradivarius school of violin making. He later turned to guitar making and after a few years received an inquiry for a guitar that could run VST instruments, so that the guitarist could play almost any sound, live, on stage, without delays. In order to make that computerised guitar possible, Elk did what some might consider to be impossible. It built an OS from the ground up with a single aim: to process audio without delay. Remarkably, Elk OS does this, reducing the typical computer’s 20-25ms to an incredible 1ms. With latency reduced to an insignificant

amount, other things, beyond supporting virtual instruments, become possible. So Elk turned its attention to the problem of musicians playing together, remotely. If each musician in a group has a device running Elk OS, then it should be possible to set up a joint session with only the latency of the network to deal with. While network delays are definitely significant, and with Elk OS’s incredibly low audio latency, it’s possible to achieve 10-20ms delay: easily within the range that musicians need to play together well.

Raspberry Pi and peer-to-peer

Elk has built prototypes based around small, extremely low-cost computing platforms like the Raspberry Pi. We present it as a ‘box’ that needs only an audio input and a network cable to become part of a seamless music remote session. Future versions will have improved industrial design and be smaller. Elk has designed a peer-to-peer service called Aloha that is managed from a web-based app. This allows users to set up and join groups, and see each other while they’re playing. Right now the limit is four participants per session but a future service will allow many more musicians to take part. Some musicians can detect tiny latencies —


sometimes below 10ms. But we have found that they are able to play together with other musicians with 20ms delay or more. Our testing shows that musicians are able to compensate for delay if it is constant — just like players in an orchestra on a large stage. Aloha from Elk is designed to work with fast broadband. The best results come from Fibre To The Home (FTTH). Next best is Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC). Better than both of these will be the mature version of 5G, and Edge computing will improve that still further. FTTH is how we have conducted our trials in Europe and the USA. Don’t be tempted to measure your home’s latency using ‘ping’. This can be very misleading. Ping measures a round trip, so it’s twice the latency relevant to Aloha. Don’t measure latency over WiFi, either. This can introduce big delays. The Aloha ‘box’ is connected to a home router with an ethernet cable. This gives the most stable connection and the lowest latency. In Stockholm, we typically get a network latency of only 5-6ms. Add the latency in Aloha and you get a total of around 12-13ms: easily low enough for musicians to play together remotely. Aloha is currently in beta being tested by professional musicians, producers and music institutions like the Royal College of Music, The New School and University of California, Irvine. The results are remarkable. With uncompressed audio quality and minimal delays, musicians can jam, rehearse, record, and even stream their performances to a wider audience. To illustrate this, watch the Yamaha Music ”Band and Orchestra” performance by Swedish jazz greats Nils Landgren and Robert Ikiz. Trombone player Nils Landgren was in southern Sweden and drummer Robert Ikiz was 670km away in Stockholm. Using Zoom would have given a latency of 200-500ms. But Aloha, using a consumer network connection, came in with just 12ms latency. That’s like the two musicians were only 4m apart.

router. Ericsson and Vodafone are testing Aloha on their actual 5G networks.

In future, Elk devices can be built into musician’s instruments and microphones. It will be universal, like MIDI. With this fundamental problem solved by Aloha, it’s only a matter of time before playing at a distance for musicians is as routine as making a phone call. Aloha will be affordable for musicians and will be commercially available in Q2 2021. Elk is a Stockholm based company that develops technologies enabling a new generation of connected musical instruments and audio devices. Elk’s ambition is to create new ways to bridge the gap between musicians and technology, changing how to learn, create, record and share music.

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We’ve connected with musicians in southern Europe — that’s 3,000km — and you do notice the lag (the speed of light comes into play here). But since the latency is so constant, your ears start to adapt — and you can still play together. The effect of perceived latency is all about context. Aloha works well with 5G. We demonstrated this at the 2019 Mobile World Congress, where we had musicians separately on the Ericsson and Vodafone booths, playing together. With 5G, everything’s wireless: there’s no need for a

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Winter 2020 / 47


Technology

Artificial intelligence in sound engineering ROBIN REUMERS has the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in our mission. And wants to help you*

T

ech companies like IBM have for decades been trying to understand and replicate the neural networks of a human brain. You might have heard of ‘Watson’ — that’s where Artificial Learning (AI) really gained its first mainstream attention.

Machine learning, a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI), can automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Coinciding with the vast amount of computing power available to us, AI has started

to slowly sneak its way into our lives, from chatbots, to virtual assistants all the way to autonomous driving. And there is no doubt it will continue to evolve. Music is extremely complex, unique and activates all parts of the human brain. Let’s take a closer look at how machine learning has helped our sound engineering field, what are the obstacles and how could the future look like?

AI Mastering

There is a fair chance you have come across platforms such as LANDR and AI Mastering. Users can upload their music and the platform analyses it and masters the song for you. Even though their technology isn’t public information, it’s fair to assume they fed their AI with mixes and masters and let it analyse information such as frequency response, dynamics and harmonics. Future development in this area will undoubtedly see AI masters with presets for specific engineers, each with a different taste. Personal Take: It feels and sounds like a fast-food chain. Sure, lots of people will eat there. But still there are plenty who will prefer a fresh home cooked meal or to go to a Michelin star restaurant every now and then.

De-noising

The second example I have is de-noising. CEDAR, and now iZotope, have been tremendous innovators in this field, and the latest versions of iZotope RX has started to incorporate AI engines. Considering it’s an offline process and therefore has access to a full audio track, it’s the perfect candidate to benefit from AI (more on that in the next section).

48 / Winter 2020


Personal Take: treat carefully. I often hear engineers reaching for that de-noiser but in my personal opinion, you have to be very careful that the cure is not worse than the disease. It can cause serious artefacts, and you have to be cautious.

De-mixing

The third one is a more recent example, and that is ‘Sound Source Separation’. iZotope and Audionamix (review, Resolution V17.4) as well as many open source projects (ISSE among others) in recent years have introduced their own version of tools that allow you to take a stereo mix and separate specific instruments from the mix, for example Drums/Percussion, Bass, Vocals and all the rest. This technology is also based on Deep Learning. Personal Take: Even though the premise sounds exciting, care should be used. I find it extremely powerful for a creative effect but have had no luck using it to ‘remix’ a crappy

mix. In most cases, there are still plenty of artefacts — we’ll call them ‘space monkeys’.

Job crafting

Then comes something that was recently introduced by our dear friends at Acustica Audio, where machine learning is used to analyse engineers’ moves on a particular piece of gear. While using that piece of gear, you could ask, what would Engineer X do if he/she were me. Personal Take: I definitely find it an interesting application. For me personally, I’m more about wanting to achieve a certain result I have in my head, so it won’t do much for me. But no doubt for many, including musicians, this can be helpful.

Research & Development

A last example where AI is useful is for new plug-in development or R&D. Imagine trying to solve a serious audio problem, where on one hand you have ‘audio you like’ and on the other hand you ‘audio you don’t like’. But you can’t figure out what the problem is. Using AI can help you narrow down and see patterns. It’s a really powerful tool, undoubtedly currently in use by audio plug-in developers to solve serious problems and make the next killer plug-ins.

How Does It Work?

Let’s focus on Deep Learning, which in turn is a subset of machine learning. This is the subnet most applicable to audio processing. Artificial neural networks are created which adapt and

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learn from vast amounts of data. To understand neural networks, let’s have a closer look at how the brain works. It all starts with a neuron which is a node with many inputs and one output. A neural network in turn consists of many of these interconnected neurons. Simply put, it receives data at the input and provides a response. What makes it unique is that the network learns to correlate incoming and outgoing signals with each other. Evolutionary designed to separate a signal from ‘random noise’, it can also create new hierarchical views by learning from its own experience.

With deep neural networks, algorithms learn from their own experience, forming in the learning process multi-level, hierarchical ideas about the information they’re fed. As an example, let’s say I would feed a neural network with 100 audio examples, ten of which are bass guitars and the rest being other instruments. Then I will tell the network to output only those ten tracks (they are marked as ‘bass’). So in go 100 tracks, out only the ten bass tracks. The neural network can then analyse everything from frequency response, dynamic envelope to harmonic structure to ‘learn’ what a bass guitar sounds like. Ultimately with enough training, it

would be able to identify them perfectly. Now imagine what else it can be trained to do?

Challenges

It all sounds like fun so far, but let’s talk about some of the challenges in building or using AI in sound processing. First of all, in order for a neural network to work well, it needs large amounts of data. When you’re Facebook and you’re at this moment generating about four petabytes of data per day, using AI to optimize certain tasks makes perfect sense. It’s hard to put a number on it for audio, since it depends on the application, but it’s safe to say that you need many thousands of audio examples to efficiently train a neural network. For certain nonlinear algorithms, you can even quadruple this amount. Sound engineering is an extremely nice market and we’re often limited to the amount of input or data we have available, often also limited by budgets. The next challenge has even more impact on our industry, and that’s the need for offline processing. As I mentioned before, AIs do well when you feed it a lot data and ask it to generate an output. Most of us who are recording or mixing, expect sound processing to happen in real time. We’re being creative, hear something and want to act on it. If every time we wanted to process something, we’d have to ‘capture’ the whole track and then process it, it would take us out of the creative process. We want to throw on a plug-in and hear its effect immediately. Speed is important. That means these plug-ins only receive very small buffers, say 32 samples of audio at a time. By the time the plug-in receives the next buffer, it needs to have processed the first one already. With only 32 samples, there is almost nothing that an AI can do with this. For it to be effective, it needs to have access to much more audio, something currently not present in our typical workflows (except for offline processing of course).

The future of AI in audio processing

I obviously have no crystal ball, but I’ll explain what I hope to see in the coming years. The future will tell if it actually happens. I honestly believe we need to see a serious paradigm shift in the way DAWs are designed. Most of them still follow the linear real-time mode, an evolutionary step from using tape. However, for things such as editing, mixing and mastering (or even post recording), a DAW has access to all the audio in the session. If DAWs and plug-ins could communicate more with each other, instead of just exchanging buffers, imagine the possibilities this would bring. Let’s say you have a track with a bass guitar on it, and you want to use a particular plug-in that adds harmonics and compression. If that plug-in could access all the data on the track while it gets instantiated, it could give you feedback about the existing harmonic structure and dynamic content. That’s where I think AI 50 / Winter 2020


/ Technology

can be extremely useful, giving suggestions to producers and engineers that will speed up their workflows. >> insert fig_4 [crop black] For example, how many times have you heard a resonance in a piano recording and had to notch it out. What if the DAW would understand it’s a piano recording and finds its resonance automatically and give you a suggestion “I believe there is a resonance at 2050Hz, do you want me to remove it?” Then as a creative, you would still have the choice to act on it or leave it alone. Or how about “I notice this track is funky but your bass guitar has a lot of 3rd order harmonics where most bass guitars in this genre possibly have more 2nd order harmonics. Would you like to change its harmonic structure?” Also, plug-ins such as Neutron could become a lot more powerful if it had access to the data in advance. It would make the workflow to detect masking between tracks a whole lot easier. If there would be such a protocol in the coming years to have better communication between DAWs and plugins, it would really inspire a serious revolution in the design of tools for audio processing.

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What about the creative process?

I’ve already explained why in my vision AI is there to assist us more, and not take over the creative control. I personally feel that the creative process of crafting a song is sacred. In most cases, you’re telling a story — your story. Music is a reflection of society and of the person behind the music. In the end, it would be possible to use AI to learn more about the personality and workflow of an artist and create a song in his or her style. But that’s not what music is all about, it’s an art form. It’s also not about perfection, so we shouldn’t try to use AI to make something perfect, let’s use it to fix things that bother us or shape things that fit our taste. If we were to go that route where we let AI take over our creative process, then who owns the copyright? Is it the developer who created the AI? It opens up a whole can of worms. Let’s hope AI will just help us to be more creative and allow us to create sounds that knock the socks off of your listeners. *2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick 1968) — As Dave moves to shut down HAL, the AI computer pleads with him and promises to change: “I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you…”

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Winter 2020 / 51


Technology

Binaural commercials GIJS FRIESEN explains how Spotify headphone listening is an opportunity for 3D creativity

A

few years ago, 360 videos were very popular for a while. Always eager to learn new stuff when it comes to audio, I downloaded the FB360 Spatial Workstation and started learning and experimenting with Ambisonics. Because what’s a good 360 video without 360 audio, right? Well… as it turned out a lot of video producers I was working for were more than happy using regular stereo audio for their 360 videos. So I didn’t get as many Ambisonics mix jobs as I’d hoped for. But lately I have been mixing a lot of ‘3D’ audio content. Not Ambisonics, but binaural audio, mainly for commercials on Spotify. As a lot of people listen to Spotify with headphones, it’s a great medium for binaural audio, to immerse the listener in sound coming from all directions. The ‘8D’ video by Billie Eilish (Ilomilo) that went viral a while ago may have had something to do with the re-awakening of binaural, because after that the requests for 8D commercials started coming in. The first thing I always had to do was explain that there are only three dimensions. At least as far as I know. So those five extra dimensions are just clickbait. Some people must have thought ‘I want to generate even more clicks’, because I have also 52 / Winter 2020

seen ‘10D’ and ‘12D’ audio. Oh, wait… I just checked once more. You can now find clips on Youtube with a whopping 24 dimensions of audio! By making a quick demo I am usually able to prove that my mere three dimensions sound just as good.

change the circumference of the listeners head, which has a big effect on how well you can pinpoint the sound source in the 3D image,

Creating a 360 audio experience

To create a binaural mix I started experimenting with the Sennheiser Ambeo Orbit plug-in. This binaural panner works great — and is free! — but somehow I didn’t always get the ‘depth’ out of it that I was looking for. So I started looking for alternatives. I bought the Waves Nx plug-in + head tracker back in 2016 when it was a Kickstarter project. Meant as a virtual mix room “this plugin recreates the acoustics of a highend studio inside your headphones, so you can make great mixing decisions anytime, anywhere.” I never used it that way, but I liked experimenting with the 3D sound it creates. And now I could finally put this plug-in to use: as a binaural panner. You can rotate the virtual speaker position in Nx and automate it to move the sound around you. You can change the distance between the two speakers and control how the sound spreads through the 3D image. But what’s really cool is that you can also

/ Sennheiser’s Ambeo Orbit binaural panner


especially in combination with the right ambience setting. After some experimenting and tweaking, I got better results from the Nx plug-in than I got from Ambeo Orbit. Well, most of the time. Orbit has more options when it comes to controlling the room ambience and it also has an ‘Elevation’ slider to move the sound up or down, which is useful sometimes. So I still use that plug-in as well, but Nx has become my go-to binaural panner and so far I haven’t felt the need to switch to another plug-in.

Enhance the message

In combination with the right amount of EQ, reverb/ambience and volume automation I’m able to create a 3D image that sounds realistic. Besides 3D realism, a mix for a medium like Spotify needs to be ‘speaker compatible’ too. The binaural effect may be less on speakers, but the balance of the mix must remain intact. In my opinion, a good mix is speaker compatible, but if you put on headphones and close your eyes, your brain believes that you’ve stepped into another world with sound all around you. Unfortunately, the brain is not so easily tricked! So I have been explaining to clients that creating a binaural commercial is really different

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/ Using Waves NX as a binaural panner in Pro Tools

from creating a regular stereo commercial. Adding binaural sound effects to a spot with a mono voice-over and stereo music doesn’t work. It’s better if that voice-over is walking around you and the music is coming from a virtual speaker placed somewhere in the 3D image. But, of course, this has to make sense. Why is the voice-over walking around you? Only if you use the binaural effect to enhance the message of the commercial, it will be something other than just a cute technical gimmick. Maybe this is a problem for most binaural

/ It’s behind you!

content though, no matter how good the concept is thought out. When the novelty wears off, advertisers may soon go back to regular stereo content. But who knows? Maybe clever producers will find new creative ways to use binaural. It has been around for a long time, but every now and then it is re-introduced as a ‘revolutionary new thing’! So even though it will probably fade away, I’m pretty sure it will also pop back up again some day. With a brand new name. Maybe we can even surpass 100 dimensions….

FORWARD THINKING AUDIO GEAR

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Winter 2020 / 53


A Day in the Life

Russell Cottier Masks and microphones — a COVID-tour of London studios

S

horeditch London, England — and I’ve just emerged from the tube station. The underground rail system in London is famous for being like a high speed sardine tin. But this time there was no cramming people in. I even got a seat. The sun beats down on the pavement and I peel off my mask for a few moments of fresh air before I hit the first stop on today’s little tour. Strongroom studios. The sense of COVID-19 is on the air, London is still running, but it is somehow different. I’m actually producing a record here myself in Soup Studios, an old lightship moored in Trinity Wharf on the Thames, but a free day before the session starts offered a great opportunity to see how some of my associates are managing COVID-19 measures in their studios.

I arrive at Strongroom studios courtyard and meet the manager Jake Murray, for a socially distanced chat. “But first thing’s first Russ, let’s get you checked in.” Strongroom is using an app based system to check in visitors and clients and it was super easy. A few details, nothing too intrusive, and we are good to go around the studios. Murray explains how seating arrangements in the studio and internet 54 / Winter 2020

links are being used to run sessions. A combination of Zoom and Audiomovers seems to be the method everyone is using for remote clients and producers. Keep the talent in a separate room, if you have facility to do so, and when needed face coverings should be worn. It seems everyone is being super careful but the studio world is still running. Next I hit the tube again and pop up as close to Chiswick as possible. Not so keen on the bus journey that followed but again everyone is masked up.

The Power House building that houses Metropolis Studios is super impressive of course, and this time I sign in with a good old pen and ledger book. There are antiviral hand sanitiser pumps around and people seem to be using them. The place is pretty quiet but I grab a good chat to resident mastering engineer Mike Hillier. Hillier tells me that the bar is now closed to all but staff, and points out the social distancing teddy bears that hog half of each sofa. At least the team are keeping spirits up in face of COVID. “I work in a room entirely on my own, so it’s not affected me too much, but I am cycling to work rather than taking public transport”.

The story is very much similar at Pierce Rooms Mastering, a shared facility in Hammersmith where Neil Pickles (Reveal Sound) tells me he is cycling to work and shows me his enormous bucket of properly rated virusciadal wipes. Everything is spotless there, Pickles even makes sure he opens doors for me and my assigned seat has been wiped down before I sit. We sit and chat through our masks, which seems quite normal now. and Pickles tells me how he listens to a record while he cleans. His ‘decontamination vinyl’ for today is Beth Gibbons. “With the government allowing pubs to open it’s getting harder to say no to attended sessions, so we just have to be sensible and wear masks etc.” Final stop on my tour is with producer Cameron Craig at his Earls Court studio, Microcosm. Craig tells me that COVID-19 hasn’t really affected his work too much. He is mostly remote mixing and has been working remotely with Katie Mellua using Audiomovers and Zoom. “With Audiomovers you just give them a link, there’s no messing around with setup at their end”. Craig doesn’t really have clients in so things are pretty easy, and his commute to work involves a few steps to the car and a few steps from the car to his studio. “I guess things will start to dry up a little at some point soon in the industry but for now I haven’t really been affected.” Overall I’m really very impressed by the measures that these members of our industry have taken. The larger commercial studios issuing comprehensive guidelines and rules and the smaller more private studios resolving issues sensible and effectively. Perhaps over the past 15 years or so we have shifted to a production model that was always going to hit the ground running. It is rare for a client to have no access to home recording gear or to have zero knowledge of how to work remotely. I myself have spent much of my career working with artists and labels across the globe, more often than not in a remote capacity, and the options offered by studio streaming plug-ins are becoming more and more seamless. It seems that making records safely and effectively is possible in the COVID era and we are doing a pretty good job of it.


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Resolution V19.6 Winter 2020  

Audio for broadcast, post, recording and media production. If you are involved in recording, postproduction, broadcast, mastering or multime...

Resolution V19.6 Winter 2020  

Audio for broadcast, post, recording and media production. If you are involved in recording, postproduction, broadcast, mastering or multime...