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AUDIO FOR POST, BROADCAST, RECORDING AND MULTIMEDIA PRODUCTION

V5.6 SEPTEMBER 2006

Willi Zürrer — TV sound to go Ray Gillon’s film world The audio business opportunity in games Planning on a storage topology with SAN Meet your maker: John Stadius — Soundtracs/DiGiCo Ten console stepping stones REVIEWS: Calrec Sigma Bluefin • Merging Pyramix 5 / Isis • Neve 8816 Fostex CD500 • Holophone H2 Pro • RME ADI-6432 • Marantz PMD570


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September 2006 V5.6

ISSN 1477-4216 THE PRO END-USER AUDIO PRODUCTION MAGAZINE

News & Analysis 4

Leader

4

News

16

Products

Sales, contracts, appointments, biz bites and the bigger picture.

74

Headroom

Nimrod Productions

51

Willi Zurrer

58

Ray Gillon

62

New introductions and announcements.

Battery life; consoles of note; and is AM the new hi-fi?

Craft 14

44

48

Recording orchestras and recreating the sounds of the 1970s in a facility where it’s Game On rather than Game Over. Covering all the angles with a man who spends most of his days in a truck behind a Stagetec console working on sport and music for TV. Movie man on the state of the film industry, archival, equipment choices and the economics of D-Cinema.

71

Sweet Spot

EnergyPro’s ‘clean sheet’ was an advantage in developing a new high-end reference monitor in an industry that has plenty.

Meet your maker

John Stadius — The man behind the technology at Soundtracs and DiGiCo talks fixed point, floating point, and onebox solutions.

Katz’s column

Bob tells the story of an album he’s just mastered that used (and abused) some of the techniques he described last issue.

Ten

Console stepping stones.

Business 54

Game for business

Next generation games consoles and new game genres make music and audio a rich seam of opportunity for the young and adventurous at heart.

72

Your business

Digital is about to do to the live concert industry what it did to the recorded music business — change its world forever.

Technology 64

Storage Area Networking

Planning on a storage topology to meet current and future needs requires a review of your storage requirements. We look at the options and the differences.

68

Slaying Dragons

Audio equipment is often based on inventions covered by patents, yet the issues surrounding patents are widely misunderstood.

Reviews 22 24 28 30 32

Calrec Sigma Bluefin Merging Pyramix 5/Isis Holophone H2 Pro RME ADI-6432 Fostex CD500

EDITORIAL Editorial Director: Zenon Schoepe Tel: +44 1444 410675 Email: zen@resolutionmag.com Editorial office: PO Box 531, Haywards Heath RH16 4WD, UK Contributors: Rob James, George Shilling, Keith Spencer-Allen, Terry Nelson, Jon Thornton, Neil Hillman, Nigel Jopson, Andy Day, Dan Daley, John Watkinson

34 36 38 40 42

Prism Sound ADA-8XR Milab DC196 Marantz PMD570 TL Drum Rehab Neve 8816

ADVERTISEMENT SALES European Sales Clare Sturzaker Tel: +44 1342 717459 Email: clare@resolutionmag.com US Sales Jeff Turner Tel: +1 415 455 8301 Email: jeff@resolutionmag.com

PRODUCTION AND LAYOUT Dean Cook Dean Cook Productions Tel: +44 1273 467579 Email: dean@resolutionmag.com


news Appointments STUDIO DESIGN s p e c i a l i s t s M u n ro Acoustics has collaborated with I n d i a n p ro a u d i o distributor Pace to form Munro Acoustics India. The company has been formed to manage the increasing number of audio installation projects awarded to Munro Acoustics in the country. Pace has offices in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai and is a distributor for Yamaha, SSL and Dynaudio, among others. Munro has also appointed a new right-hand man in India, project manager Kapil Thirwani (pictured). CHARTEROAK ACOUSTIC Devices has appointed Soundware Denmark, Soundware Norway, and ASAP as distributors in Norway, Denmark, UK and Ireland. E L E C T R I C A L ENGINEER Dave Cerra has joined Sound Devices from Shure where he was most recently manager of audio engineering.

DPA MICROPHONES has awarded Barcelona-based Seesound with its Distributor of the Year award.

Leader

I’m not one of those sorts that can have a radio, stereo or TV on all the time. Too me they are not a backdrop that I can write or talk against comfortably as eventually they will intrude and distract me and I think I’m getting more intolerant. I should qualify that by saying perhaps I am getting more intolerant of certain types of audio backdrop. I can have a CD playing and by very careful balancing can achieve a level that doesn’t demand too much of me and serves only as raiser of the noise floor. But that doesn’t apply to every CD; I have to choose them carefully. A good many years ago a leading audio designer explained to me how he appraised his own circuits over an extended period of days and sometimes weeks. He passed FM radio and CDs through his newly designed processing and piped them out through some very innocuous speakers into his work area at a very low level. So low, in fact, that he had to actually stop what he was doing and actively listen to the news or a particular track to make it out clearly. He said that the true value of the exercise was not in the active listening, it was how obtrusive the signal was when in background mode. He found that when it was catching his ear then there was something not quite right about his circuits and he would revise them until he was happy. It’s an appraisal process I took on board and have applied ever since. I can’t ever turn DAB, Internet radio, any MP3 and its derivatives, certain CD ‘remasters’ and a whole catalogue of modern releases down anywhere near enough to achieve this desired audio equilibrium. They shout at me, they tug at my sleeve, they demand my attention and they offend my ears. Turning them off is all I can do if I want to concentrate on something else. Yet these are the modern audio delivery methods that a generation is growing up with and tuning its ears to and while we’ve drawn attention to it in these pages on numerous occasions, I’ve got to concede that as an industry we have a problem. A big problem; we’re tragically over-geared for the speed limits and the potential is just not being realised. Given that compression is here to stay, then as an industry we should be more involved and consulted in the creation of the algorithms that process the audio and more sensitive and aware of what can happen to our pristine audio when it hits them. Wouldn’t it be a small moral victory if an Audio Industry-approved means of compression could be established and adopted widely that would make the most of a rum delivery medium? That would be a genuine result. Zenon Schoepe

Lansdowne studios set to close

PRESONUS HAS appointed Paul Hugo as executive vice president. Most recently he managed the worldwide support network for Sennheiser and Neumann, which included work with major live, studio and broadcast users.

©2006 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 Publishers. Great care is taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this publication, but neither

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Lansdowne Recording Studios is to close its facilities in West London’s Holland Park in mid September. Lansdowne will continue to trade as CTS/Lansdowne Studios, based at the Watford Colosseum, which incorporates sister company CTS Studios’ orchestral scoring facility. Lansdowne Studio 1 and its ground floor reception area Flat 1 -– the home of the studios for 48 years — have been sold for redevelopment as a residential property. The standalone composer/ programming Studio 2 in another part of the building is being retained for long-term use/rent and will maintain an office with the

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 Publishers.

same telephone numbers. The announcement coincides with the retirement of company chairman Adrian Kerridge after 51 years of involvement in the recording industry. He will continue to work as a consultant in the industry and retain a key role in the operation of the Watford Colosseum. Lansdowne’s studio manager and director, Chris Dibble, plans to pursue his freelance career in orchestral recording while maintaining links with CTS/ Lansdowne. A consultation process has commenced for redundancies.

S2 Publications Ltd. Registered in England and Wales. Company number: 4375084. Registered office: Equity House, 128-136 High Street, Edgware, Middlesex HA8 7TT.

resolution

Avid acquires Sibelius Avid Technology has acquired Sibelius Software for approximately US$23 million in cash. London-based Sibelius is a music applications software company with products for professionals, educators, and students. As a business unit of Avid’s audio division Digidesign, Sibelius will continue to develop and market its own line of software but customers can expect to see exclusive and targeted product offerings that combine Sibelius software, Pro Tools Academic software, and M-Audio keyboards, microphones, and other audio peripherals. ‘In the short term, this acquisition will allow Sibelius and Digidesign to combine the strengths of their respective sales and education channels and reach a wider audience with offerings that cover the entire spectrum of computer-based music creation — including composing, notating, arranging, recording, editing, mixing and finishing, publishing, and distribution,’ said David Krall, president and CEO of Avid Technology. ‘Over time, our Pinnacle Consumer and Avid Video divisions will also benefit from Sibelius’ channel expertise, as we explore new ways to expand distribution of any educational product developed by Avid Technology or one of its companies.’

SSL buys Sydec Solid State Logic has bought Sydec Audio Engineering NV, developers of the Soundscape range of workstation products. The Soundscape team brings significant PC platform development experience to SSL. The combination of these skills with SSL’s digital and analogue expertise will, says the company, allow the development of new tools for existing and new applications. The relationship also opens new commercial channels and allows a broader range of SSL and Soundscape products to be distributed around the world. ‘It’s amazing to have access to the full range of resources of a great company like SSL,’ said Sydec general manager Erik Wijnen. ‘This will allow us to work with the SSL team to focus on new ideas for products and expand the team here at Sint-Niklaas in Belgium. I feel sure SSL will enhance our productivity through its great brand, market understanding and presence.’ ‘This is an excellent fit for SSL and supports our concept of providing quality tools for the DAW environment,’ added SSL MD Antony David. ‘We’re committed to working with a range of companies to improve and democratise the creative process and this gives us a great opportunity to accelerate our involvement.’

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September 2006


news Senneheiser made LIPA Companion

Live Here Now with Pyramix

Appointments SENNHEISER UK has announced a tie-up with Jumbo Electronics, the leader in the consumer electronics and retail sector in the UAE, to distribute its range of headphones across the Middle East.

P a u l M c C a r t n e y w i t h f o u r L I PA Companions (l-r): David Stark; Sennheiser; Lynda Bellingham; and Sir Ken Robinson. The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) has awarded Prof Dr Jorg Sennheiser the title of Companion in recognition of his standing in the field of sound engineering and of his long lasting support for the Institute. ‘We were fascinated right from the start by the idea of an institute that trains young artists and their technical counterparts under one roof,’ explained Senneheiser. ‘And we have supported that idea ever since the foundation of LIPA by giving lectures and providing scholarships for students studying for the Sound Technology BA Degree. Sennheiser also presents Student Achievement Awards every year in recognition of special personal achievements by students. And, of course, the students are able to work with the latest Sennheiser and Neumann products.’ Further LIPA awards in 2006 went to Lynda Bellingham (actress), Sir Ken Robinson (educationist), Terence Stamp (film actor), and David Stark (founder and editor of creative resource Song Link).

Danmon Systems acquires ATG Broadcast UK-based system integrator ATG Broadcast Ltd has been acquired by Scandinavian broadcast systems specialist Danmon Systems A/S. Danmon Systems is a supplier of consultancy, solutions and services to the broadcast, postproduction, professional audio, multimedia and audiovisual sectors and is a division of Copenhagen-based Dan Technologies A/S. ATG Broadcast will continue to operate under its current name from its headquarters in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. Graham Buchanan and Alan Pimm continue as MD and sales director respectively. Neil Reed will become MD of Custom Consoles Ltd which is not included in the acquisition and will now operate as a completely separate independent company.

Live Here Now engineers Marc Rowntree and Dave Loudoun. Live Here Now offers concert-goers the opportunity to buy CDs or downloads of live shows and have them delivered within 28 days of the original concert. Two Merging Technologies Pyramix systems, supplied by Total Audio Solutions, are at the heart of the operation. Assisting the Live Here Now team is veteran UK live recording and mixing engineer Will Shapland. ‘We needed something that could handle a 56-channel MADI feed from the front-of-house desk. Pro Tools doesn’t offer MADI interfacing as standard, and Pyramix does,’ said Will. ‘Also, in my experience, Pyramix has proved to be the most reliable of the DAWs I’ve used live over the past six years. In terms of budget and practicalities, it was my first choice.’ On Depeche Mode’s recent world tour, the recording team took a multichannel MADI feed from the FOH desk and supplemented it with eight channels of their own audience mics. The audio was recorded to 64 tracks on the custom twin-Pyramix system so it could be mixed after the concert. The four-flightcase system contains the Pyramixes, hard drives and mics but also contains a Drawmer central Word clock, RME MADI interfacing, and a Sony SIU-100 interface and remote box with mic preamps and A-D convertors plus monitoring.

All Mozart in 5.1 on Sequoia For the first time ever, all 22 stage works of Mozart are being performed at one festival and being recorded and mixed for 5.1. As many as ten Magix Sequoia systems for multitrack recording are being used simultaneously at the Salzburg Festival. The editing and mastering is being carried out by a team of 24 also using Sequoia. The producer is Bernhard Fleischer of Moving Images and the coproducers are ORF, ARD, 3Sat, Unitel, Deutsche Grammophon, and Decca. ‘The advantage of this software solution, especially with large live projects like this

one, is that the hardware demands are minimal,’ said Peter Hecker, sound engineer at the Salzburg Festival. ‘The p r o g r a m a r r a n g e s c o m p l e x tasks directly from your PC without the need for any special DSP. The functionality of Sequoia lets you edit the entire project up until the finished master without any additional plug-ins.’ The edited material is scheduled to be played on radio stations and in several live television broadcasts and a selection of the complete programme will be available on CD and DVD by the end of the year.

HHB COMMUNICATIONS has been appointed UK distributor for Event Electronics following the acquisition of the US-based monitor loudspeaker manufacturer by Røde Microphones, for whom HHB has operated as UK distributor for 10 years. HHB has also been appointed UK distributor for PreSonus products. SSL IN New York has hired Arnold Scher as product manager to lead the introduction of the new MediaWAN platform. He served as installation manager/lead site engineer in the N e t w o r k e d S o l u t i o n s G ro u p o f Avid/Pinnacle Systems following its acquisition of Montage Group where he served as installation manager. D A Y A N G I N T E R N AT I O N A L has appointed Mark Parlett as general manager based in Hong Kong and re p o r t i n g d i re c t l y to chairman/CEO Karlton Burn. He has worked for Quantel and Snell & Wilcox. Beijing-based Dayang Technology has relocated the engineering headquarters of Dayang International from Hong Kong to Singapore. Three new staff additions to the Singapore office have been appointed. Corine Yew joins as corporate manager, Ken McCarey as regional sales manager, Australasia and India, and Sunny Lee joins as technical support specialist.

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September 2006

resolution

5


news Danish jazz for DPA

Appointments BEYERDYNAMIC IS expanding its in-house representatives for Europe, Asia, Middle East, and other areas across the globe and Michael Kinzel has joined as marketing and sales manager, Asia/Pacific. He joins from Kling & Freitag where he was CEO and director of international sales. Beyerdynamic have been appointed distributor for Dynacord products in the UK.

The first Studer Vista 5 has been installed in The Hardmobile OB van in Winterthur, Switzerland, underlining its ability to handle a large number of channels in a very small space — a Ford Transit van. The 48-track van is used for mobile recordings and live broadcasts all around the country.

Livingstone booking for Pinna Flyline Andreas Michel (right) and Crowley and Tripp’s Chris Regan. FLYLINE MUSIC of Switzerland and Long & McQuade of Canada have been appointed retailers for Crowley and Tripp Microphones.

Goldstein mixes Beyoncé on his JBLs

CLAUDE HILL has joined Harrison as director of sales for domestic and international markets. He was a key member of the Harrison’s R&D and sales team during the 1970s and 80s.

Livingston studios is now taking bookings for Pinna Studios, based within The Fortress complex near Old Street in London’s N1. As its third and ‘sister’ studio — Livingston already has Studio 1 with its SSL and large live room and Studio 2 with its Amek Rembrandt — Pinna Productions aims to fill the gap between home and highend studio bookings as a more affordable

option for young labels and self-funded artists. Pinna Productions was set up by chief engineers Kev Feazey and Sonny. The studio is equipped with a Soundcraft Ghost Desk and Pro Tools 7.1 HD and has a big selection of outboard, plug-ins and synths. Pinna also has a large naturally lit live room with a full range of backline.

Aurus breaks own sales record

Community UK MD Stuart Thomson GLASGOW-BASED Community UK has been appointed UK distributor for Digigram’s range of networking products. In addition to the core products from Community Professional Loudspeakers, the company is also UK distributor for KIND amplifiers from Italy.

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DPA Microphones continued its sponsorship of the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival this summer, working as acoustic consultants a n d p ro v i d i n g technical support throughout the f e s t i v a l . D PA a l s o p ro v i d e d 3521 compact stereo miking kits, 4011 cardioids, 4021 compact cardioids, 4015 wide cardioids, 4007 high SPL mics and a selection of mounting accessories. The primary sites that DPA worked on were the new Copenhagen Opera House and the Glassalen 1,000-seat glass concert hall in the Tivoli Gardens. DPA’s Mikkel Nymand (pictured) mounted 3521 stereo kits, consisting of matched 4021 compact cardioids, in the grand piano of each venue. ‘This kit offers some of the best mounting accessories for a grand piano on stage,’ he said. ‘The 4021s in goosenecks on magnet mounts can be placed all around the piano frame, making it easy to find the most natural sounding spot in each specific piano.’

With a total of 44 orders in the first five months of 2006, Stagetec’s Aurus broke its own record set in 2003 when more than 30 consoles were shipped within one year. Total orders since 2003 add up to more than 100 systems with more than 75 consoles already shipped. This year’s orders include one of Stagetec’s largest single orders, placed by Spanish commercial TV broadcaster Antenna 3. The Madrid-based broadcasting house will take delivery of nine Auruses ranging from 56-

fader and 48-faders models to smaller 16fader units to be supplied over the next 30 months. The BBC has selected two consoles for the newly built and HDTV-enabled Glasgow Centre. A 48-fader Aurus will play a key role in the news delivery operation of French public TV broadcaster France 2. HDTV OB’s are represented by Swiss TV Productioncenter Zürich, Berlin-based TopVision and Italian Euroscena — all of which have equipped vehicles with Aurus and Nexus audio routing systems.

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Emerging Hip Hop, Pop and R&B mixer Jason Goldstein takes his JBL LSR6300 Series monitors to every session in a special road case. ‘With the LSR Series, what you hear is exactly what you get,’ he said from New York City’s Sony Music Studios where he completed the mix on the new Beyoncé album B-Day. ‘These speakers enable me to work with absolute confidence that the record will sound precisely the same to the market as what I heard when I mixed it.’ Goldstein career began in LA at Ocean Way and moved to New York where he hooked up with The Track Masters production duo Tone and Poke after meeting them at Right Track. He started by tracking beats for them and was working on tracking vocals when an opportunity arose to mix a project at Village Recorder in LA, which is where he first encountered LSR Series monitors.

September 2006


news Appointments

AVIOM HAS formed a Broadcast and Commercial Sales Group, which will be led by Gary Lee and Mark Meding (pictured) who joined Aviom after serving as the company’s New Yorkarea rep. Aviom has appointed Jeffrey Lim as director of international sales for Asia. His work experience includes roles at JBL Professional, Denon Electronics and Ste inberg Med ia Technologies. Aviom has appointed Craig Sibley as a product specialist. He was previously outside sales manager for Aviom’s West Coast rep company Audio Geer. Jonathan Parker has joined as regional sales manager for Southeast US. SIA ACOUSTICS has appointed Courtney Spencer as director of marketing. He was VP/GM of Sony’s pro audio division from 1990 to 2001, COO of Dale Pro Audio and most recently a partner in a startup web-based acoustical products and consulting company. TRANTEC HAS appointed Jamie Nadin as professional sales engineer. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the broadcast and entertainment industries. THAT CORPORATION has appointed Betsy Muniz as customer service representative. She previously worked for QSC as sales operations manager. ACOUSTI PRO’S range of acoustic treatment and soundproofing products is now distributed in the UK by Sonic 8.

8

Atlantic FM riding on Sonifex S2

Westcountry Broadcast has completed the refit of the radio studios of Atlantic FM, the new licence holders for Cornwall, UK, and built two identical studios based around Sonifex S2 30-channel mixers. Westcountry also linked the playout system to the on-air routing system in a unique way. ‘The playout system was RCS Master Control 15, run with RCS Selector,’ said Westcountry Broadcast’s Nick Beer. ‘With RCS we ensured integrated control of the routing system from the software. RCS previously worked predominantly with another console and used the remote channel switching to switch in IRN during automated periods. We designed an alternative and more elegant solution using a Sonifex RB-SS10 GPI controlled mixer/ switcher that provides a pre-mix prior to the automation input of the Sonifex Station Master, which is the main station router. This means that both studios are offline and available for production, training or maintenance during automated periods.’ All distribution and amplification was by Sonifex, telephone call handling uses a Broadcast Bionics Phonebox 2 system and a Sonifex telephone balance unit is used in the news editing and production area.

Vmma takes on a second C100

(Sitting l-r) sound engineers Frank Santermans and Johan Werbrouck; (standing) Ivan Mangelschots (support engineer) and Wolters. Belgium broadcaster Vmma (Vlaamse Media Maatschappij) has bought a second SSL C100 one year after installing its first. The second 40 + 8 fader desk will be located in Vmma’s News studio, which is currently being completely refurbished, and will be equipped with 96 analogue and 192 digital I-Os with 24 mic inputs. ‘Our C100 is in daily operation in our Production control room, which is shared by two television studios,’ explained Vmma unit manager — radio, Chris Wolters. ‘Over the past year it has fully proven its quality and reliability. The flexibility, ease of operation, reliability and uncluttered logical desk layout has made it a big success with our engineers. We found the learning curve amazingly easy, even for first time operators.’

In the US, musician and producer Barry Gibb has purchased an AWS 900 from GC Pro in Miami for his personal studio. Last year, Gibb and engineer/producer John Merchant rented an AWS 900 to record Barbra Streisand’s vocal overdubs for her Guilty Pleasures album at the artist’s Southern California home. The same AWS 900 was also used on the mix. ‘After the experience of working on Barbra’s record,’ explained Merchant, ‘where we took the exact console that we used in Malibu and flew it to Miami to mix, we thought it would be cool to have the capacity to drop the AWS 900+ in a flight case and, within 24 hours, have it anywhere we want it. ‘It’s just the perfect project studio board,’ he said.

resolution

Peppers rock with API

Andrew Scheps used an arsenal of API modules to bring out the best in the analogue tape recordings in his mix of half of the Red Hot Chili Peppers double album Stadium Arcadium. Scheps, whose credits include Johnny Cash, Alien Ant Farm, Pedestrian and Audioslave, spent the last year engineering the Red Hot Chili Peppers tracking sessions with Ryan Hewitt, who mixed the other half of the album. Key to Scheps’ sound is API’s classic 2520 op amp, which is at the heart of the 525 compressor, 550A discrete 3band EQ and 560 graphic EQ modules that he uses. ’The 525s were my main compressors for all of the main electric guitars, on pretty much every single song that I mixed,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if it’s really specific to John Frusciante’s guitar tones, but they worked every single time to really bring out the guitars without making them sound compressed. ‘Generally there would be one or two main guitars for the track and then the rest would really be smaller overdub parts that would combine to make something bigger than everything else,’ he added. ‘John is so meticulous during tracking that it was more a question of how can I mix these without changing the sound so that it’ll work better in the bigger context. The 525s were just brilliant for that. It doesn’t sound processed or compressed or EQed too much.’ Scheps employed a graphic rather than a parametric equaliser, preferring the precision of the API 560. ‘If I really need to get rid of a particular frequency that happens to fall where the 560 has a band, I’ll crank that one down quite a bit and boost the two around it, which will tighten up the Q on the one that you’re cutting. You can really do some great surgical stuff without using a parametric, which will tend to ring more.’ • The recording studio within the Duderstadt Center at the University of Michigan is installing a 40-channel API Vision surround mixing and recording console. Marking its 10th anniversary, the Duderstadt Center studio makeover is part of an overall renovation effort at the educational facility, which also offers an electronic music studio, digital media tools lab, video studio, and multimedia workrooms.

September 2006


news The Big Picture

Cavò’s ‘natural’ ASP8024 choice

BIZ BITES — In a shock move, the European Court of First Instance has annulled an earlier European Commission decision approving the Sony-BMG merger, writes Nigel Jopson. The EC authorisation was issued in July 2004, it is completely unclear how this development will play out. EMI and Warner shares dropped, as the decision cools EMI’s acquisition of WMG. The EC has until September to appeal, be prepared for executive tensions at Sony-BMG to increase. In a move that may threaten traditional distribution channels, Apple announced a partnership with Columbia to offer exclusive access to pre-sale concert tickets, bundled with the digital version of Bob Dylan’s upcoming Modern Chief sound engineer and co-owner Paolo Filippi of Cavò Studio in Bergamo, Italy opted for an Audient’s ASP8024 console when it came to upgrade his room. ‘We chose a 48-channel desk with external patchbay; it is an analogue console that meets the requirements of digital recording,’ he said. ‘We mainly record jazz, new jazz and lounge music, so it goes without saying that “natural” sound is the building block of our productions. Accurate, ambient sound design calls for a high quality console. With the unbelievable signal to noise ratio and wonderfully clean sound, we couldn’t have chosen better than this excellent console.’ Times album. Labels have eyed concert takings of franchise-level artists such as U2 and Robbie Williams with increasing envy, this gives a clue as to where Apple or other digital aggregators could take them. The ‘dirty secret’ of big-brand artists like Madonna is that they actually make more cash from touring than from recent albums, the iTunes Dylan bundle also includes five videos. Confounding the utterances of nay-sayers, iPod sales remained robust, climbing 34% compared to last year. Meanwhile, in a coup of reality-distorting dimensions (see Resolution V5.5 business), Steve Jobs signed a deal with Ford, GM and Mazda to feature iPod integration in

most of its 2007 models cars — that’s 70% of the USA’s new vehicles.

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South-West German broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR) is renovating the control room of its Concert Hall Studio in Stuttgart, and replacing its analogue console with a 56-fader and 192 DSP channel Lawo mc266. The modernisation of the radio house in Saarbrücken of Saarländische Rundfunk (SR) was completed in June through main contractor BFE Studio und Medien Systeme, and included all four channels of SR: SR1 – SR3 and the youth channel Unser Ding. All three programmes are equipped with identical Lawo diamond desks linked with a central matrix via a Lawo Nova73. In the US, for the extension of Fox News’ radio and TV network, Lawo has installed a Nova73 HD router, a Dallis frame and nine VisTool editor workstations for monitoring studio outputs, the console’s broadcast feeds and outgoing satellite channels. An existing self-op console was re-confi gured as a broadcast console. The contract follows on from the installation last year at Fox News Channel in New York of one self-op z4, three self-op zirkon consoles and one zirkonXL for use as a master control desk.

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Empire refurbishment completed

When the newly formed Empire Cinemas group took over the Empire cinema in London’s Leicester Square in late 2005 it embarked on a technical refurbishment programme. The completed installation, a custom-built system assembled with the help of the Harman Group and Londonbased cinema installation specialists Bell Theatre Services, is networked with CobraNet technology and managed using Harman’s HiQNet. The refurbishment involved enlarging the projection screen to 18.2m x 7.68m, reconstructing and acoustically treating the space behind the screen and rebuilding the THX baffle wall, and completely revamping the cinema’s sound system. The completed setup has a Dolby CP650 digital processor, five newly THX-certified 96kHz-capable dbx 4800 DriveRack processors to manage the loudspeaker channels and handle delay compensation in the auditorium, and the Crown power amplifiers: 13 CTs 3000s, six CTs 8200s, and five CTs 2000s. The amps drive the complement of 16 JBL 4645C 18-inch subwoofers and 42 JBL 8340A surround speakers (each of which has a dedicated amp channel), as well as the five JBL Custom ScreenArray 5632 full-range, 4-way speakers. The reopened Empire now has a combined sound output of 56kW compared to its former 13kW and has regained THX certification.

‘We’ve always used JBL speakers,’ said Max Bell, MD of Bell Theatre Services. ‘For me, they’re the best on the market — and JBL are still the only speaker company that has a proper research division, which means their products are always improving. We’ve always had a close relationship with Crown International too — we specify a lot of JBL/Crown systems.’

September 2006


news The Big Picture

Nokia acquired Loudeye, a provider of branded digital music stores, for US$60 million. Loudeye operates 60 services, including Coca-Cola, MSN, MTV, Tiscali, and those run by OD2, in over 20 countries. Loudeye aggregates rights and content from all the major labels and hundreds of independents and currently offers licensed media for over 1.6 million songs. Nokia has had several power struggles in the past, with labels and network operators, concerning access to digital content. Nokia sold 15 million music-capable handsets in the second quarter of this year, this development shows (as with Apple) that there is a significant advantage to being the manufacturer of popular consumer music hardware, and a dramatic synergy between hardware and content sales. Considering the licensing arrangements Loudeye has in place, the deal looks good value to me. Napster will possibly be next in line to be acquired by a larger consumerfacing corporation.

The Redmond giant finally gets with the music: M i c r o s o f t ’s tediously-oft-rumoured entry to the digital music market is confirmed. Music, video and pictures will be featured in a hardware device called Zune — similar to the 30Gb Apple iPod. A defining feature will be its limited sharing of music files (10 players only) using streaming content over WiFi. The global launch will begin next year, apparently starting with the UK and Canada.

SHOWTIME IBC, Amsterdam .......................8-12 September PLASA, London ......................10-13 September AES, San Francisco ........................ 6-8 October SATIS, Paris .................................... 7-9 October Broadcast India, Mumbai............ 26-28 October SBES, Birmingham .................. 15-16 November Interbee, Tokyo....................... 15-17 November Tonmeistertagung, Leipzig ..... 16-19 November CES, Las Vegas ..................... 8-11 January 2007 NAMM, Anaheim......................... 18-21 January Integrated Systems Europe, Amsterdam ................................. 23-25 January CabSat, Dubai ....................................6-8 March

12

GL4800 trucks to school

The Digital Creativity Truck is an audio/visual mobile studio that aims to bring all the features of a professional recording studio to schools and colleges throughout Ireland. The Truck’s gear includes a Nexo PS15/LS1200 system, an extensive list of outboard and a 48-channel Allen & Heath GL4800 multipurpose console, all provided by distributor Rea Sound. ‘When it came down to deciding which console to install, the GL4800 won The Truck crew over with its versatility, and most importantly — given that it is being used for educational purposes — the ease of use for such a professional desk,’ said Michael Glackin of Rea Sound.

Swiss double for OnAir

Radio BE1 in Bern, Switzerland, purchased the first two Studer OnAir 2000 consoles in 1997 and as part of an upgrade it has ordered another three. Serving a mainly musicbased format to a regional audience, BE1 produces all its own programming and has an on-air studio, an off-air studio and a preproduction studio, each of which is now equipped with an OnAir 2000. Swiss Broadcasting Corporation’s Mediabundeshaus, which reports exclusively on the activities of the country’s Parliament, has installed six OnAir 3000s consoles for a new facility opened adjacent to the Parliament building in Bern.

D A V I D DigaSystem production s y s t e m s a re available on each journalist’s desk, there’s a tapeless server and Studer Route 1000 System alongside the OnAir 3000s in the six radio studios. ‘In the newsroom, our journalists are working in five different languages to supply programme material to Schweizer Radio DRS, Radio Suisse Romande, Radio Svizzera di Lingua Italiana, Radio Rumantsch, and Swiss Radio International,’ explained Joachim Rüede (pictured), director of the Bundeshaus Produktionszentrum. ‘The journalist uses a workstation to gain access to the editorial system of the Corporation, which is centrally held, but archived according to the region. When the journalist starts using any Studer OnAir 3000, the completely transparent system is able to take the user’s password and log them directly into his or her own region, using Swiss, German, Italian or the appropriate language. This means that each of our audio consoles is interchangeable, giving us complete flexibility. If we hadn’t worked this way, we would have needed more equipment, certainly five or six round-table studios instead of the three that we have.’

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Fleetwood Mobiles opens post facility

Fleetwood’s Dyckhoff and Tim Summerhayes. Fleetwood Mobiles has opened a postproduction facility at its headquarters in Denham, Middlesex, enabling it to offer a full service to its clients that incorporates live sound recording, mixing, mastering, sound to picture dubbing and DVD encoding. ‘The new studio is able to offer Dolby Digital and DTS encoding, so we can provide everything a client might need,’ said Fleetwood’s MD Ian Dyckhoff. ‘We decided to open a permanent facility because it compliments the work of our three mobile recording trucks. Until now we have been tackling postproduction projects on-board the trucks, but this space is a much better proposition — far more comfortable and fully dedicated to the task in hand.’ The studio is equipped with a 104-channel Euphonix CS3000 and has 5.1 monitoring using ATC and PMC. It also has a 72-track Pro Tools HD, a Sony HD projector and large projection screen. Fleetwood Mobiles recently bought two iZ Radar V recorders through UK distributor Stirling Trading. With 48-tracks, Fleetwood engineers can record concerts while creating a duplicate back-up at the same time. ‘One of the main reasons why we chose Radar V is its compatibility with Pro Tools and Pyramix,’ added Dyckhoff. ‘Having said that, we’re at the sharp end of the recording business where the reliability of any recording system we use is an absolutely imperative.’

Beacon Studios directors Gerard Gogan and Storey. Dublin-based postproduction outfit Beacon Studios has bought a batch of Enhanced Audio M600 universal microphone mounts for use on voiceovers. ‘It was with a bit of good old Irish scepticism that we invited David Browne from Enhanced Audio to demo the M600,’ said Beacon Studios director Noel Storey. ‘The first thing that impressed me about the M600 was the look of it — retro, but very functional, and as I opened the mic channel and heard the result, a result that really needs to be heard to be believed, that good old Irish scepticism faded away...I bought six of them.’

September 2006


facility

Nimrod Productions Nimrod Productions is recording orchestras and recreating the sounds of the 1970s in the Oxfordshire countryside in a facility where it’s Game On rather than Game Over.

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ITH OVER 50 MILLION game sales to their credit over six years, Marc Canham and Rich Aitken have built Nimrod Productions into the UK’s definitive outsourcing company for delivering turnkey music solutions to games publishers. They are now in a position to offer corporations like Atari and Sony a menu of services ranging from original orchestral composition, recreation of tracks from different musical eras, a bespoke orchestra — the ‘NSO’ — for recording, as well as song licensing and legal resources. Nimrod’s founders got seriously involved with video games in 1998, when the offer came to produce a (subsequently BAFTA-nominated) soundtrack for the game Driver 2. It was an opportune stage in the evolution of the games console to become involved, as the hideous soundchip-synths were read their last rites and sample playback engines took a giant leap forward. An entire generation of adolescent level-champions had grown up, and for the first time publishers were seriously marketing games for young adults rather than teens. ‘I think a microphone was like a foreign object to the video games world at the time,’ Marc Canham explains, ‘of course we use technology, but not purely inside a computer. So the music on Driver 2 stood out as being rootsy, 14

NIGEL JOPSON authentically recorded music rather than a plinkyplonky computer game.’ The adventures of the Wheelman as portrayed by Reflections Interactive went on to sell over 4.7 million copies. Canham and Aitken had previous careers as musicians and producers with indie-label bands, and Marc admits, ‘We were fortunate enough to start with a full-on Pro Tools rig, lots of decent outboard and loads of musical instruments.’ Richard continues: ‘There’s plenty of good composers, and lot’s of good studios. We made a decision — quite a brave decision — to stop recording bands about eight years ago. Staying focused is the key to success, when you deviate from the track you dilute what you are doing: we aren’t gurus of anything — far from it — but we have stuck at what we do best. I run the recording side of the business. Marc is our composer in residence and alongside Ed Scroggie manages the licensing side of things. We are not a company that subcontracts sections of a project — we have always started a new part of the organisation to handle specialist parts of a job. So far we’ve been savvy enough to only start, and keep promoting, specialist areas that are helping us to stay alive and make money. But we are not a recording studio ... we just need a recording studio!’ The rural building at the centre of Nimrod’s facility resolution

is divided into a main recording area downstairs, with the control room above on the first floor. An adjoining extension houses offices, an editing room equipped with a Soundcraft 6000 plus a small overdub booth, and a composition suite for Marc to work in with a Mackie 1604 and Adam P11a monitors. The main control room upstairs has equipment arranged in a U shape, with the workstation keyboard, screens and a Mackie HUI in the centre, facing a pair of Earthworks Sigma 6.2 monitors. For the new generation of games consoles, much of the audio is delivered as stems to be played back dynamically by the audio part of the ‘game engine’. Careful mastering is required to ensure smooth, distortion-free combinations during gaming. To this end there’s a Manley Massive Passive EQ and a Cranesong STC8 compressor, installed in racks to the right of the listening position along with a couple of Distressors and other goodies. In pride of place on the left is a venerable Neve 24-channel 51 series mixer. Richard had been looking for a vintage Neve for some time, but was somewhat deterred from purchasing a member of the classic 80 series owing to the weight, operating temperature and, not least, by the price now being asked for complete mixers of this generation. A big selling point for the Neve that Nimrod eventually acquired was that it had already had the arduous restoration job of re-capping and switch contact replacement done. ‘If you want a track to sound like it was recorded in the 70s, the best way is to mic up like the 70s, play like the 70s and record through a Neve,’ asserts Richard. ‘You have to go through the authentic process, it’s no good sitting there with Pro Tools copying and pasting, if you’re doing a 70s project you damn well play it again if you get it wrong!’ Following this funky theme, there is a huge wooden box housing a classic EMT 140 echo plate (the model with manual reverb-time wheel) acting as a divider in the recording room downstairs, which itself has an era-appropriate cave-like feel to it. Nimrod has made something of a name for itself re-creating the organic and funky flavours of the 70s. ‘It’s very cool,’ Marc admits, ‘because you are writing in the style of people whose music you really admire.’ And sometimes the timescale is just as tight as in the early days of music recording. A recent project for Eidos, a game adaptation of the critically acclaimed Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs, had the team working flat out: ‘We had 40 minutes of 1970’s style music to record,’ explains Canham, ‘we had to write, record, get the singers in and clear contracts for all the independent musicians. We hadn’t actually worked for that client before. In the end they really appreciated the quality of the final delivery and the time in which we completed it. The games industry doesn’t have much room for big egos, you always have to be willing to meet clients half way.’ Nimrod has more strings to its bow than a dry drum sound and a funky backbeat, it’s also established a reputation for impressive orchestral soundtracks on games such as the best-selling Getaway2:Black Monday, Act of War, and earlier this year, the music for Sony’s 24:The Game — based on the Sky hit series starring Kiefer Sutherland — and also the score for TOCA’s Race Driver 3. ‘A big stepping stone for us was when we set up the orchestra as well,’ confirms Marc. ‘There was an idea in our heads about forming an orchestra. We had heard, time and time again, horror stories about people going to Eastern Europe and using cheaper orchestras. That’s when we brought on board our orchestral director Dr Jonathan Williams. He lent a massive amount of credibility to the organisation. It’s taken quite a while to set up and get comfortable, and to form relationships September 2006


facility with the studios we like to record in. It was a good counterbalance to the cooler edge of us two having been rock musicians in bands.’ Williams is Tutor in Orchestration at Oxford University, and directs the NSO orchestra, which is built around a core of regular players. The orchestra’s leader is Andrew Havoran, the first violin of the internationally acclaimed Brodsky Quartet who have also collaborated with Elvis Costello and Björk. The orchestra is managed by the renowned double bass player Stacey Watton, who selects instrumentalists from the pick of London orchestral and session players. ‘We change the set-up a little according to what the project is. If we want a certain brass sound, for instance, we will change the musicians accordingly. The LPO trombone section play like laser beams, so if we need that we know who to book!’ jokes Jonny. ‘There are still issues with going to Eastern Europe,’ observes Canham, ‘sight reading skills are not as good, and what we can do in a day with our orchestra might take them three to four days. There’s language, set-up and recording issues — their studios are just not as good as Abbey Road. That’s still our Unique Selling Point.’ Demonstrating another skillset they’ve developed, Nimrod recently managed the music production for Atari on its Hollywood-blockbuster style action driving game Driver: Parallel Lines. ‘It was a large project involving a massive musical component with a huge chunk which needed original music, then a big chunk that needed to be licensed, and amongst those licensed artists there was a desire to have some really unique pieces of music,’ explained Rich Aitken. ‘The reviews tell it all, we are getting top marks for the soundtrack.’ Seventy original songs were licensed by Nimrod for Atari, split roughly half from the 70s and half from today. David Bowie, Blondie, Iggy Pop, War, The Temptations, Funkadelic,

Marvin Gaye, Parliament, and The Average White Band were among those scoring the 1978 era, and bands including The Roots, LCD Soundsystem, TV on the Radio, Kaiser Chiefs, Secret Machines, and The Dead 60’s lent their sounds to the New York cityscape of 2006. Marc Canham worked overtime to pull something special out of the bag: ‘The challenge was to work with and build relationships with people like Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash, Suicide, Arthur Baker, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Audio Bullys ... actually create original material with them ... where we were sort of exec-producing, and on occasion, mixing and mastering their tracks.’ The stand-out nature of the music production is reflected in the fact that Driver Parallel Lines has just been nominated for an MTV Best Video Game Soundtrack award. Nimrod represents a new model of recording facility owners, a type of vertically integrated company in which the recording aspect is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. As Nimrod’s founders demonstrate, the new model requires a more diverse skillset, a more business-like attitude, a less precious approach to recording technology and — it has to be said — a lot more hard work! The particular success of Nimrod is undoubtedly rooted in a synergy between the

founders and team members. ‘We’ve got a good blend of personalities,’ muses Canham, ‘I don’t know many companies that can get away with the way we talk to each other — we’ve got a good psychological balance!’ Aitken agrees: ‘We have a great team, we’ve got a great engineer in Ed Scroggie, Andy Gannon project managing and composing, and Jonny orchestrating and conducting. It’s a one stop shop.’ ■

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September 2006

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15


review gear

Products Equipment introductions and announcements.

Dynax dynamic sound shaper

Alternate Soundings’ Dynax compressor, is described as a ‘dynamic sound shaper’ and claims very low distortion circuits. Attack and Release knobs permit a graduated change of values to reshape the sound and create a new envelope and Dynax offers four different compression curves: Compressor (5:1); Limiter (10:1); Brickwall; and AntiDyna (a mode that is said to ‘over-limit’ the sound in a ‘funky-to-trashy’ way). VU metering can follow output level or gain reduction and over modulation turns the blue hue of the meter to a strong red. The company also plans to introduce a new mic preamp. www.alternatesoundings.com

Portico 5033 EQ

Rupert Neve Designs’ 5033 5-band EQ and high performance line driver is part of the half-rack Portico series modules. It features Rupert’s custom input and output transformer designs, five bands of EQ based on his traditional curves, five filter bypasses and it is available in horizontal or vertical formats. The five swept bands include high and low shelving filters that are engaged on the same pushbutton and boost or cut by 12dB over 30-300Hz and 2.5-25kHz. The three midband filters also have +/-12dB plus fully variable Q from 0.7 to 5. The 5033’s transformer-coupled line driver has a continuously variable 12dB trim. www.rupertneve.com

Neve 8801 and 8802 Latest in the 8800 range of outboard modules, the Producer Pack is based on the channel strip design of the Neve 88RS. The 8801 channel strip features a Neve mic pre, high and low pass filters, insert point, 4-band EQ, gating and compression, EQ and filters can be routed to the dynamics side chain and modules can be re-ordered as the user requires.

A dual-channel unit, the 8802 is a fully featured compressor, limiter and gate. Each section on each channel can be independently switched in and out of circuit. A side-chain insert point enables preprocessing of the control signal. Both units can be recalled via USB port to Mac or PC. www.ams-neve.com

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Platform news: Digidesign Digidesign has announced that Icon, Pro Tools|HD, Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered systems will soon be compatible with the new Mac Pro. Digidesign is expecting to release an Intel-based Mac-compatible update to its Pro Tools HD 7.2 software in September. This free update will allow Icon and Pro Tools|HD users to build their system around the Mac Pro. Within a similar timeframe, the company expects to release compatible versions of its range of Digidesign and Digidesigndistributed TDM plug-ins, while working with third-party manufacturers. Based on preliminary testing, Digidesign is also expecting that 7.1.1 of LE and M-Powered software (already compatible with MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and iMac) will function on the Mac Pro without problems. Digidesign is now shipping Pro Tools HD 7.2 software. Its enhanced feature set includes automation, extended video, new workflows with multichannel field recorders, built-in dubber/stem recorder functionality and the SignalTools DigiRack metering plug-ins. MassivePack is back and until 15 September registered Pro Tools|HD owners will have access to MassivePack 5 and MassivePack Pro 5 plugin bundle promotions. At £775, customers can save more than £4,500 on MassivePack 5, which includes 17 plug-ins from Antares, Bomb Factory, Chandler Limited, Digidesign, Eventide, Massenburg DesignWorks, Princeton Digital, SoundToys, Trillium Lane Labs, and URS. MassivePack 5 customers will also receive an iLok asset for a free Pro Tools HD 7.2 software upgrade. MassivePack Pro 5 (£2,095) includes an additional Pro Tools|HD Accel card (PCI or PCIe) along with the MassivePack 5 plug-in selection and bonus Pro Tools HD 7.2 software authorisation for a saving of more than £6,000. www.digidesign.com

Platform news: Steinberg WaveLab Studio 6 combines audio technology from WaveLab 6 with a s t re a m l i n e d w o r k f l o w and a full complement of editing and mastering features targeted at project studios. The Studio version features a sample accurate audio editor with audio processing to 192kHz and 32-bit floating point, stereo and multichannel non-destructive editing with versatile clip grouping over multiple lanes, a video track, and real-time integration of clip-based, track-based and global effect plug-ins. There’s also Red book-compatible PQ editing including Audio-in-Pause, CDText and track sheet export, extended audio file handling and manipulation (including files greater than 2Gb) and Sonogramstyle Spectrum View. The Groove Agent 3 virtual drummer VST instrument is said to be a major step up from previous versions and features more kits and sounds, including three new top-rate acoustic drum kits and the ability to import user samples in .wav and AIFF format. A new Dual Mode puts any two of the three agents together in the recording studio for virtual drum and percussion sessions — all within one single VST instrument. www.steinberg.net

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September 2006


review gear Neutrik plugs Neutrik PRX Series right angle phone plugs are suited for instrument cables and are available with Neutrik’s Silent Plug. It incorporates a robust diecast shell in an extra-slim design with a compact barrel. The one-piece tip contact is rivetless and improved chuck-type strain relief is offered. It comes in nickel or gold plating in mono and stereo versions. The Y-Split expands the company’s OpticalCon system and offers an assembled Y-split cable made up of 4 multimode fibres within two OpticalCon connectors at each end of the cable. Suitable for high bandwidth audio and video or additional control signal transmission, it’s a handy solution for instances when a two-fibre system is insufficient. Accommodating a standard optical LC-Duplex connector in each all-metal housing, the Y-Split has superior cable retention, features a push-pull locking mechanism and protects against dirt and dust via an automatically operated sealing cover. www.neutrik.com

Vadis upgraded

AT automatic mixer

Klotz Digital has upgraded its flagship Vadis product line to Vadis 212 with a new compact audio router and DSP engine. Vadis 212 handles up to 256 x 256 I-O channels with improved aesthetics and an enhanced front panel display. The integration of a fanless PSU has allowed frame size to be reduced to 3u. A redundant PSU is optionally available. Features include decentralised signal processing, routing and fibre optic audio networking, offering shared access to inputs and outputs. Multiple DSP cards are available to enable real-time audio processing like EQ, limiting, expanding, compression, level adjustment, level measurement for metering and alert, distribution and mixing. www.klotzdigital.com

Audio Technica’s AT-MX381 SmartMixer is an 8-channel automatic mixer designed for use with dynamic and condenser mics and line level sources. It features 8 balanced mic/line inputs each with individually selectable 48V phantom, input gain and level controls. Optional computer control allows more detailed channel settings such as low-cut filter to be configured via PC, using the included SmartMixer software. The mixer keeps the number of open mics to a minimum and has a direct output connection for each input, a monitor headphone output with level control, and a linking capability for 16 units (up to 128 microphones). www.audio-technica.co.uk

Cadac to unveil S-Digital Cadac will launch its S-Digital mixing console at PLASA. Designed primarily for live theatre applications the S-Digital is conceived to reflect the surface architecture of Cadac’s J-Type analogue console. Scheduled to enter production in October its full specification and technical details, including pricing, will be announced at the show. www.cadac-sound.com

Yamaha amps

Yamaha Commercial Audio will launch several new products at the PLASA Exhibition including digital mixing consoles, audio networking and distribution devices, and a range of high powered networking amplifiers. The Tn Series of amplifiers range from 1900W to 2500W output (stereo at 2ohms) and employ Yamaha’s EEEngine for the sound quality of a Class AB amp with the efficiency of a class D amp. A ‘FET drive circuit’ for high-efficiency current buffering has a newly developed power transformer to reduce heat loss and the units employ thin film strip power transistors. www.yamahacommercialaudio.com

Portable CD-R With the CDR310, Marantz has made fully-featured CD recording available in a portable format. It offers uncompressed and MP3 formats, optional battery operation for up to 4 hours, built-in microphone preamps with XLRs and 48V phantom, and a built-in high-quality mic. Background Record Mode allows recording to always be active even when the CDR310 is in Pause. Recording can also be active in Pre-Record Mode for up to 10 seconds with the recorder stopped. It has analogue line-level I-Os and SPDIF I-O. www.d-mpro.eu.com

September 2006

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17


review gear Presonus recording products

Presonus has announced five new recording products. The FaderPort USB/ MIDI controller offers a console-style fader and dedicated button control over DAW record, mix and edit commands. The FireStudio 2626 FireWire recording system features eight Class A mic preamps, SPDIF, MIDI and up to 16 channels of ADAT I-O. Multiple units can be daisy-chained and FireStudio comes with Cubase LE and They´ll Grow 15:03 Side 1 2Gb of free audio loops05|05|2006 and plug-ins. FireStudio can be augmented by the optional MSR

Monitor S t a t i o n Remote, which gives handson control of monitor levels and modes (track, mix and surround), and includes two independent headphone amplifiers. Owners of ADAT light pipe equipped digital audio systems can beef up their I-O with the DigiMax FS 8-channel mic preamp with inserts and direct outputs on every channel. DigiMax FS is compatible with Digidesign 002, HD, RME, Yamaha DM mixers and the Presonus FireStudio. The V-Fire is a 24-bit/96kHz R-Bus to FireWire computer recording system that adds a 16-channel digital audio interface to any Roland R-Bus equipped gear. www.presonus.com www.hhb.co.uk

RME breakout RME BOB-32 is a universal breakout box for AES-EBU XLR or D-Sub. One side offers eight XLR AES-EBU I-Os and the other provides two D-Sub connectors. The box can be ‘folded’ in the middle, bringing all connectors to one side. It comes with pin-out formats for Tascam or Yamaha. It is a companion product to RME’s HDSP AES-32, ADI6432, Octamic-D, Micstasy, ADI-8 QS, and other devices that use the pin-outs. www.rme-audio.com

TL Audio M1 Tubetracker

sound engineering

The M1 Tubetracker from TL Audio follows on from the M4 tube console and is available in 8 or 12 channel configurations. Each M1 Tubetracker channel offers mic and line inputs on XLR and TRS sockets, 3-band EQ with sweepable mid and two aux sends. A balanced insert is provided and each channel has a balanced direct output. The master section has a stereo master fader, Main and Alternative monitor outputs, VU metering, PFL level trim and stereo aux return. All master section I-Os are balanced. Digital connectivity is available via the optional DO-8 and DO-2 cards for 24-bit ADAT and SPDIF at sample rates to 96kHz. www.tlaudio.co.uk

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Zaxcom ZFR100 adapter A new stereo adaptor and timecode interface for Zaxcom’s ZFR100 ‘broadcast-quality’ recorder integrates with the ZFR100 to provide two balanced audio inputs that eliminate ground loop problems. The adaptor’s dedicated timecode input synchronises the timecode generator inside the ZFR100 and supports automated loading of audio onto the memory card. This enables an exact match of audio recorded on the ZFR100 and audio/video recorded on camera. The new interface also features a timecode/audio out connector that can be used as an audio monitor for playback from the memory card, or as a timecode output to jam other devices. The adaptor is equipped with an 8-16V DC input that powers the unit when used in a sound bag. www.zaxcom.com

September 2006


review gear Sennheiser stands for wireless Sennheiser has launched three mic stands that benefit from a cable connection facility at their base rather than at the microphone itself. This new system means that plugon wireless transmitters can now be sited at the bottom of the stand or, if preferred, cables can be connected at the base alleviating the necessity to run the mic cable up the stand itself. While the 60cm and 80cm variants are suitable as wireless floor stands, the 30cm version is designed for TV and panel discussions. The stands can be combined with a choice of MZH goosenecks and ME microphone heads, and converted to wireless operation using an SKP 3000 or SKP 500 plug-on transmitter. The floor stands are fitted with a female XLR-3 connector and locking screw at their top to accommodate the gooseneck, and a right-angled male XLR-3 connector at the bottom. www.sennheiser.co.uk

New Rødes

Røde’s NT55 uses the same 1⁄2-inch gold sputtered condenser transducer as the Røde NT5 and claims the same dynamic range and frequency response. The NT55 comes with two interchangeable heads — the NT45-FC flat cardioid

capsule and the NT45-O omnidirectional capsule. The mic has a 3-position pad (0, -10 or 20dB), a 75/150Hz high-pass filter and is powered by 48V phantom. Building on the shotgun-style VideoMic, the SVM features an X/Y configuration and attaches to the camera through a standard shoe-fitting. It comes with a furry windshield and an integral suspension mount. The SVM has the same circuit design as the VideoMic, 9V battery operation (with LED low-power indicator) and a high-pass filter. Output is via a 3.5mm mini jack with a switchable 10dB pad. www.rodemicrophones.com www.hhb.co.uk

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Genelec wall mount Genelec has a range of ‘slotwall’ mounts for its 8000 range of speakers. The mounts are quickly fixed to the rear of 8020A and 8030A and to the bottom of the 8040A and 8050A using existing mounting holes. www.genelec.com

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Denser Nexus

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The XMIC+ microphone input board for Stagetec Nexus audio networks and Aurus/ Cantus consoles doubles the input number compared to its predecessor, the XMAD. The board measures 3u high × 20mm wide and digitises eight unprocessed mic signals to 28-bit. A digital splitter is implemented on the board and each of the eight inputs can be distributed to four separate paths with independent gain and subsonicfilter settings. Stagetec has an ultra compact 1 u B a s e Device version of its Nexus audio routing system. Instead of the usual Nexus design with the cards mounted vertically — requiring at least 3u — the new space-saving version is populated horizontally, giving five free slots for cards plus a sixth one for the CPU board. Equipped, for example, with the new Nexus XMIC+ 8-channel microphone board the new system provides a maximum of 24 mic inputs and eight returns. V2.5 software for the Aurus desk offers extended sceneautomation plus new VCA and DCA functionality and the integration of the SnapMix function introduced last year. www.stagetec.com

September 2006

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19


review gear Audix hand-held

Image server Maxx

The VX-5 hand-held vocal condenser mic from Audix is designed to handle live, studio and broadcast. With a claimed frequency response of 40Hz–16.5kHz, the VX5 has a 14mm gold vapour diaphragm, a supercardioid pattern, a -10dB pad and bass roll-off, a ported steel mesh grill, and the Audix black satin finish. Operation requires phantom power. www.audixusa.com

Podcasting kits and ribbon

360 Systems’ Image Server Maxx is a high-performance video server that includes fast FTP transfers to other servers, non-linear editors and network-attached storage (NAS); embedded audio; remote workstation software for operation from PCs; As-Run logs, Sony IMX (D10) file compatibility, and improved operation with MXF files. It also maintains traditional video standards with baseband composite video and SDI ports. An input framesynchroniser allows ‘wild’ sources from tape or satellite to be recorded. New time-stamps create accurate As-Run logs for reconciliation of playlists and the server’s internal RAID array provides Maxx with up to 170 hours of storage. www.360systems.com

Using the Samson C01U and C03U USB condenser mic the C01U Recording/Podcasting Pak and CO3U Recording/ Podcasting Pak include everything needed to record digital audio on a PC or Mac with an eye to portability. The CO1U Pak comes bundled with Cakewalk Sonar LE, the 19mm diaphragm cardioid C01U, a desktop mic stand, mic clip, shockmount and USB cable in an aluminium case. The CO3U Pak features the CO3U multipattern USB mic but is otherwise identical to the CO1U Pak. Samson’s VR88 is a ribbon mic with a pure aluminium corrugated foil ribbon suspended within a Neodymium field. It is said to be capable of handling SPLs to 138dB and comes in an aluminium case with a yoke mount, spider shockmount and XLR cable. www.soundtech.co.uk

Big Blue

True full-range stereo monitoring that stays true, even when you pump up the volume. Some of us like it loud. But monitoring at high volume usually means distortion, poor imaging and an unbalanced sound. Big Blue changes all that. By including the subwoofer as an integral part of the design – not as an afterthought – Blue Sky's latest and most powerful powered monitoring system delivers a thrilling, full-range performance that remains accurate, especially in the lower octave, even when you pump up the volume. And all that at a price that's far from inflated. So if you want to be moved by your music, make the move to Big Blue.

LA Audio DLX200 LA Audio’s DSP System Management processors, the DLX200 Series, are targeted at sound reinforcement and installation applications. Key features of the SHARCRbased DLX200 include 96kHz sampling rate, 20Hz to 40kHz frequency response (+/-1dB), 8 bands of EQ on every input and output, Hardman progressive filters and 45 presets. www.laaudio.co.uk

George Petersen, Mix

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5.1

" This three-way, triamplified, mid-field design packs crisp highs, thundering lows and superb transient response in a system that's not for the faint of heart. "

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Aurora to PT interface

Lynx Studio Technology has introduced the LT-HD for the Aurora 16 and Aurora 8 convertors. The LT-HD is an LSlot interface that provides digital I-O in a format that is recognisable by Digidesign Pro Tools|HD systems. LTHD-equipped Auroras can be connected to HD Core or Accel Core cards with standard Digidesign cabling and can operate seamlessly with all HD-compatible versions of Pro Tools software. www.lynxstudio.com

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September 2006


review gear Cable organiser

GPS audio delay

34-Way 1u HD video patchbay

The AudioSkin ‘cable organiser’ collects loose cables and ‘zippers’ them into one snake with a simple twist. It is said to be as applicable to the home and office as it is to the studio. www.audioskin.net

Switchcraft has launched an HDTV-ready video patchbay that packs two rows of 34 jacks into a 1u patch panel. The jacks are rated to 3GHz and available normalled or non-normalled with the option of 75-ohm termination or non-termination. The rated life of each jack is 30,000 mate/unmate cycles. The range is complemented by Switchcraft’s video patch cords that are made using 75-ohm cable and can be supplied in 8 colours and 10 lengths from 30cm to 300cm. www.switchcraft.com

Speaker auditioner

Graham-Patten Systems’ ADLY-4 AES audio delay unit is part of the SoundPals line and is available in two versions. The ADLY-4A has balanced AES3 I-O while the ADLY-4B has unbalanced AES3id I-O, but each offers eight channels (four AES pairs) of inputs and delayed outputs. The units are designed for digital audio/video installations where the video path length is longer than the audio path length. Users can select up to 99.99 frames of delay in increments of 0.1 frames, and have a choice of external looping AES3id reference input, or internal reference. LED indicators show valid reference and valid AES inputs. www.gpsys.com

VX222v2 gets HR make over

Shot mount

Digigram has updated the VX222v2 PCI audio card. The VX222HR and VX222HRmic benefit from the characteristics o f D i g i g r a m ’s new High Resolution series of VX sound cards. The VX222HRMic stereo sound card h a s a p h a n t o m - p o w e re d mic preamp, combined with an analogue compressor-limiter-expander. www.digigram.com

The KE-US universal suspension mount is designed for standard shotgun mics and employs the isolation of t h e c o m p a n y ’s K-SUS polymer microphone suspenders fitted within a lightweight, The Balance 8 is an 8-channel audio balancer and level durable anodised optimiser designed to interface -10dB unbalanced to +4dB 1/2 page Horizontal H OLOPHONE A D aluminium frame. balanced. 216mm wide x 125mm high R esolution www.mklemme.com www.arx.com.au The iSwitch from ARX allows a user to sequentially switch a choice of 2 programme sources to 12 stereo feeds. A and B input gains are adjustable from Off through to +6dB via controls on the front panel. LED status indicators show the active input and interlocking switches prevent more than one output pair from being selected simultaneously.

Holophone Products Make Surround Sound Simple. Award Winning Products

Grab A Pair.

Surround Sound Microphone Systems

(You’ll be glad you did.)

September 2006

www.holophone.com resolution

01.416.362.7790 21


review

Calrec Sigma Bluefin Take an industry standard live broadcast production 48k desk and more than double its channel count in preparation for the 5.1 broadcasting future through a cost-effective and simple upgrade. ZENON SCHOEPE encounters a remarkable technological development.

I

T’S A POPULAR belief that pretty much all digital consoles do pretty much the same sort thing in pretty much the same sort of way; the main differentiating factor is the worksurface. How you access the processing is the main part of what makes it ‘a desk’, gives it its character and ultimately decides how successful and appropriate a system is for a given function. Just as the performance curve in computing has been flattening in recent years with the incremental improvements in speed and ‘power’ being less spectacular, the playing field in digital desk processing has been levelling too. That’s until NAB this year. In a rather low-key way Calrec announced what was, on the face of it, a groundbreaking development in high density digital processing and how, for its flagship Alpha, it had provided 200% more processing power in 92% less physical space and at no extra cost. Called Bluefin technology, it is a proprietary architecture that has been conceived and developed entirely within Calrec as a response to broadcaster’s requirement for producing live 5.1 content as it gives the Alpha console the capability to provide 78 full 5.1 surround channels or 480 equivalent mono signal 22

paths on just one card. The best bit is that any Alpha could be retrofitted with Bluefin meaning that you could upgrade your desk to full current spec — something that is common in the software business but unheard of in digital desk hardware. Bluefin is Calrec’s digital platform moving forward and it is now available for its Sigma console — commonsense tells you that the Zeta is likely to follow. So what is Bluefin and how does it work? They won’t tell me. That’s not a case of Calrec being deliberately obstructive or mysterious, it’s because Calrec believes it has hit on something so significant that it has a jump on its competitors and it’s not about to share it. What they will say is ‘it’s a software concept that ties together the latest and fastest chips with existing technologies in a unique way’... Unenlightened, then, I will try to highlight the differences that Bluefin brings to the Sigma in its original, or Classic, form. More than doubling your channel count has an operational impact on a worksurface’s ability to harness it elegantly and flexibly and some changes have had to be made to accommodate this. One resolution

of the clever things about the Calrec family of live broadcast production desks is that they share a common DSP and worksurface principles are carried down the range. It is scale that differentiates them. The bottom of the fader to the top of the source displays is identical across all consoles and you get a more elaborate central control system — the channel controls — the further up the range you go. Bluefin’s influence on the Sigma’s worksurface is most apparent in the I-O Matrix and routing panel and the Mains and Auxes. Classic Sigma has 24track routing buses whereas Bluefin has 48 and this requires twice as many routing buttons and a new panel. In terms of Auxes, the Classic has 12, the Bluefin 20 and the panel here has been changed to increase the number of required controls. The business of upgrading your Sigma to Bluefin does offer a variety of options as in some cases your worksurface panels can be modified rather than replaced but the permutations are fairly complex, have cost implications, and are best assessed by Calrec. As an example, Bluefin works with the old style and new style monitor panel but the new panel gives much more flexibility — so it’s also a matter of choice. But, upgrading a Classic would involve swapping out four panels including the EQ panel as Bluefin adds 4-band EQ in the dynamics sidechain. While we’ve been talking about the Classic Sigma we ought to mention the Sigma Plus, which heralded some significant worksurface changes as it was, in retrospect, a stepping stone towards Bluefin. The Plus added 5.1 channel handling in the same way as a stereo channel, TFT metering (including input metering) to display it, and a new monitoring panel to hear is more flexibly. Star of Plus is the Spill panel, which gives you four dedicated faders to adjust the legs of 5.1 channel signals. The Sigma, like all Calrecs, has the most straightforward of operating principles. There are only two layers per fader accessed on dedicated buttons locally and globally across halves of the desk. Green is the colour for layer A, Orange is B layer. Red is the assigned fader. An active channel has all its channel parameters available for adjustment on the central control panels and if it’s a 5.1 channel then you can tweak its legs on the Spill panel. Wild controls above the channel faders give local direct access to four channel parameters. You can also lock one fader to the central control area so that one crucial mic signal, for example, can be kept to hand regardless of any other channel tweaking going on. With a fully-filled Sigma Classic you’d have 48 stereo channels and 24 mono channels or 120 mono legs. A Sigma Bluefin gives you 320 mono legs configured as 108 stereo channels and 104 mono channels. Calrec builds a 5.1 channel from two stereo channels and two mono channels –- LR, LrRr, C and .1 — and that’s exactly what the four faders in the Spill panel represent. EQ or dynamics that you apply to the 5.1 channel is applied to all legs or, more typically, you can break them out and apply the processing selectively on the individual legs via switches on the Spill panel faders and isolate the .1 leg from any tweaking. You also have Cut and PFLs in this section. Auxes are mono or stereo and if you send an aux from a 5.1 channel it will be a downmix of it. That’s very simple but very powerful control over 5.1 and you’re going to need it if you’re going to be broadcasting in 5.1. Calrec’s market research among its multichannel broadcasting users suggests that every source that was stereo will have to be 5.1 because if you’re making a programme in 5.1 it’s the currency you have to deal with. It also makes productions simpler and more consistent. September 2006


review

Bluefin groups are also 5.1 — you get 4 surround mains, 8 surround groups — and the mix minus system feeds a downmix of 5.1 where applicable. A very big issue for HD in live TV, which most will be aware of, is the problem of delay and this has been expanded substantially on Bluefin and allocated to inputs, inserts and outputs — 19.6 minutes of audio delay divided into 432 mono elements of 2.73s. Every channel and group can produce a direct output simultaneously and all surround channels and groups have surround direct outputs with the option of downmix to stereo. Despite the fact that in channel count terms the Bluefin Sigma is a very big desk, operationally it is the simplest I have encountered. You get so much quality information from the surface. TFTs do meters only — there’s no extra unnecessary EQ curves and dynamics approximations fighting for your attention — and a calm, comfortable logic runs throughout. And that’s important because the density of 5.1 channels attainable here is a little frightening when you think about it. Additionally, because there is so much DSP on tap you won’t have to worry about unexpectedly running out of desk.

Automation is snapshot only and you could argue that the increased channel count could make a call for dynamic automation something of a requirement, particularly as broadcasters are likely to at least want the option to post with such a board. You could also argue that a cosmetically redesigned worksurface might be in order to better mark this technological leap but I can understand why Calrec has addressed the processing first and enhanced the existing worksurface to harness it. That’s the sensible way for Calrec and it also makes best sense for customers. If Bluefin was only available in brand new products I would not be nearly as excited about it as I am. In terms of upgrading a Sigma rack, the fastest option for busy studios is a straight swap to a Bluefin rack but you can run the new cards in your existing rack. For a Classic, you replace something like 12 old DSP cards with two Bluefin cards. On an Alpha it is even more dramatic as a fully-loaded Classic Alpha’s 26 DSP cards, including redundancy, are replaced with just two Bluefins. With Bluefin, the whole DSP system runs on one card and your redundancy is the other one. I asked for a card reset to see how the redundancy kicks in and all I heard was the audio

fading down and back up very gracefully and quickly — sub-second. Your I-O system remains the same. A typical Sigma Bluefin would be priced around UK£185,000 and upgrades to existing desks work out between 30% and 40% of the original list price depending on the age and configuration of the desk. Such an upgrade would turn a Sigma into a desk more powerful than the largest Alpha console available at the time of the original purchase. Remarkable. The whole Bluefin development is a highly unusual one in the console market. The ability to upgrade an older product in this manner is unprecedented and the price for doing it is not major when considered as a return on investment. Calrec Sigma owners are very fortunate to have this opportunity because it gets them out of the potentially sticky problem of how to go 5.1 as cheaply as possible without cutting corners. Bluefin future-proofs their consoles. I believe Bluefin is the most significant development in digital desk technology since the mass availability of the SHARC got the ball rolling. However, I can’t hide that I am uncomfortable with the fact that I don’t know how it works. Even so, the results speak for themselves. It’s not expensive to upgrade to, the hike in processing and its control is fantastic and Calrec won’t tell anyone how it’s done it. I therefore have to conclude: it’s magic. ■

PROS

The best way to future-proof a Sigma for 5.1; phenomenal increase in performance; cost-effective; brilliantly simple but powerful interface.

CONS

Nothing much; you don’t get a brand spanking new worksurface; no dynamic automation.

Contact CALREC, UK: Website: www.calrec.com

September 2006

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review

Merging Technologies Pyramix 5 and Isis Controller There are few major sound postproduction facilities in the UK that don’t now include Pyramix among their available DAWs. This rapid take-up by the post industry was one of the things that spurred Merging Technologies to refocus its efforts on features requested by this sector. The recently released Version 5 software reflects this shift.

F

OR THE UNINITIATED, Pyramix is a PC-based DAW that gets its processing power from a PCI board called a Mykerinos card, leaving the PC’s processor free to do other things including run VST and Direct-X plug-ins within Pyramix. One card is sufficient to run a fairly hefty system. If, like me, you’re using an external mixer to cope with most of your levels, EQs and effects, 64 I-Os is quite possible — and all on a pair of BNC coaxial cables via MADI. If you’re using the built-in mixer in stereo out mode, the maximum number of tracks is, as always, down to the amount of EQs, effects and other DSP-hungry processes you engage. The nice thing about the system is that you can add further Mykerinos cards as needed. For instance, a recent four-card demo system included 112 channel strips, each with Strip Tools (dynamics, parametric EQ), being summed into six 5.1 surround stems plus a couple of 5.1 aux sends and a reverb. It took Merging rather longer than expected to give birth to V5 but it has to be said that it is a significant improvement on V4 and pretty stable from the off. On a well-maintained system without too many interfering third-party apps knocking around, it is rare that the program crashes, and with client-attended sessions, this is really important. It’s also very flexible and allows files of any type, bit depth or sample rate to be dropped on the same project timeline. All sorts of basic everyday functions are now a lot faster and more reliable. Much improved is the Media Manager page. A nice feature here is that folders are always mounted and displayed in a discrete fashion, as opposed to one big undefined list in an audio pool as with other well known DAWs. New within Media 24

Manager is the Media Browser which provides the user with a window similar to My Computer, wherein you have access to all files and folders, be they local or network connected, without the need to mount them. Unlike My Computer, the lists also contain the full set of metadata (timecode, sample rate, etc) and you are able to easily audition a file before mounting it or the folder that contains it. Having selected a file, a built-in clip editor allows you to top and tale it, add a sync point, deselect one or more of the tracks (if it’s interleaved), listen to your selection, and then drag it on to your project timeline; very handy when dragging a small part of a large file into a tightly packed project. The search process has also been refined: you’ve always been able to search the folder or library you’re currently in but now you can define a disk or set of folders (including nested folders) to search. You can also more narrowly define your search by adding extra terms with ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ functions and each term can be any one of many metadata elements, such as Scene, Take, Sample Rate, Format, etc. Though perhaps rarely useful, it is the sort of feature that might just save your job one day. It also comes into play with the new ‘relink to new media’ facility found in V5: let’s say, for example, that you’ve exported a project back to an Avid for reworking, and then the reworked project has been re-exported back to you. However, in the process the clip names have been altered to preclude simple relinking with the original media. Using the different parameters the machine can take a very good stab at a happy reunion. Similarly, if the files you want have been resolution

JIM BETTERIDGE

unwittingly mixed in with other audio, by applying what you do know about the errant files to the relink criteria, a tearful homecoming can often be achieved (Emotions run high at Stationhouse readers. Ed). If you’ve used Pyramix to digitise your sound effects CDs and made use of CDDB database to name the tracks, you can create a searchable effects library within Pyramix from which you can simply drag sounds on to the timeline without need of a thirdparty SFX database. A massive improvement is to be found within the transport window that can now contain as many machines as you’ve got 9-pin ports (and this is practically unlimited via USB-to-9pin convertors), any of which can be the master with any or all of the others slaving under the full control of Pyramix. All my Sony video machines seem to respond well although my DA88 is a bit reluctant for some reason. (Perhaps it’s feeling tearful. Ed). The inbuilt mixer has been completely redesigned and is far easier to configure. It also has a new monitor control section that allows selection and adjustment of various sources from mono to 7.1. As mentioned, I currently use an external mixer but even so the ease of configuration is still very apparent and a great improvement. It does encourage me to consider more seriously using my DM2000 as a controller and keeping all the mixing internal, especially as the imminent new software version (service pack 2) has apparently greatly improved controller mapping for the DM. With the new software supporting 128 physical I-Os from a pair of Mykerinos cards and all the new surround monitoring facilities, it does look very promising. September 2006


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review

Another flexibility that becomes appealing as you get into the program is the facility to customise the user interface to contain only the buttons you want, either large or small. Any of the functions in the menus can now be given a button on the main project page plus, if desired, a keyboard short cut. So you can pare down your interface to suit a particular job — record VO, ADR, edit, mix, etc (or make an SACD master, if that’s your thing) and save it as a preset. A given arrangement can also be saved within a Windows user account to make switching between tasks or operators simpler. And if you’re moving between studios, the general settings, macros and shortcuts can be saved to a USB stick and loaded into any other Pyramix V5 system to make it look and act like your own. If you’re using your Pyramix without a mixing console the new monitor section will be invaluable. Having created your mixer with its various output busses — 5.1, stereo, mono, aux sends, 2-track monitor — the monitor section allows you to switch between them and also to switch between destinations, i.e. different speaker sets. You can also mute or solo

individual speakers, mute or dim the whole set and of course there’s a big knob to turn the volume up and down. A major new addition to the Pyramix family is the Isis dedicated hardware controller which uses Merging’s Oasis protocol to reach to the depths of the system’s parameters to offer detailed control. Other controllers and consoles are capable of controlling Pyramix via MIDI, but to date these have not been very satisfactory — although, as mentioned, improvements are reportedly imminent. There’s also the excellent Euphonix MC which connects to Oasis through its own EuCon protocol to great effect, but for the controller plus 8-fader bank you’ll be in the £25k to £30k region. The Isis comes in two parts. First there’s the controller itself containing a large jogwheel, transport buttons, dedicated edit function buttons, track arming buttons and an LCD with eight soft keys. Then there’s the fader unit, which is of a similar size and contains eight faders and an assortment of buttons. I moved to Pyramix after a decade of using the Akai DD1500 (plus Cubase for music production)

with its much loved hardware controller. At that point I hated the idea of being forced to use a QWERTY keyboard for proper audio editing; how could it ever replace all those beautiful big buttons and that fabulous jog wheel? At that point I would undoubtedly have bought the Isis and would have been grateful. A few years down the line, with a long list of keyboard shortcuts under my fingers and a few nifty macros honed in the heat of battle, I’m rather fond of the QWERTY and mouse combo and found the Isis strangely cumbersome and unnecessary. A freelance engineer who works at Stationhouse on and off and is required to straddle several different platforms in his travels, thought it was excellent and that I should definitely buy one. I think this is the crux, if you’re wedded to your QWERTY and especially if you’re using an external mixer, it may not appeal. If you’re coming from a dedicated worksurface (AudioFile, DAR, etc) and especially if you’re doing all you mixing within Pyramix, this may be a very useful and affordable tool. Though not overwhelmingly sexy the controller is quite presentable and the jog wheel is really excellent. The choice of buttons is also quite well reasoned and can be changed as required. The size and location of the buttons is not what I’ve been used to: they’re a bit small, a bit far apart, rather spongy and, most strangely, the transport buttons are about two-thirds up the panel with nowhere to rest you wrist — try hammering those up and down the timeline for 10 hours straight. One of the beauties of Pyramix is its macros. With a little application you can get it to do quite complex processes with a single key stroke, such as cuing-up pips for the next cue in an ADR session and perhaps muting or unmuting the guide track up to that point. With a keyboard full of hundreds of possible keystroke combinations, moving to the Isis seems to reduce the level of control. It’s not for me, although I imagine if you’re basically editing but need some simple mixing facilities, an Isis plus your mouse could be the answer. All in all V5 is a significant improvement and expansion of the previous version and it’s nice to know that any user can pick up the phone and speak to one of the designers or engineers in Switzerland and they will take the time to listen and consider your requests. ■

PROS

Fast, user-adaptable interface; can addon extra Mykerinos cards for extra DSP; powerful machine control; good video solution; stable.

CONS

No MIDI, so it may not appeal for music making; can’t use the Mykerinos hardware for other apps like Cubase or Logic.

EXTRAS

Basic native system: UK£437 + VAT Film/video Post system including: 19-inch rack integrated PC; 3 x 17-inch TFT monitors; SCSI 72Gb removable HD; 600Gb internal RAID 0 media drive; Pyramix Post Pack software; RS422 control; video support with capture/ playout; video/timecode sync; one Mykerinos card; dual analogue/AES I-0 card and cables; AAF import/export; Prosoniq MPEX2 time/pitch scaling software — UK£10,813 + VAT

Contact MERGING, SWITZERLAND Website: www.merging.com UK, Total Audio Solutions: +44 1527 880051

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September 2006


Pro Audio

ESSENTIALS at

AKG’s new Perception 100 and 200 Large Diaphragm True Condenser Studio Microphones combine classic warmth and transparency with exceptional value for money.

The new Soundcraft Vi6™ Digital Live Sound Console incorporates Vistonics® II and FaderGlow™ technologies to deliver sophisticated digital mixing with new levels of control & intuitive operation.

The Lexicon® MX400 and MX400XL Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Processors offer 4-in/4-out operation for live sound and studio applications through their intuitive front panel or ‘hardware plug-in’ control.

JBL LSR4300 Studio Monitors featuring RMC™ Room Mode Correction, JBL’s exclusive technology that analyses and corrects the response of each speaker for absolute accuracy at the mix position.

The dbx 162 SL Stereo Compressor/Limiter with AutoVelocity™ matches a stunning front panel design with equally impressive dynamic range, sonic clarity and ultra-low distortion.

The BSS DPR-402 Dual Compressor/De-Esser/Limiter features a double side chain and subtractor architecture for unrivalled flexibility in conventional applications, and unlimited effects.

Stand G43 www.harmanprouk.com


review

Holophone H2 Pro With multichannel such a happening topic and so much energy expended on its acquisition, manipulation and reproduction our options are decidedly thin for dedicated multichannel microphone systems. Then there’s Holophone. JON THORNTON reports on a revolutionary but simple implementation that sounds great.

I

F EVER THERE WAS a product that has been a long time in the making, it’s the Holophone. The brainchild of Canadian musician and sound designer Michael Godfrey, the initial experiments and design started in 1994 with the aim of creating a compact and versatile array of microphones for recording multichannel audio. The H2 Pro is the flagship of what is now a range of products using this design philosophy. At one level, it’s quite a simple concept, and one that will be familiar to anybody who has used a dummy head to record binaurally. Using an ellipsoid shaped housing made from a dense rubber-like material, a number of omnidirectional microphone elements are placed around it, with the capsules sitting just about on the boundary of the housing. This has the effect of altering the nominal omni response of each capsule to a directional one, but with sufficient bleed between channels to ensure a smooth response between them. In addition, the spacing between the microphones introduces some inter-channel delays that approximate elements of a true HRTF. I say approximate as, unlike a conventional dummy head, the shape and size of the Holophone is nothing like a real head (There was a boy at school who looked similar. Ed). But despite this it is capable of some pretty impressive results. The H2 Pro is equipped with eight capsules, all DPA 4060s, which is immediately reassuring from a 28

quality point of view. The pointy end of the ellipsoid carries a capsule for the centre channel, which sits forward of the left and right channel capsules very much like a miniature Decca Tree. The rear of the housing, which becomes much more spherical, carries capsule for the left and right surround channels, along with a centre rear capsule that makes recording for 6.1 systems such as Dolby Digital EX or DTS ES possible. A seventh capsule sits on the top of the housing, meeting the requirements of the top channel employed in IMAX reproduction. The final piece of the jigsaw is a capsule mounted internally in the housing, which provides an LFE channel with a filtered response. I’m not sure whether this filtering is achieved acoustically via the absorption characteristics of the housing and the internal resonance, or electronically, or perhaps both — but in practice it provides a very useable LFE source that doesn’t dominate the sound but provides a very impressive sense of depth. The base of the housing sprouts a thick, captive umbilical cable via a sturdy looking gland and this terminates simply in a clearly labelled XLR connector per channel. The whole system is provided in a behemoth of a watertight, atmospherically sealed case, which should cope with even the harshest location environments. But while location recording is clearly one of the Holophone’s intended applications, with optional accessories such as a hand-grip and wrap around windshield assembly, I was more curious to see how it performed in studio applications. With only a 5.1 monitoring environment available for the review, I dispensed with the centre rear and top channels, and fed the remaining channels directly to their respective speaker channels via the console, with the surround monitor matrix completely flat as if mixing for DVD-A. An initial walk test around the Holophone revealed a much tighter degree of channel separation than I was expecting from such a compact arrangement, and little in the way of colouration or phase artefacts. Satisfied that all was in order, an acoustic guitar was wheeled in, with the Holophone initially set up slightly above the guitarist’s head height, about five feet away and centred slightly neck-wards from the sound hole. As you might expect, this provided a lot of information about the room, with a great sense of perspective and detail in the control room, but also a very focussed front sound stage that didn’t suffer from being washed out by the rears. Soloing the LFE channel for a moment revealed very little output in this particular application, but what little was there seemed to have a significant effect on the perceived ‘size’ of the sound in the control room. Encouraged by this, the Holophone was moved closer to the guitar — not quite as close as a typical spot microphone position, but certainly closer than would be usual as an ambient microphone. At this stage, one shortcoming of the H2 Pro became apparent — tilting the assembly within its yoke is made difficult by that hefty umbilical cable causing an obstruction. It is possible to reverse the yoke so that you can hang the Holophone from above, but this doesn’t necessarily make positioning any easier. resolution

In this closer position, a frankly outstanding guitar sound was produced — with a super-wide front image, and a real sense of a natural sounding, threedimensional room ambience. The LFE channel also seemed to contribute more here, resulting in a solidity and depth to the guitar tone that is normally the result of much patient microphone placement and adjustment. Suitably impressed, the H2 Pro was placed as a kit microphone on a drum kit — slightly forward of the kick drum and just high enough to see down to the top of the skins. Tonally this was less impressive — although this had more to do with the tuning of the kit and the way it was sounding in the room than the Holophone — definitely a case of too much information here. In all though, the H2 Pro proved to be a remarkably easy to use system that delivered consistently good results. It’s not cheap ($6000) but when you consider that the price effectively gets you eight DPA 4060s it looks a little more attractive. If this sounds a little bland in conclusion it’s not meant to be — indeed it is the ease with which recordings can be made in pretty much any surround format you care to mention that impresses the most. Added to this is a separation between channels that is both clear and smooth in transition making the H2 a great solution to multichannel recording or broadcast in any application. ■

PROS

Compact package, straightforward and easy to use; supports nearly all surround formats; good sense of perspective, balance and natural sounding ambience in recordings.

CONS

Umbilical cable sometimes obstructs yoke, making positioning difficult at times.

EXTRAS

The Holophone H4 SuperMini is described as the first discrete 5.1channel camera-mountable surround microphone. Combined with an integrated multichannel preamp, monitor, and encoder, the SuperMini is based on the same patented Holophone Surround Audio capture technology. It offers six microphone elements, a matrix encoded stereo analogue output, and six line-level analogue outputs that are available at one per channel from three stereo 3.5mm female jacks. It includes an audio zoom button that increases the forward bias of the pick-up pattern. In addition, the mic has a virtual surround headphone output with gain control, an auxiliary centre channel mic input (XLR) for attaching an external shotgun microphone, and a tri-coloured LED Holophone monitor that indicates sound level and direction.

Contact HOLOPHONE, CANADA: Website: www.holophone.com

September 2006


Success is a matter of adjusting one’s efforts to obstacles, and one’s abilities to a service needed by others. Henry Ford)

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Producing the perfect sound whatever the circumstances is an art. Whether the project is a live event or a production, TV or theatre, in a studio or OB truck –

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keeping everything under control requires versatility and creativity. And, of course,

Tel.: +49 (0) 95 45 440-300

a console which emphasizes these talents.

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AURUS is just such a console and all digital to boot. Its singular flexibility brings any challenge, however daunting, within your reach. In live performance AURUS’ modest footprint allows an optimum view of the action, while all parameters can be controlled intuitively. In production its huge scope and sublime audio quality never fail to impress.


review

RME ADI-6432 MADI is a protocol that has been bubbling away on the back burner for some years making appearances predominantly on high-end hardware. Yet it offers an awful lot as a means of interconnection with only cost and a lack of conviction precluding wider acceptance. Things are changing as ROB JAMES finds with this MADI to AES convertor.

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ESPITE THE FACT that a single, conventional AES3 link can carry two channels, the multicore cables required to transport high channel counts are still unwieldy, fragile and expensive. The Serial Multichannel Audio Digital Interface, to give it its full title, AKA AES10, promises long distance communications for up to 64 (extended mode) bi-directional channels over just two copper coaxial BNC or optical fibre cables. MADI is one of the legendary digital interface protocols, the only obstacle to wider acceptance has been cost. German manufacturer RME has set out to change that and has largely succeeded. The UK£1787 (+VAT), 2u ADI-6432 format convertor is a recent addition to the growing RME Premier Line family of MADI devices. The basic functionality is 64 channels of bi-directional format conversion for MADI to and from AES-EBU at standard sample rates and 24-bits. Sample rates up to 192kHz are also supported with a commensurate reduction in the number of channels. On the surface, the ADI-6432 is a simple device that does what it says on the rackmount enclosure. Silk-screened on the top, along with the usual safety and certification notices and a block diagram, is the legend, ‘Quick Start Guide — Plug it in, Switch it on, Get MADI!’ However, there is a lot more to it than that. The MADI stream can also carry MIDI and serial data in both directions and the unit can be remote controlled by MIDI or RS232 serial data. To this end there are DIN MIDI sockets and a 9-pin D-sub. The front panel has nine buttons with 31 associated LEDs and a further 97 indicator LEDs in the main status display matrix. Three rows of 32 LEDs show the Sync and Audio state of each AES stereo channel and Audio state on each MADI channel pair. A single LED shows MADI sync status. MADI Input determines optical/coaxial. The State section shows Error, 64-channel mode and 96k 30

frame format. AES Input displays the basic state of the AES input signal: Error, Double Speed and Quad Speed. Word Input displays the state of the Word clock input signal when Word is chosen as clock reference: Error, Double Speed and Quad Speed. The clock reference and frequency multiplier is chosen in the Clock section. MADI Output configures the MADI output as 56/64 channel or 48k/96k frame format. Remote selects the MIDI remote control source (MADI or DIN jack). MIDI Input indicates received MIDI data. Com indicates serial data being received or transmitted via the 9-pin connector. Lock Keys does what it says and all settings are retained when the unit is switched off. AES connections are on eight 25-pin D-sub connectors in Tascam format, i.e. four stereo inputs and outputs per connector. Both coaxial (BNC) copper and glass optical (SC) MADI connections are provided. Copper can span distances up to 100m while multimode optical can span around 2000m. If the distance between units is less than 100m both coaxial and optical connections can be used to give redundancy, auto switching if an input is lost. The original MADI specification supported a maximum of 56 audio channels and this was officially extended to 64 in 2001. However, some modern devices still only allow 56 audio channels, reserving the remainder for control commands, etc. The ADI-6432 supports the full 64 audio channel plus 16 MIDI channels and an RS232 stream by making use of some of the user bits. A Windows applet can be freely downloaded from the RME website that gives remote control and status requests of the ADI-6432. When used with an HDSP MADI (PCI card) as I did, this offers direct control via MADI. MADI, like AES is a self-clocked format, i.e. no separate sync connection is required. However, the usual strictures apply, there can only be one clock master in a complete system. The ADI-6432 can be resolution

master or can sync to Word clock at single, double or quad speed on the AES or MADI inputs. The lowest numbered channel with a valid signal is used as the source. RME uses a number of techniques to improve lock and jitter performance. SteadyClock is its answer to often heavily jittery MADI data signals but it also deals with jitter present on other sync sources. The cleaned up clock signal is also available at the Word clock output. SyncCheck assesses all the inputs for synchronicity. If an asynchronous input is detected the associated sync LED flashes. SyncAlign avoids the random 1 sample error between AES stereo pairs. Apart from the obvious application — breaking out the I-O of MADI-equipped devices to AES — a pair of units makes a compelling alternative to multicore for live applications. Leaving aside the cost advantages of a pair of optical cables over multicore copper, galvanic isolation confers valuable safety benefits. In addition, many sound reinforcement devices such as amplifiers and crossovers can be remote controlled using the serial communication in the MADI stream. Some equipment manufacturers only support certain flavours of MADI. The ADI-6432 is the MADI equivalent of superglue. It can accept any legal input format and output it in 56 or 64-channel modes. In 96kHz frame it can also convert double-wire MADI to single-wire double-speed. The unit can also be used as an AES inserter into a MADI stream. Channels to be forwarded are simply bridged by connecting AES outputs to inputs, while channels to be modified or added are broken out. Similarly, a pair of units can be used to merge two MADI streams. Any format conversion process is likely to introduce latency and this is no exception. The good news is that here it is tiny — five samples at 48kHz when playing back and rerecording and the unit signals its own latency to DAW applications. RME has quietly established itself as one of the foremost manufacturers of professional DAW I-O interfaces and convertors. I’ve always been a fan of optical interconnects and MADI can be seen as a kind of ‘super ADAT TOSlink’ for professionals. Thanks to RME it will now often prove to be the most cost-effective and safe option when all factors are properly taken into account. The ADI-6423 most usefully extends the Premier Line and will find customers across the industry. ■

PROS

Elegantly achieves what it sets out to do; cost-effective when high channel counts are required; simple and versatile.

CONS

Not much really; adaptors needed for Yamaha and other AES Sub-D pin-outs; single wire AES only.

Contact RME, GERMANY: Website: www.rme-audio.de

September 2006


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review

Fostex CD500 Not another standalone CD-R machine we hear you cry, and you’d be right. This one offers BWF and CD-DA functionality in the same box and a build-quality that belies its price. ZENON SCHOEPE is suitably impressed.

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NITIAL IMPRESSIONS ARE important because they set a tone of expectation. The Fostex CD500 feels and looks surprisingly good and could be described as a CD-R machine that is built the way they used to be built. One of the unfortunate themes of standalone CD-R, which applies to any established electrical item, is that as they became cheaper they also started to feel it. I regard the CD burning process as a mechanical one and obvious mechanical substance makes me feel better about things. The build quality is almost at odds with what we now expect — the switches are beautifully positive, the pots are smooth and tight to the facia and the metalwork is thick and well fitted. The front panel layout also indicates that this is a different take on the CD-R theme and if it is a repackaging exercise then Fostex has gone to great lengths to disguise it as I haven’t seen another ‘pro’ device that resembles this box even slightly. One of the reasons that the choice in standalone CD-Rs is now so reduced is that you can’t buy a computer without an appropriate drive installed. The manufacturers have also largely saturated the market and will argue that most people who wanted a CD-R have probably got one now. However, standalone CD-Rs are still valid because they are so self-contained and a good one will also address all your related connectivity issues. Even so a new machine really ought to be offering something truly different to arouse interest and in this respect the CD500 does have an ace up its sleeve. Not only can it do the CDR/RW thing but it is also first to offer direct Broadcast WAV recording to a UDF formatted disc at up to 24bit/96kHz resolution. This means you can export a BWF disc to a Windows PC for editing. So it’ll record at 44.1/16 for trad CD and for BWF it’ll do 44.1/16, 44.1/24, 48/16, 48/24, 88.2/24 and 96/24. Try that on your run-of-the-mill PC CD-R drive. The setup procedure is straightforward and involves preformatting for BWF and you’ll be burning overspeced audio onto disc with ease simply because you can and because unlike hard disk, CD-R discs are pretty blinking cheap for what amounts to an instant archival and transfer medium. Connectors on the back cover balanced XLR and unbalanced phono I-Os plus XLR digital and a GPI jack socket for fader starting. The front panel houses a (long relegated to the infrared remote) numerical keypad with a Memory Locate function, which means you can dial in and access a particular time on the disc. Not since the early CD-R machine bronze-age have such radical concepts been included. Larger buttons instigate Record, Play and Stop but 32

I could not find any approximation of such common CD-R stalwarts as Pause, the indispensable Pause Mute or the ability to mark a track ID on the fly. I don’t think that the lack of these features impacts upon the BWF side of the machine because by definition the audio will be going on to somewhere else afterwards. It only compromises the CD-DA operation because in this application I want the option of doing a tidy job just as I can on most other CD-R machines. It’s almost as if the breadth of the design challenge has established a slightly different set of priorities and some features have dropped off the end of the table as a result. But you can skip forward and backward through tracks and enjoy about the best quality Forward and Reverse latching cue I have heard on a CD machine. You can even perform a ‘scrub’ complete with waveform display using the dial to move along the timeline. The display is unusual in employing a type of grid for the compartmentalisation of the info. It works well but I had to look hard and although you can adjust contrast you can’t seem to adjust the brightness. The metering is fine with adjustable peak hold and you can change the reference level display at the base of the meters from -12dB or -20dB. You also get centre-detented input level pots and a nice headphone circuit. And there’s a USB port on the front for connecting a keyboard that allows direct access to certain menu layers and functions and allows you to name files in a far more comfortable fashion than the front panel keypad — but then the texter generation might disagree. There are a variety of ways to select a track for playback and a variety of playback modes — All Play, Single Play, Program Play and Memory Play — all of which puzzle me because Fostex has not shirked in this department yet has not joined up all the dots for the complete CD-DA recording functionality experience. There is nothing wrong with 44.1/16 providing it is done well and in practical terms, for the majority of our target audiences, it is either good enough or already too good for the destination reproduction systems. However, in the professional arena there resolution

are times when you’d like to think you could offer higher resolution and that has traditionally involved hard disk recorders of a permanent, standalone or portable nature. Providing it’s stereo, then there’s now the CD500 to consider. From a 700Mb disc, at worst you’ll get around 20 minutes at 96/24 and some 66 minutes at 44.1/16 BWF compared to the standard circa 79 minutes of CD-DA. You can close your BWFs or finalise the disc up permanently. The CD500 has been a genuine delight. I was expecting some last of line CD-R dressed up to pull but what I found was a unit that I didn’t think anybody was ever going to make and with an unusually high build quality. For the price (UK£339 + VAT), I think it represents outstanding value. You’ll be drawn to the CD500 because of it BWF ability and as such there’s nothing that can touch it. I wouldn’t have any reservations about taking this box and a pair of pres out for stereo recording — I could live with 40 minutes at 48/24 for 25p. There are of course different ways that you could apply it but at its most basic it’s very winning. I would have liked to have had a few more of the bells and whistles included that I have become accustomed to with other standalone CD-Rs, but the omission of these doesn’t spoil the CR500 for me, it just means it’s not perfect. I’d go so far as to say that if you’re looking for a standalone CD-R at the moment then this is the one you should investigate first and then judge all other contenders against it. ■

PROS

BWF functionality; fantastic buildquality; superb package of performance; incredible price.

CONS

No Pause, Mute Pause or manual track ident entry lets down the CD-DA side.

Contact FOSTEX, JAPAN: Website: www.fostexinternational.com UK, SCV London: +44 208 418 1470

September 2006


review

Prism Sound ADA-8XR It’s rare to find a digital box these days that can grow with your needs and expand with your requirements. GEORGE SHILLING uncovers all this and more in the mother of all convertors.

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RISM SOUND CONVERTORS HAVE, for many years, been most highly respected. Their pricing certainly places them at the upper end of the market, and the latest model in the ‘Dream’ range is no exception. The ADA-8XR is capable of standard sample rates and DSD operation. The audio performance is further improved; the convertors undoubtedly rate among the best currently available, but the emphasis is on clock purity, jitter rejection and analogue audio integrity. 192kHz operation is added, but Prism Sound claims that its tests fail to show any significant improvement over well-designed 96kHz convertors. With the ADA-8XR’s seemingly comprehensive connectivity options and the facility to mix and match I-O modules, there is no need to buy unnecessary format interfaces, and the theoretical possibility to upgrade to future yet-to-be-invented formats. Built like the proverbial brick outhouse, the 2u box’s front panel is crowded with controls, diagrams, status indicators and meters. A ‘normal’ configuration provides eight A-D and eight D-A channels. These are designated Path 1 and Path 2, and the eight meters will show levels of one or other of the two paths. However, it is possible to specify 16 D-A or A-D as an alternative, implemented by fitting two of the same type of analogue module in the two slots on the rear panel. There are also two digital module slots and you can therefore configure signal paths for D-D conversions when both are occupied. Modular digital I-O options currently include boards for Pro Tools Mix, Pro Tools HD, AES3 with completely independent input and output sections and supplied ‘squid’ for splitting the DB25 connector to XLRs (operating in Split96 or one-wire modes), DSD (with the possibility to convert to and from analogue and PCM), and a FireWire board for direct connection to Windows or Mac computers. This allows you to use the ADA-8XR as your computer’s sound card, providing top-quality audio conversion for users of Logic, Digital Performer, Cubase or Nuendo. The Monitor section is accompanied by a headphone socket for monitoring channel pairs; there are additional analogue and digital monitor outputs on the rear utility module that share the same path. There is even a basic built-in mixer with the possibility of setting levels and pan positions of the eight channels of a main Path. The Mimic panel takes up the largest area, and is populated with small buttons and diagrams that cover configuration settings. Pressing any of the blue buttons causes the Menu panel’s screen to jump to that particular function, thus aiding configuration. Repeated pressing cycles relevant functions, and there are plenty of neat touches that indicate the care and 34

thought that has gone into this design. For example, returning to one of these options will bring up the last viewed menu of the cycle. The Menu section is the heart of operations. Because there is so much here, legending is small, and the illuminated Menu display requires that your face is fairly near for easy navigation of the menus. However, with only 2 x 16 characters possible on the display it is surprisingly easy to navigate myriad menus and functions. There is no visual clue as to your place in the menu tree, but this doesn’t seem to be a hindrance as items are placed logically, and using the Mimic panel or a little exploration will usually take you to where you want to go. Parameter changes can be effected for the entire 8-channel Path or for individual channels. Factory Stores are provided for various situations and with software controlling the line-up levels (to very high tolerances) a parameter defines whether or not these are loaded with the setup. Audio features include switchable Overkiller progressive limiters on the A-D line inputs — these are automatically set depending on the chosen line-up and are extremely useful for unpredictable recording situations. Sample rate conversion is handled particularly efficiently partly thanks to an internal sample rate of 352.8kHz. There are actually two internal clocks, one for each Path. The ADA-8XR will even synchronise to, say, a 44.1kHz clock and referencing this, run a Path at 48kHz, doing the necessary maths along the way. The Synchronous Sample Rate Convertor is included with the DSD module, which claims a huge improvement over asynchronous rate convertors. The largest spurious component in a 96kHz to 44.1kHz conversion was at a remarkable -151.65dB in a factory test. Prism’s proprietary Super Noise Shaping dither is available on each channel in a choice of four flavours of varying frequency shift. I tested the unit with the Pro Tools HD module. When Pro Tools is launched some reassuringly loud pinging and clunking relays spring into life. For use with Pro Tools, as with other modules, a convenient Factory Store can be loaded for a typical configuration so you are up and running very quickly, although of resolution

course a certain amount of typing is necessary within Pro Tools. The ADA-8XR cleverly turns itself into a virtual Digidesign 192, albeit with only the first eight I-O channels present in standard configuration. The ADA-8XR must be configured as the first 192, with others following, so extra renaming will be required when supplementing a setup. The manual is superb, covering plenty of technical background and fully explaining the reasoning behind design decisions. For example, cheaper convertors are more stable at clocking internally than externally. Therefore, it is recommended that the ADA-8XR is clocked (using WC or AES) to the inferior device for rock-solid jitter-free performance. The Prism Sound undoubtedly exhibits more of the ‘openness’ one associates with analogue gear and less of that clogged-up, closed-in digital character. At 44.1kHz things are noticeably improved over standard interfaces, and at 96kHz the audio quality is remarkable. The ADA-8XR is a classleader, with the stats to prove it (from UK £6000). Many audio professionals concur that these are among the best convertors money can buy. I can find no reason to disagree. ■

PROS

Great sounding convertors; unparalleled clock stability; interfaces available for all scenarios including Pro Tools HD, FireWire and DSD.

CONS

No simultaneous metering of all ins and outs; needs to be carefully located for visual access.

EXTRAS

The DA-2 D-AC and AD-2 A-DC are 2channel convertors in Prism’s Dream series. The AD-2 behaves like two separate A-DCs plus a digital processor and can generate two entirely separate output signals simultaneously with different sampling rates, different wordlengths and different noise-shapers.

Contact PRISM SOUND, UK: Website: www.prismsound.com

September 2006


DFC Gemini the power behind world cinema

Visit the AMS Neve website to discover why 70% of international blockbusters are mixed on the DeďŹ nitive Film Console.

AMS NEVE

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CineFile Integrated Film Recorder & Dubber


review

Milab DC196 Billed as the smallest large membrane microphone in the world, this underrated Swedish manufacturer has taken a very fresh look at one of its enduring designs and upped the spec all round. JON THORNTON says Gimme that night fever, night fever...

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ILAB’S NEWEST OFFERING is distinctive in many ways. The first is its diminutive size — it’s not quite the smallest side-address large diaphragm capacitor microphone I’ve ever come across, but it’s close. But it’s the size in conjunction with its overall shape that makes it look for all the world like a cross between a U87 and a C12 that has somehow been shrunk in the wash. Not only that, but it’s been washed while wearing John Travolta’s best white strutting suit. The glossy white finish certainly makes a change from the rather dour silver, greys and blacks of late — I can’t work out whether this is 21st Century iPod cool or 1970’s disco throwback. There is a point to all of this, as the DC196 (Euro 850) is equally distinctive under the surface. For starters it features the signature rectangular diaphragm common to a number of Milab designs. It is based (externally at least, John Travolta notwithstanding) on the DC96B, a microphone that Milab has successfully been producing since 1967. The DC196 isn’t a case of simply dressing up an old design in new clothes. The capsule has been substantially reworked, as have the electronics, resulting in considerably reduced levels of self-noise (12dbA for the DC196 compared with 19dBA for the DC96B). The most significant change is the addition of variable polar patterns compared with the original’s fixed cardioid — a choice of cardioid, fig-8 and omni can be selected via a small but positive rotary switch on the side of the microphone. A –12dB pad also finds its way into the specification, again on the side of the microphone. Confirming one of its principle applications, an internal metal pop-shield has been added to the capsule housing although in practice this wasn’t really sufficient to deal with anything other than very minor plosives. One of the nicest things about this microphone is that it is so discreet, which would be rather compromised if it were necessary to surround it with a huge shockmount. Thankfully, the supplied clip is a small tube with a rubber mount that slides snugly over the microphone and holds it firmly without significantly increasing its girth. This works perfectly well due to the fact that the capsule assembly itself benefits from a rubber shockmount assembly internally. First impressions of the microphone on male vocals on the cardioid setting are of a fairly understated, open sound. There’s certainly no hint of brittleness to the voice, but no real sense of a mid-frequency presence bump either. Compared to a C414, the DC196 sounded slightly softer, although the 414 revealed a slight low-mid ‘honk’ in this particular voice that wasn’t apparent with the DC196. There was also the sense that low frequency extension fell of more rapidly with an increase of distance to the microphone than was the case with the 414, meaning that the best results were obtained quite close up. This is helped by a very useable proximity boost that comes in very progressively, although there 36

was always the sense that there was something of a dip between the low-mids and the proximity effect induced tip-up. This wasn’t an objectionable effect, but did result in the DC196 seeming to exhibit less depth of field than the 414 did. Off-axis response on the cardioid setting is extremely smooth and consistent, with minimal colouration. Switching to an omni pattern and that perceived unevenness in the bass response disappears completely. Used as a distant room microphone on a drum recording, the DC196 sounds fabulous — something that I’ve noticed before with other Milab designs that use the rectangular capsule. Not only does everything sound balanced and natural, but there seems to be less in the way of objectionable room modes, and a detail to the HF elements that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from its placement. This characteristic remains even when switched to a fig-8 pattern with the null point facing the sound source. Usually I’d expect to hear some slight phasing artefacts, but there is little if any of this. Finally, I tried using the DC196 on an acoustic guitar. In both cardioid and omni modes it yielded a sound that was full and detailed, but always a little soft. There’s a gentle and quite early roll-off of the high frequencies, coupled with a lack of brittleness that you sometimes find in the mid-range that gave an almost mellow sound to the guitar. Interestingly, although I’d normally favour an omni pattern in this application, it was the cardioid response that sounded more balanced here. In all applications, the DC196 takes EQ very nicely — it’s easy to add a little air around a guitar or voice without it becoming ‘twangy’ or overly sibilant. All of which makes it a little hard to categorise. I found myself deliberating for longer than usual over microphone choice while using the DC196, when normally I’d instantly make a decision after a couple of auditions — it does seem to make you think hard about exactly what you need to achieve in a given situation. In much the same way as I couldn’t decide about its appearance, I can’t quite decide about how to categorise the sound. There’s a quiet authority about it — a sense of solidity without the hype. I liked it a lot — it’s neither a mic for the iPod generation, nor a 70’s throwback. Definitely more Reservoir Dogs than Saturday Night Fever. ■

PROS

Compact and discreet, almost jewel-like in appearance; honest, understated sound that retains detail and openness.

CONS

Built in pop-shield doesn’t really work that well; might be a little too softsounding for some people.

Contact MILAB, SWEDEN: Website: www.milab.com

resolution

September 2006


review

Marantz PMD570 Picking up the CompactFlash media employed to such great effect in the portable PMD670 and taking it to the studio is what this box is all about. ZENON SCHOEPE decides that what is perfectly acceptable for cameras can now be happily installed in an audio rack.

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OU COULD LOOK at the PMD570 as the studio-based rackmount counterpart to the popular and really rather good PMD670 recorder that provides CompactFlash recording in a highly portable and well specified box. You could also see them as companion products that work together in an acquisition-to-studio workflow. I had cause employ this intended workflow when my trusty portable cassette recorder gave up the ghost and I was very kindly loaned a PMD670. After initial reluctance –- based, it has to be said, around the prospect of CompactFlash cards, archival and how the machine intruded on an otherwise adequately respectable means of interview acquisition that had been working perfectly for me for decades — I got the point. Despite the seeming complexity and switch-richness of the PMD670, once it’s set the way you want it, you can just forget about it and get on with the job. I must say that this ‘set and forget’ approach works against it when you do have to do something out of the ordinary occasionally, like deleting tracks to make space on the card. I needed the manual for that. But generally the machine is idiot-proof and surprisingly robust and a good deal more pro than CompactFlash media tends to suggest. The PMD670 is a spectacularly professional package and it has really grown on me particularly as the Pro Bag carry case for it means I can take it on a plane for a day-trip with all my personal items stuffed into the pockets and get through the current hand-baggage restrictions. Coming back you flip the CompactFlash card out of the portable and slot it into the PMD570 (UK£695 + VAT) and you’re off and into your production chain. The PMD570 employs a standard sized USB port on the back rather than the miniature type you need for the 670. Like the 670, the machine needs to be turned off to access its CompactFlash from a computer where it appears as a removable drive. It’s quite a strange little routine and I’m not sure it’s an elegant one but it does work. All the I-Os are on the back but a few breakouts on the front might have improved the convenience. That said, you have balanced XLR inputs with trims, analogue phono I-O and phono SPDIF I-O. I would want balanced XLR outputs too. There’s also a socket for an optional wired remote and an assignable remote jack socket that can be used to activate Start/Pause, Mark EDL or Manual Track Mark. An RS-232 connector permits access to a variety of remote functions and with a piece of Marantz software that you can download from its website you can control the machine from your PC. If you’re less peculiar then you’ll want to use the front panel with its large display, six buttons to the right, two to the left and a multifunction dial with 38

press-to-make. Transport buttons for Record, Play, Stop, Forward and Rewind double up for different duties according to what state the machine is in and a Menu/Store button does what you’d expect. The two remaining buttons handle Shift access functions and Display mode and control Lock. While the PMD670 really does wear its heart on its sleeve many of the functions that reside within the PMD570 are far from immediately accessible and less than convenient as a consequence. It’s worth mentioning that any incoming card will bring its crucial settings with it so it’s not as if you’ll need to dip in and out of the configuration tables on a regular basis particularly as you can assemble presets from commonly used values. It has more than 40 assignable quality settings and can handle MP3, MP2, WAV, and BWF, 16-48kHz sample rates and 32-384-bit rates. There is a lot of menu to get through and while I managed, I do believe I had an operational advantage from my knowledge of the PMD670. A true first-timer might be less happy. I regard the PMD570 as the perfect accompanying unit for home base studios that have to deal with a fleet of PMD670-armed users. They’d be out doing the job, bringing the cards back to base, possibly

swapping them for clean ones before going back out again, while the studio chap gets it into the system and compiles and edits the results into a programme. That’s the workflow explained and it’s logical, workable and efficient. The PMD570 is strongest as a playback and transfer device that can also be employed as a simple but powerful and potentially high quality recorder with simplicity of operation in the front row. It also does a passable impression of a cart replacement — it’s slim, slick and you can remote the important functions. Important operational features include prerecord, time-stamping, A-B repeat, a variety of playback features including Seamless Playback that rolls tracks together, and a handy flip over in the display to remaining time once 5 minutes remaining is reached on the card. A kit of screws is supplied to bolt down the CF door and to stop accidental opening. It’s to be recommended as flipping the door opens throws the machine into spasm with warnings and suspends operation. It also means that changing over cards is not that fast as the PMD570 requires some time to sort itself out. I’m now very comfortable with CompactFlash as a recording medium. After extended use I have to concede that there’s something resilient and solid about it. While I am keen to get the data off it and onto something else without delay, that probably says more me than about the safety of the media. The PMD570 brings CompactFlash into the studio and integrates it nicely on a number of levels. It’s a useful box. ■

Contact MARANTZ, EUROPE: Website: www.d-mpro.com

PROS

Slick; compact; remote options; suits a variety of applications.

CONS

In depth menu functions a bit fiddly; all I-Os on rear panel.

EXTRAS

Marantz also offers an installation market variant of this machine called the PMD560. Interestingly enough it places a USB socket on the front, adds dedicated metering and reduces the button count.

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September 2006


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review

Drum Rehab Drum manipulation and replacement is now an integral part of music production, be it as a corrective or creative measure, and whether you agree with the sentiments or not. GEORGE SHILLING is in rehab but he’s still hearing those drums.

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N THE 1980S, the introduction of the AMS dmx-1580s with sample triggering undoubtedly influenced 80s pop records and resulted in all those huge-sounding, often late-triggering snare sounds. Later, devices like the Akai ME-35T allowed audio sources to trigger MIDI samplers and then Pro Tools spawned SoundReplacer, a plug-in to make the job achievable within the computer. Still in the Digidesign catalogue, SoundReplacer has recently been, umm, replaced in many a plug-in folder by Wavemachine Labs’ Drumagog, which rather upped the game by providing libraries of drum sounds and a whole raft of advanced features. However, the now Digidesign-owned Trillium Lane Labs has (after much delay since its announcement) hit back with Drum Rehab. Unlike SoundReplacer, which is an offline AudioSuite plug-in, Drum Rehab (UK£290) is an RTAS insert. Disappointingly, it is mono-only — certainly, many users would want to use stereo samples. The neat-looking plug-in window is reminiscent of SoundReplacer, with a waveform display taking up much of the window. The main window actually comprises four different alternative control panels named Trigger, Expert, Sample and Preferences, although some global slider controls appear on multiple pages, so adjustments to these are reflected in all panels. On the right is the Library Browser where samples are selected and auditioned. Files use a proprietary format with the .drp suffix. Samples can be auditioned automatically when clicked in the browser, and double clicking instantly loads the set, whichever main page is selected. Configured from the Sample page, these collections of samples can each contain up to 16 Zones (with variable crossfade borders), two positions A and B, for blending, say, edge and centre samples of the drum, and four clips per position, for random sample selection. There is a supplied library of different hits and kits. However, while some tastes will be satisfied, these are in the main rather disappointing. For example, most snare drums seem to have far too 40

much underneath mic blended in. The differently named snare drums in the Purrrfect Drums collection all sound remarkably similar and overly-compressed, Toms also sound rather compressed, while Kicks mostly sound artificially low in pitch. The Rock Drums snares all sound as if they are being tapped very lightly, while Kicks from that collection are all rather woolly. Unfortunately, you cannot even tune the samples in pitch to help improve them. This is something of a missed opportunity, but undoubtedly other libraries will appear in due course. Of course you can load user samples: SD2, AIF and WAV files can be loaded into a .drp, but that is a timeconsuming business if you want to make use of multiple Zones and Clips. To set up triggering, four different detector modes are available via a pop-up menu, which presumably use preset filtering and hold-off settings to better detect different types of drum tracks. There are modes for Kick, Toms, and two different Snare modes, one more sensitive for busier parts and flams, the other more for general purpose triggering and cymbals. These worked well, and it was often the case that accurate triggering was achieved with minimal tweaking, with no need to leave the Trigger page for successful operation. On playing through the track with Listen enabled, Drum Rehab ‘learns’ the trigger points. If after adjusting the minimum trigger level (a rather fiddly numerical adjustment — why no slider?) things still aren’t quite right, the expert page allows triggers to be individually or globally ‘Committed’, Uncommitted or individually ignored. Committed Triggers can be edited and moved, and only these will play back when Listen is disabled. Alternatively, they can be toggled to be ignored. Without Delay Compensation activated, there can be large latencies with the recommended buffer of 2048 samples when bouncing triggers to audio in Listen mode, but ‘No Latency’ mode plays back Committed triggers at a sample accurate position comparable precisely with the original source — even when Delay Compensation is off. resolution

A useful Voicing setting determines whether retriggering silences previously triggered hits. The waveform display shows detected levels of trigger hits, and minimum and maximum levels can be set for trigger detection, mainly to stop spill causing triggers. I couldn’t see any zoom controls at first, but vertical zoom can be achieved by clicking and dragging up or down. Horizontal zoom is achieved automatically in the Expert page — clicking and holding the mouse on a trigger point zooms right in, then you can drag the trigger left or right. Releasing the mouse then zooms out, but with no calibrated timeline it can then be difficult to know which trigger you have edited! Amplitude control is possible by Command-Clicking and dragging to increase or decrease the level of a particular trigger, and Dynamics can be controlled with a slider. There are separate levels for Input and Samples, allowing blending of the original track with the replacement sound, which is remarkably satisfying with the No Latency mode activated as the two sounds are absolutely spot-on in time. Additionally, a ducking slider allows the underlying track to dip upon triggers, so if you want authentic hi-hat spill or background noise without hearing the original hits blended in, this easily achieves that! Drum Rehab also includes a quantise function from 1⁄2 to 1/64 note values, variable from 0 to 100%, although there are no triplet settings. This saves subsequent faffing with Beat Detective or Region Quantize, but perhaps suggests a missing feature that could be useful — generated MIDI trigger parts or saveable templates, anyone? Drum Rehab is presently let down by a lack of stereo triggering, and a disappointing library. Although the exceptionally accurate triggering makes this a worthwhile purchase, more enhancements are certainly possible and are hopefully in development. Drum Rehab has a much more professional look and feel compared to its main rival and triggers more accurately. Some manual reading is required to fully understand the functions (there is also Balloon Help) but this is soon rewarded with reliable triggering using an elegant and professional interface. ■

PROS

Very accurate triggering; no Latency mode; smart interface; random sample selection; up to 16 multisample layers.

CONS

Mono only; disappointing library; no sample pitching.

EXTRAS

The TL Aggro plug-in claims to bring the personality of vintage analogue FET compression to the Pro Tools environment. Features include a tube drive module and a bass compensation section with controls accessible from a vintage interface.

Contact DIGIDESIGN/TRILLIUM LABS, US: Website: www.digidesign.com

September 2006


Gone Platinum New AWS 900+ Analogue Workstation System

Everything you need to record, edit and mix

The original AWS 900 established a new category in modern console design. Every inch a ‘real SSL’, it scooped the 2005 TEC Award in the Large Format Console category – despite measuring just 56" across! Installed in more than 150 of the most prestigious project studios in the world, this unique combination of a compact, world-class analogue mixing console and a comprehensive DAW controller has notched up an impressive catalog of credits from the Rolling Stones’ ‘A Bigger Bang’ to Alicia Keys’ ‘Unplugged’ and Barbra Streisand’s ‘Guilty Pleasures’. Now the new AWS 900+ builds on the successful formula by adding even tighter integration with all popular DAW platforms, enhancements to the

• Combined SSL console and DAW controller

displays and meters, and a sleek ‘platinum’ styling.

• Legendary SSL SuperAnalogue™ mic pres and signal processing

Love analogue? Work digital? Find out more about the AWS 900+.

• Full monitoring system up to 5.1 surround • Direct control of DAW recording, editing and mixing functions • Flexible signal routing

Oxford +44 (0)1865 842300 New York +1 (1)212 315 1111 Los Angeles +1 (1)323 549 9090 Paris +33 (0)1 48 67 84 85 Milan +39 039 2328 094 Tokyo +81 (0)3 5474 1144

www.solid-state-logic.com


review

Neve 8816 While the analogue versus digital summing debate carries on, more manufacturers are lining up to supply you with a box that takes your DAW’s individual analogue outputs and creates a stereo mix the old fashioned way. JON THORNTON discovers a 16:2 summing mixer that does an awful lot more than just that.

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ANY OF THE MORE recent summing mixer offerings have added a variety of additional features to tempt you and your DAW and these range from bus compression to monitoring control. However, what most have in common is that they attempt to provide some the most useful monitoring and routing functions of a traditional console in the era of in-the-box tracking and mixing. It should come as no surprise then, that the old guard has brought its own offering to the table. Equally unsurprising is the fact that if it was going to do it, it would be in a typically bullet-proof and uncompromising way. So much so, that referring to Neve’s 8816 as a simple summing mixer really doesn’t do it justice. Of course, this is its core function and much of the front-panel of this 2u rackmount is taken up with level, pan and mute or solo (in-place) controls for 16 channels of audio. Inputs are at line level, and interfacing for these is via two 25-pin D-Sub connectors on the rear panel. Three further D-Subs connectors make provision for a selection of insert points, 2-track returns, main mix bus output, monitor and cue outputs — at which point you begin to see just how flexible this unit is. The main mix bus topology features electronically balanced inputs and transformer balanced outputs, and simply as a 16:2 mixer you have to acknowledge that it sounds great — quiet, smooth and imparting a certain ‘chunkiness’ to the sound that is hard to really put into words (Chunkiness is good though. Ed). The main mix output has its own master level control, and metering is courtesy of a pair of meters that sport a pseudo PPM characteristic. The slightly unusual scale shows a nominal 0VU (+4dBu) line-up point, and points for +18dBu and +22dBu depending on how 0dBFS is referenced in your particular set-up. A separate monitor output is provided that feeds two pairs of balanced jack speaker outputs on the rear panel. A switch located between the meters selects either main or alternate loudspeakers and pressing 42

the monitor level pot switches between available monitoring sources. These are the main mix bus, a 2track return, input channels 1 and 2 only (pre-fade), and something Neve terms ‘iMon’, which is a 3.5mm jack socket on the front panel for connecting an MP3 player to. (We live in strange times. Ed). It’s also possible to mix the main bus output with any of these three additional sources for monitoring purposes. A headphone socket on the front panel together with a parallel socket on the rear panel can also pick up the monitor output if so switched. If not, the headphones are fed by a cue bus. Channels 1 to 14 each have an illuminated pushbutton, which, when pressed, sends that signal (pre-fader and pan) to the cue bus. Channels 15 and 16 are configured as a stereo signal feeding the cue output and an overall level control for cue sends 1 to 14 allows these to be balanced against channels 15 and 16. The 2-track return signal can also be fed into the cue output, with its own level control. Pushing the headphone level pot dims the selected sources and inserts talkback onto the cue from a small front panel microphone. On the pre-production version supplied, cue selection for the first 14 channels was exclusive — in other words only one channel at a time could be selected to cue together with channels 15 and 16. Production versions will allow multiple cue selections. It’s perhaps not the most flexible cue system in the world, but in applications with single overdubs against a stereo backing track already sub-mixed from a DAW, it works well enough. With a nod towards the 8816 being the final analogue summing device in some mastering applications, Neve has also provided some very flexible options on the main mix bus. A stereo width control allows the main bus to be narrowed or made ‘super-wide’ by playing around with sum and difference levels. A switchable insert point is provided across the main outputs and this can be further switched between a conventional stereo insert or two insert points carrying the sum and difference equivalents of the main output for separate resolution

processing. These are then converted back to AB stereo on return to the unit. Further controls allow the mix insert return to be blended back with the unprocessed mix output for those wanting to explore a bit of parallel compression. There are other little touches and instances of attention to detail that will appeal to traditionalists –the provision of a socket for a remote talkback switch; a trim pot to adjust the talkback mic gain and a very high quality digital output option featuring PCM and DSD outputs. But the 8816 has two further tricks up its sleeve if further convincing is necessary. The first is a very simple and intuitive recall system that requires a small program to be run on PC or Mac. USB connection between computer and the device allows snapshots of all rotary controls to be taken and then manually reinstated in a manner that will be familiar to anyone who’s used this sort of system on a larger analogue board. Switches are all automatically reinstated to their snapshot status, and multiple units — including a pick and mix of some of Neve’s other recent outboard offerings — can be addressed by the software. The second and final trick is the provision of a remote fader pack option, the 8804, which when connected allows level, mute and solo control of each of the 16 channels, together with master faders for the left and right buses. Connection to the main unit is via a thick umbilical (all analogue signal path here), and requires a selection of links on the main unit’s PCB to be reset. The reason for this is that the addition of the remote fader unit also provides you with individual channel outputs (post-fader) for each of the 16 channels, and repurposes the rotary level control on the main unit to be an additional auxiliary send. The fader pack sports its own USB connection for recall purposes (the software sees it as a separate unit), and its construction is clearly aimed at installation in a desk surface. Add all of this together, and you find a system of tremendous flexibility and sonic character. Yes, there are a couple of things that aren’t quite right. The layout makes it hard to see some switch statuses unless you’re viewing it absolutely straight on; some of the terms used for switch legending aren’t terribly intuitive until you read the manual and try them out (try and guess what INS MIX actually means); and for some curious reason the illuminated switches on the remote fader pack won’t illuminate unless the USB cable is connected to a computer. And of course there is the price (8816 UK£1850 + VAT; 8804 UK£995 + VAT). Once speced up with the digital card and the remote faders, you could be buying a respectable small format mixer with most of the functionality and the addition of mic preamplifiers for less than the Neve solution’s asking price. But for some applications, the 8816 is really all that’s necessary and there’s ‘that’ sound to consider. There’s no doubt about — in terms of summing mixers, this is currently the one to beat for functionality and sound. ■

PROS

Terrific sounding summing mixer; recall software works very well; plenty of flexibility and nice touches with additional functions; expandability.

CONS

Some confusing terminology; less money could buy most of the functionality and mic preamplifiers; USB connection needed to power lights on fader pack.

Contact AMS NEVE, UK: Website: www.ams-neve.com

September 2006


Willi Zürrer Spending most of his days in a truck behind a Stagetec console, Willi Zürrer’s workload regularly covers sport and music for TV with a particular inclination towards downhill skiing and opera. GEORGE SHILLING covers all the angles in Switzerland.

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ILHELM ZÜRRER IS EMPLOYED by the TV Production Centre Zürich, (TPC AG), a commercial division of the Swiss broadcasting corporation SRG, which was split off six years ago. After reading economics at university, he discovered the Tonmeister course — he studied partly at Surrey University. In the holidays Zürrer worked for Swiss radio in Bern, where he recorded all kinds of music, and experienced the commercial pressure lacking from the University course. Following a brief period in live theatre in Bremen, he landed a job at ZDF. Initially he did FOH (‘artists always talk to PA people, not to me now!’) In TV sound he set about trying to persuade his bosses to do more show content live rather than using playback tapes. After six years at ZDF it was time to move on, and he returned to his native Switzerland to head the Audio Postproduction department of Schweizer Fernsehen. 44

He now works mostly on location, covering a range of events including classical recordings, jazz, and sports productions such as the Rowing at the Athens Olympics in 2004. His regular recording control room is the rear section of the new TPC OB truck, which was finished and first used in November 2005 for a chamber music production with oboist Heinz Holliger and a string quartet, for HDTV in 5.1. Zürrer was involved in specifying a Stagetec Aurus for the truck, being already familiar with the Cantus console that was installed in previous vehicles and production rooms. Apart from chamber music, Willi has also recorded eight operas on location with the new truck. Previous projects include a number of major sporting events, and Absolution with the Absolute Ensemble under the direction of Kristjan Järvi, recorded September 1999 at Clinton Studio NYC and nominated for a Grammy in 2002. resolution

What is the difference between sports and music events? A lot of the work is similar, but in music production, the whole communication is not a lot, the director speaks to the cameramen and the musicians. When you do sports it is completely different, because it lives on communication, everybody has to speak with everybody in seven corners. It is an important part of TV, to do with organisation and to make it work. Communication is the basic part of it. What’s interesting in sports is that to get the sound that you think is true, a lot of things you can’t do live, because there is too much ambient noise, or you are too far away, so it’s a combination of live sound and sampled sound. It’s like doing part of a movie, live. It’s really good when it works. People ask, ‘How do you get the click of the rowing, how do you record it?’ Of course, I am honest and say, that’s just a sample! It’s hard to do, because rowing goes for hours, and it’s fast, so you really have to concentrate for a couple of hours. With downhill skiing, you have to concentrate, say, after an hour when someone falls down — you shouldn’t hear them skiing any more, [laughter!] What I like on the Stagetec Aurus is the flexibility of the audio-follows-video switching feature. With the rowing, when it goes from close-up to far away, you have no way to do this manually, so you make really good configurations to get this done so that September 2006


craft when it switches to the other camera you get the other sound. From what I hear, the Aurus — and the Cantus — have this flexibility which few other consoles have. You can have triggers, and make configurations with delays. There are so many other things to do that you will always be late, and the director doesn’t speak for audio.

Do you do much work in 5.1? In music but not in sport. It is easier for, say, football, where there is a fixed location, but for things like downhill skiing you need much more mixed synthetic sound. For music, SRG has the transponder to transmit surround by satellite, also High Definition for the European Football in 2008. As soon as you have commentary, normally in Switzerland there are three languages, so where should it be mixed in surround? You need three control rooms, and then you have to record the international sound for later on. A lot of people haven’t really thought about the problems, the whole chain with all the different products that are needed. It is possible to do classical music live in surround, but the results I heard so far are mostly not very convincing. And you have to still concentrate on stereo and do a good stereo mix with some surround ambience. It’s different with multitrack recording, then you have the facilities and a quality control room to make a decent surround mix. How easy is it communicating with musicians or people on stage? I’m always happy when the truck isn’t too far away, I like to go inside and speak to them, it’s important to see each other. But you can’t always do it. Some video directors communicate with camera people but not with artists, so you also have to stay here and explain

September 2006

what’s going on, changing lights or whatever. Some studios have speakers in the ceiling, when you speak they look up — ‘his master’s voice’!

Do you follow a musical score for classical productions? Yeah, I have to, to get to know what is right or wrong, to make the marks about good or bad things, and in a production like this it’s always important to speak to the musicians. I understand my job is this, to get their interpretation to here, on a new medium, not EMC�216x125_E�Globe.psd live or in a concert hall, but at home, for DVD or on

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television, to understand their interpretation, not my fantasy world. My work is to speak to them about how to achieve this, because sometimes things have to be a bit different.

In what way? When you play something live, for a different medium, sometimes things have to be a bit clearer, a musical line played differently. Maybe things I can’t do in a mix. Musicians have to help, but first I have to understand what they want, then I can say, maybe you should play this a bit louder or less...

45


craft surround main microphones, but often you have the problem of just where to put them, so you have to have another idea, because a main microphone is in the centre of the orchestra, but you can’t put stands there because that’s the angle of the camera for the main shot. To hang it is not always possible, so you need of ideas to get a good sound but without this ugly thing in the middle that no-one wants to see.

Do you EQ to multitrack? No, only just to get something off with a high-pass filter, but as little as possible, because everything I do, I can’t really reverse. It just goes straight to the Pyramix, I equalise it for the rough mix, and later on in production.

How do you cope with people talking to you and distracting you? This is one of the major problems. Television lives a lot with communication, and audio is about listening so you always have conflict, and make priorities. For sport it’s really important to hear the producer and maybe other people, and also concentrate on your work. But doing music production, I just switch off everything else. During the production, if there is something really important, there is a talkback button for everybody. Doing music production means you have to be with the musicians and you can’t postpone things that don’t work, you can’t correct them, they have to be perfect in the moment you produce them. What is special about the Stagetec console? The connection to video makes the flexibility to work in TV production, and it offers a lot of flexible possibilities, just generally. The console philosophy is easy to understand. Perhaps this is not different to others, but it is very reliable. For productions, this is important. What is the recording format? In here we’ve got Pyramix, I’ve also got Tascam or the Mackie hard disk recorder, older formats, and I did quite a lot with Pro Tools, but in here for postproduction the Pyramix — it’s a very well-known product these days, a lot of people have it, and it’s also reliable. So far I work at 48kHz, 24-bit — it is important to have enough headroom and we don’t have to always work on the limit. I think 96kHz is nice to have, but the advantage isn’t really as much as having 24-bit.

for home. It’s a loudspeaker that forces you to listen exactly to equalisation, that’s what I like.

There are Genelecs for the vision team... Genelec doesn’t really force you to listen, that’s the difference, you have to force yourself — it very easily sounds nice on Genelec. Have you had to fix gear when kilometres from home? This is something that costs you nerves, doing outside broadcast means you don’t have a support department close to you. You have to be good at improvisation, and not have sleepless nights, when you think about all the things that can go wrong in this complex technology in here. But you know, when you are good at doing improvisations, you almost always find a way round. It happens that something breaks down and nothing works any more, this never happened to me during a recording or a broadcast, but it can happen! Normally you find a work around, and you have to be prepared for that. Is it a fibre link to the stage? Yes, I like it very much, it is much easier than analogue, but if this breaks down — it is the sort of risk you have to be aware of. You have to have an emergency setup so it would be at least possible to say ‘Goodbye’ on the show!

Do you run a backup system? In here I have started since High Definition VTRs have 12 tracks, so as the backup normally the VTRs provide enough tracks. If not, a second Pyramix or whatever. It is reliable, on the other hand they are expensive productions, it can’t be a problem if the recording doesn’t work because of a hard disk problem, for example.

What is your audience mic setup? It depends, for a normal TV show, it depends where you can hang them, but just a couple of microphones, perhaps [Sennheiser] 416 cardioids or Neumann, I’m not really fixed on a particular model, I often use the Sennheiser MKH40 cardioid. It has to be a system that is workable, so it has to be where you can reach them or get to them, so my idea is to get a system where you have enough microphones so if you have a corner where someone is sleeping or laughing you can close it. But the more microphones you have, the more things you get you don’t want to hear, the more you destroy the original sound.

And how is the monitoring here with these Tannoys? Last year we did a small test, the Tannoy gives a good impression about the sound you are producing

Do you ever point them out from the stage? Yes, that’s more for rock or pop concerts, then you don’t have the delay from the PA. For classical there will be mics for surround. For TV there are some nice

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What’s the key to good TV sound? To me, audio is to do with listening. Some people want to decide about audio by seeing something. Whatever equipment you have, the type of microphone you use, the most important thing is what you hear. Good sound always has something to do with listening, and in TV, sound has to fit the picture. But sometimes, we have to speak to the video director because there are things he can do to fit the picture to the sound, sometimes you really have to explain where the problem is. Sometimes they don’t understand the problem at first. Not everything is possible live — in movies, most of what you hear is done in postproduction... What project are you most proud of? Lately these operas, with 5.1 surround sound. I did a crossover-jazz music production in a church in France with Michel Godard, all live. This was demanding because it was live, because it was jazz, but with a lot of playback with medieval music mixed, and a lot of scenes in a church with ambiences. But the idea of the directors was that the people moved — this was very demanding to get it sorted so the concept worked. On the other side, the downhill skiing for the Olympics got a lot of good feedback from the Olympic broadcast organisation. What’s next? All the operas I recorded last month, there is postproduction ahead, these are all from the Zürich Opera House. In the autumn there are the big award shows, and there are already more operas planned, mostly for a company that produces DVDs. ■

September 2006


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craft I’d hate to think this is the case but it could provoke a more cavalier attitude at the front end, the equivalent of what we used to call ‘fix in the mix’. Quantel have a really good guide to DI on their website. In theory the engineering principles can be transferred to sound and it should be easier but it isn’t.

How have workflow patterns changed? In the film area, Europe was well on the ball before the United States. We managed to get hold of all these terrifically useful gadgets first, like DigiDelivery. We were well aware of the potential financial savings to be made by shipping things around the Internet and now we are doing the same with picture.

Ray Gillon While carving a niche for himself in foreign language versions of English language films, Ray Gillon still has time to talk to ROB JAMES about the state of the film industry, archival, equipment choices and the economics of D-Cinema.

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FIRST MET RAY GILLON maybe 20 years ago in just another dubbing theatre somewhere in London. At the time he was one of the select band of Dolby film engineers who supervise soundtrack mastering, among other things. To say he had a certain presence would be to do him an injustice. It wasn’t just the physical gravitas, the ponytail or the bike leathers, once Gillon was in the room, people paid attention. I learnt a lot that evening and many, many others have benefited from his wisdom before and since. These days Ray’s bread and butter is foreign language versions of English language films and viceversa, but there is a lot more to Gillon. He has recently directed, scripted and played in the English language version of the critically acclaimed Danish computer animated feature Terkel In Trouble, released in the UK in September. His American credits include Harry Potter 1, 2, 3, 4, Matrix 2, 3, Troy, Superman, Babe, Independance Day, and Jurassic Park supplemented by a wealth of films for France, Spain, Germany and Turkey. As busy as ever, he took the time to talk to Resolution about his work.

Why is dubbing such a growth industry? After the arrival of sound, America recognised that the most efficient method of selling its films abroad was to dub. That started in about 1932 so we’re 70odd years on from that. In the mid 80s the amount of money a blockbuster made on foreign language 48

theatrical, that’s cinema rather than all the descending media, was parity with the English original. Now we’re averaging more than two to one. If you take a film like Titanic, that took about US$600 million in the English version. The foreign language versions took about $1.2 billion. In the States, for every dollar they make on a blockbuster at the cinema, they make another nine dollars on descending media and associated media, games, t-shirts, videos, DVDs, satellite sales, whatever. For some years now we’ve been working in cahoots with the games companies. We share our voices. For example, on Harry Potter EA were getting access to all our voices and sound effects. So you have a bigger coherent media spread on any one particular project.

Is film post all HD now? Yeah, whatever HD encompasses, 2k, 4k, DIs basically, Digital Intermediates. We’ve ceased to use 35mm negative and when one did pop up on a project recently, the laboratory concerned had just dismissed 80 people most of whom were the ones who knew how to deal with 35mm negative. If you shoot on film, you won’t often produce 35mm dailies. Instead they see a one light SD or HD video transfer. Multicamera shooting is becoming more common because it is cheaper to do with 6 or 8 HD cameras than three Mitchells. But the knock-on effect goes down the line because there is much more material to look through, more choice. Avid gives you this too. resolution

What about the security implications? On the sound side we were very comfortable early on, even back at the Rocket Network stage. We understood the technologies, the implications and implementation of the security aspects. There is this business triangle thing where you can have better quality, faster turnaround and lower cost on each corner but you’re only allowed to have two of each three. Rocket Network managed to give us all three, somehow defying gravity! We were getting the stuff through without any copies involved at a time when people were routinely using DA-88 Hi-8 tapes. Harry Potter 2 was dubbed into 37 languages and we could ship around the planet by pressing one button and dragging an element into a box with a predetermined list of email addresses to send it to. People could just drag it down, usually overnight. Before, the reproduction time would have been days and the cost would have been an arm and a leg. Physical shipments have to be split, so the film is never complete in transit. Even in the studios it’s kept in a safe and only brought out one reel at a time. They are extremely aware of the potential for piracy but, so far as I know, it hasn’t happened. Most piracy happens in cinemas. We saved something like US$100,000 and that was our first hit, compared with Harry Potter 1. Hollywood, having plenty of grey cells, saw what we were doing and trimmed schedules. Is less time being spent on the big mix stages? On the big films you’re probably spending more time thanks to recuts. Partly this is a case of, ‘I can, so I will’. There are a lot more possibilities. The mix stage is still the most expensive place to work by the hour, so more premixing is happening in smaller rooms. This is fine if it’s Randy Thom or someone with the experience and skill to know how his stuff will translate. But if somebody reads about Randy doing it and doesn’t have the skill it can all go horribly wrong. In some cases producers are employing people who are very much living on false laurels, people who don’t have a great deal of taste. When their work is dragged into the contemporary world it gets exposed as less than adequate. Buying a DAW does not a sound editor make. What equipment do you use? For the foreign language work I need one common language and that has to be the technology. We were using Akai DD8 and DD1500 editors in what we used to call FIGS, France, Italy, Germany, Spain. We’re now onto FRIGS because Russia has grown into our sixth biggest market over a very few years. One of our US colleagues extends it to FRIGHTS, adding Hungary and Turkey into the equation. Our studios are all talking Pro Tools because we know it and it has the highest penetration of all the workstations in the film September 2006


craft area around the planet. I know of a couple of studios still using hybrid things but all our major dubbing studios are using Pro Tools now. I think Disney insisted on Pro Tools and we recommended. But we all use the same studios and what works for Disney, works for us. I use a very disciplined set-up so that the same actor always appears on the same track. The material comes in with all the automation and we get the chaps in Hollywood to give us their TC 6000 or Lexicon 960/480 reverb lists. The reverb settings will be the same for each language, so we can automate them on the first pass then use that for every other version. You may have to do a slight colour or level adjustment but basically you’re in the zone. This automated mixing system has worked out very much in our favour. For example, say we centralise in France, Copenhagen and London. We need three DFCs or Avant consoles, for example. We get the first guy to pump his automation to the other two and we’re straight onto a cost saving thing. We’ve avoided asking people to use optional plug-ins in Pro Tools because the studio may not have the specific plug-in. You can get similar problems with desks running different versions of software.

What’s stopping Warners or other US majors emulating the Disney operation? Disney have a big plus with everything going through Shepperton. Other studios don’t have enough work to warrant doing the same. A lot of Disney’s stuff is for lower age groups and there is a different mentality to many of the other Hollywood majors. Disney produces a programme and they pretty much dub it immediately then go out and sell it. The others tend to produce a product, keep it on the shelf until it’s

September 2006

sold and then dub it. Depending on the level of the dubbing, whether it’s a TV thing, they may licence it to the TV companies and make them responsible for the dub. There may or may not be quality control applied by the original production company. Disney follows it all the way through.

All this throwing data around the ether is all very well, but what about archiving? Most of the Hollywood majors are fairly commercially aware that if you don’t archive things you can’t sell them on again. Most things go into a big vault a long way away from geological faults and so on. Different companies have their own caverns and things are kept at the right temperature and the right humidity. Most of the sound is still kept on 35mm analogue magnetic as well as digital. With the modern technologies, we are spending as much time as we can, trying to make sure we are getting the right bang for buck. In my humble opinion MOD (Magneto Optical Disk) is still the best archiving format, but the read-write time isn’t great and they’re not fashionable now with manufacturers, although Sony still has an MOD system. But the capacities haven’t really kept up? Well, the Akai’s got to 9Gb but it meant three disks. There’s a chap called Larry Blake who works with Steven Soderberg and one area where we agree to disagree is the use of digital archiving tapes. He’s a great fan of AIT. I would take the whole lot, ship them about 50 miles west of Cork and dump them. They’re a time-bomb and the same applies to DA-88 tapes. When they began to be used in about 1994/5 they were great. If the machines were maintained properly and the right formula tapes were used, you could

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record an entire 120-minute film on one tape for a fraction of the cost of doing it on 35mm. One Hollywood major, although first to jump on the DA-88 bandwagon, alas was also the last to come off the technology. The problem is that those tapes are not really going to last more than ten years before you’re into 50 per cent error correction. So the question is, what do we archive to? Last year, we were using gold sputtered DVDs, but that didn’t last long because they found they could get the same longevity out of the silver ones. Maxell are promising us 100 years of archive life. The holy grail is the long-term archive medium with good volume, read-write time with the reliability and no demanding environmental requirements, but I’m not seeing them. 35mm magnetic anyone?

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craft What about hard disk? No, you cannot archive a hard drive. They’re worse than DA-88s. The manufacturers specify that you need to reformat those drives every three months. They are not viable for archiving, but good for short term. We have stacks of little FireWire disks that are great for moving things around locally or for when we’re asked to deliver by courier as a security thing, although we’ve already shipped over DigiDelivery. What about the delivery end? Unlike the production and postproduction processes where the money situation changes a little bit for the better, digital cinema is expensive. According to Dolby it is going to cost a cinema around $100,000 to ‘upgrade’ to digital cinema. I did some rough figures. Take a cinema with 300 seats with 50% average capacity over three shows a day (450 seats sold). Even if cinemagoers are willing to pay 25 cents more it would take over three years to amortise the extra investment. So what’s the incentive for the cinema operator? There isn’t one. Where are we really saving money? Are we? I’ve seen enough 2k stuff to be unhappy with the depth and even 4k, although certainly better, still doesn’t have the brilliance. As of today it’s costing an arm and a leg to do something less well than technology developed over a hundred years that’s never been surpassed.

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I’m not even convinced there is any benefit to the studios. I feel like a Luddite.

Has the post business changed? The basic business model has not changed, per se, you still need people, a place and time, but the way you invest and amortise has maybe changed. The technologies are, in real terms, becoming more available at a lower price and more people are able to set up their own independent facilities. This changes the way that money follows its course through a project, but the end results are in the same cost zone. Were it not for people’s abilities to recognise the increase in choices available in postpro and at the same time do everything the same way we used to do it, then it would be cheaper. But that never did quite happen, did it? What would you like to change? I’d like the Internet to be a bit faster. I’d like people to be hungrier about their self-education, be a bit more experimental, understanding that straying from the formulaic can give better results. People are going to be making movies till the cows come home. The technologies will change from day to day and if we’re lucky we’re going to have a similar conversation in 20 years and say that what we thought was going to happen never did and some of the things we didn’t think would happen, did. That’s life! ■

September 2006


sweet spot

EnergyPro E9A — monitoring to market Developing a new high-end reference monitor in an industry where many products have evolved to high standards over many years is a major challenge. EnergyPro used its clean sheet as an advantage in enabling it to question every aspect of monitor design as EnergyPro senior design engineer STEFAN HLIBOWICKI explains.

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ITH DIGITAL ABILITY, the functions and facilities of complex signal gain and distribution within multichannel systems increases with ease, but every step threatens audio quality. EnergyPro therefore set audio signal integrity as the number one goal and this, combined with the needs of the user, evolved a unique design. The first aspects to be considered were what recording engineers wanted from a monitoring system. These requirements came through loud and clear. The system should maintain the highest audio quality at all times, irrespective of volume (i.e. no bit-rate reduction at lower volume) and regardless of multichannel system control demands the audio path should always remain pristine. The monitors should produce the widest possible flat frequency response from a compact system. With the increase in workstation use in less than acoustically perfect rooms and with little of the space needed for multichannel systems, the monitors had to be compact nearfields, but with the performance to match midfield or even some main monitoring systems. There was a need for comprehensive control of bass management by switching — allowing the system to be configured for any mix scenario from the desk and without repatching.

following the D-A convertor with 100 x 1dB steps. The digital audio stream is delivered to the monitor at full resolution and the potentiometer is controlled from the front panel of the monitor, or externally using the User Bit available in SPDIF and AES-EBU formats, and full bit resolution is preserved at all listening levels. LOUDSPEAKER DESIGN — In designing the combined electronic and electro-acoustical devices that make up the loudspeaker, EnergyPro drew on the 30 years experience of parent company Audio Products International Corporation, which owns EnergyPro, Energy, Mirage, Athena Technologies and Spherex loudspeaker brands. The monitors employ the advantages of active systems whereby frequency response and driver motor structures and other electro-mechanical parameters can be controlled independently and any distortion and heat dissipation in the drive units is reduced. The frequency response is extended and smoothed by the use of a technique included in APIC US Patent 5,596,650 and other equalising filters. In addition to using very high quality drive units, the frequency response of the mid/bass unit is equalised using six bi-quad minimum phase filters while the HF unit uses three. This provides control over the entire frequency response and the poles and zeros characterising both drivers were precisely identified and compensated or cancelled out by related filters. As a result the presence of these filters is undetectable by measurement or listening. Mathematical analysis of this system together with computer simulation allowed the design of a complex and precise LF-HF crossover, with very smooth horizontal and vertical responses.

SYSTEM TOPOLOGY — EnergyPro dismissed the common methods of signal routing through the sub or an external processor in favour of connecting the source directly to the monitors, with EQ, crossover and bass management functions built in to the monitor. The monitors have the highest quality analogue and digital front-ends built in with a CS8416 digital audio receiver and CS4398 D-A convertor from Cirrus Logic at 24bit from 32 to 192kHz. As conventional means of volume control reduce the bit resolution at lower levels, EnergyPro implemented a digitally controlled potentiometer September 2006

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sweet spot calculated as a function of cone movement. The normalised volume displacement, as a function of normalised cone excursion of the LF driver from Figure 2 is shown in Figure 3. The straight red line is for comparison. The nonlinearity of this relationship is clearly visible and, despite not looking that bad, creates high harmonic distortion. This is because the acoustic pressure generated by the cone is proportional to the cone acceleration, not its displacement. The linear cone displacement has to be differentiated twice to get the waveform of acoustic pressure and the result of this analysis is shown in Figure 4.

Fig. 7.

Fig. 1.

The 36Hz-15kHz +0db/-1.5dB, 15kHz-22kHz +1dB/1.5dB frequency response of the E9A monitor shown in Figure 1 demonstrates its low frequency extension, with the need for a channel subwoofer eliminated in the vast majority of applications. Even with careful EQ, pushing a drive unit beyond its normal frequency limits easily increases distortion. EnergyPro therefore developed entirely new drivers with a Kevlar/Glass Laminated Hybrid Cone and worked on the LF capability of the driver long before working on optimising the EQ. The LF extension, with ultra-low distortion, is possible because of the use of the patented elliptical surround of the bass driver (APIC US Patent 6,725,967). This surround eliminates nonlinear distortions generated by the variations of cone effective surface area, which is more pronounced at low frequencies. Much research was devoted to reducing nonlinear distortions at low frequencies, particularly when even perfectly linear motion of the voice coil of the woofer did not reduce distortion below certain limits. Observation was made that the possible reason for this was the variable geometry of the surround and a mathematical model of surround exing was developed. The result of the computer simulation of a typical surround is shown in Figure 2. This shows

Fig. 4.

The red line represents the acoustic waveform generated by the above LF driver at maximum excursion. This waveform has the same shape for all frequencies, assuming it is reaching the maximum excursion. The spectrum of this waveform is shown in Figure 5.

Fig. 9. Fig. 5.

Figure 5 shows harmonic content of the semicircular surround waveform and the total harmonic level in this case is 23%. The mathematical model was used to assess different shapes of surround and test theories. The result is a patented elliptical surround. It was shown that an elliptical cross-section of certain proportion reduces these distortions substantially and this is demonstrated in Figure 6.

Fig. 2.

one half of a conventional semicircular surround at different cone positions. The red lines are trajectories of the exemplary points on the surround surface. The mathematical model allows the generation of additional information about the modelled phenomenon and the volume of displaced air was

Fig. 6.

Fig. 3.

Now with the elliptical surround, Figure 7 shows that deviation from the straight red line is almost invisible. In Figure 8 we also see the results in the acoustic waveform generated by the LF driver with elliptical surround. The red line represents the driver at maximum excursion and is the same for all frequencies assuming maximum excursion. The acoustic pressure generated by a loudspeaker is proportional to the cone acceleration which means the

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Fig. 8.

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second derivative of displacement versus time. This is why even small deviations from linear displacement create measurable distortions. Figure 9 shows harmonic content of the waveform using the elliptical surround. The total harmonic level in this case is 5.1%. The comparison between the LF drivers using conventional and elliptical surrounds shows the signiďŹ cant reduction in distortion of around 4.5 times in favour of the elliptical. Distortions decrease with reduced level, however in conventional surround designs this decrease is slow. With the elliptical surround the distortions rapidly decrease with lowering excursion. The values used in the above analysis are exemplary. The distortion level varies with frequency, level and surround size but in all cases the elliptical surround reduces the level of distortion caused by the described phenomenon multiple times. The red lines shown on the surround crosssection, Figures 2 and 6, demonstrate that every point on the surround surface, except on the edges, changes its distance from the cone centre. As a result the circle, which joins related points, changes its diameter and circumference during cone movement. The surround material has to allow for these contractions or expansions, if not it collapses and adds noise. The problem would be less for soft or foam surrounds but these are not suitable for working at very low frequencies where the surround has to withstand internal box pressures and therefore has to be made from a strong material. Strong materials may not react properly to these contractions or expansions so in order to control this circumferential exibility, specially shaped ribs were designed. September 2006


sweet spot The canoe-like shape of the ribs shown in Figure 10 is optimised for even distribution of circumferential forces. The ribs also have another advantage in that a more rigid material can be used for the surround without reducing its compliance, Fig. 10. which is important for low frequency drivers. Even with such lowend performance it is important for engineers to know if any out-of Fig. 11. bandwidth content exists in the mix. EnergyPro’s LFSS (Low Frequency Subsonic Sensor) is a circuit that detects and visually displays via a front panel LED (Figure 11), the presence of very low frequency signals that are otherwise difficult to hear or be reproduced with enough strength. This complex electronic subsystem compares the energy of the audio input signal below and above certain frequencies by using low-pass and high-pass filters and it indicates if this low frequency energy exceeds that of higher frequencies. This approach makes the indications independent of the listening level and eliminates false alarms caused by strong but legitimate bass content. SYSTEM CONFIGURATIONS AND BASS MANAGEMENT — Long gone are the days of ‘mix on the mains, check on the Auratones’, yet very few systems allow engineers to switch to the scenario they need without repatching or operating within (thereby degrading) the audio channel. EnergyPro set out to change this with all switching outside the audio channel but still providing every configuration from stereo to Dolby 10.2 with a comprehensive range of listening scenarios to enable the engineer to focus on each aspect of the mix and achieve the final product they want.

Fig. 12.

In a stereo monitoring setup, such as that shown in Figure 12, the digital audio is connected to either of the E9A monitors as they are fully selectable for L/R/ Mono/Sum in any combination, including analogue and digital summation concurrently. In this instance the first monitor to is set to L and the second monitor to R. The true-balanced XLR output from each monitor is connected to pass full-range analogue audio to the desired subwoofer, for example, the EnergyPro Es12, Es10 or Es8. This signal is converted from the digital domain at any sampling rate, at the best bit resolution by the D-A convertors. In operation, the desired crossover frequency on the subwoofer would be selected to match that of the high-pass filter on the E9A monitor, 50 or 80Hz. When the balance of the subwoofer has been set, the entire system tracks the level of the monitors by means of a digital potentiometer that follows the D-A convertors, leaving the audio in its full bit depth. September 2006

Fig. 13.

To check the mix without a subwoofer, the Bass Management Bypass button on the front of the E9A monitor (Figure 11) is as far as you must reach; with this control and associated LED indicator, the analogue output mutes and restores the monitor to full-range operation, without any complicated re-tuning. In a surround sound mix facility, such as that shown in Figure 13, the optional EnergyPro Black Box Bass Management System can be employed offering control of the E9A monitors through its accompanying remote control. Consisting of the Black Box Audio Hub and Black Box Monitor Controller, the main features are independent monitor volume controls, user-selectable grouped volume controls, independent .1 channel volume control, and Bass Management Bypass mode for each channel. There is also LF and HF EQ setting adjustments as on monitors, independent mute control, five balanced analogue inputs, two analogue L/R mix sum outputs, one analogue subwoofer output, four SPDIF I-Os, and a digital format buffer and convertor (AES-EBU to and from SPDIF). Multiple configurations, up to Dolby 10.2 with a second linked Black Box, are possible and you get independent channel level displays showing current monitor status, individual channel features viewable at all times on LCD, global gain reset for power-on default, stereo output sum from 5.1 mix, a stereo phase correlation monitor on the remote control, a tone generator, six user memory locations, RJ45 Cat5 control and link connector (RS232), and a system lock to prevent accidental changes. All of these controls are accessed with the EPDIF (EnergyPro Digital Interface Format), a patent pending method of editing and using the user bit in the digital audio stream without touching or affecting the audio portion, regardless of sample rate or bit depth. Additionally, as the monitor electronics are very high quality, the Cirrus Logic D-A convertor is available for use with other manufacturers’ monitoring systems and mix applications when placed in Stand-by mute. Here the power amplifiers are placed in standby, yet the complete I-O section is still available as a high-end processing tool. The clean sheet approach, APIC backing and close collaboration with studio engineers has enabled EnergyPro to bring a very serious new contender to reference monitoring. The audio performance will in time be judged by the market but we believe our achievements in audio signal integrity and real-world user functions set this product apart and establish a benchmark in design. ■

Contact ENERGYPRO, US Website: www.energy-pro.ca

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business

Audio at the heart of the games phenomenon Next generation games consoles and new game genres make music and audio more important then ever for the world’s best-selling entertainment medium. NIGEL JOPSON looks at the business of games and identifies a new rich seam of opportunity for the young and adventurous at heart.

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T THE BEGINNING OF 2003 it seemed surprising to announce in these pages that UK sales of video games had surpassed music sales, and fairly radical to suggest an eclipse of US music by games was imminent. By 2004, the US game market had achieved US$11b in sales, putting music at $10.5b and movie box office at $9.3b in the shade. Today, the UK games market is Europe’s largest, worth £2bn in 2005, with an installed base of more than 25 million devices — an equivalent of 11 games in every household. With a new generation of advanced consoles hitting the shops, it’s not a trend that looks like slowing, in July total game sales rose 29% year-onyear. Unlike movies or television, a video game is a high involvement activity and players spend multiple hours playing and re-playing. ‘Gamers get totally immersed in games,’ says Richard Jacques, a former Sega composer who recently scored Starship Troopers for Empire Interactive. ‘In games you control the action, so in my opinion game audio is even more important than film audio. You [the player] are the character, the director and the centre of the action, so 54

the audio needs to revolve around you.’ I first saw the potential of games for song placement when I noticed my son starting a PlayStation game, then lying on the floor to read a magazine: ‘Why aren’t you playing the game?’ — ‘Oh, I’m just listening to the music!’ Soon publishers were setting up specialised games sync teams. ‘We’ve moved into the next era,’ says Charlie Pinder, MD at Sony ATV Music Publishing. ‘Any new development is quite small compared to the big one we’ve all made over the past three years. It’s like — Oh, we get it now — let’s get in there and get involved.’ Record labels are keen to match their artists with hit games. Def Jam, a division of Universal, even has two games published by Electronic Arts (EA) that enable players to fight cartoon versions of its tougher Urban artists –such as Ludacris, Method Man and Ice-T. ‘We look at the portfolio of games coming out in the next year and map out which artists we are going to pair to which games,’ says Greg Thompson, Def Jam’s executive vice-president of marketing. The long lead time to develop games ties in well with the artist recording cycle. ‘When the opportunity is right, it’s a great resolution

association between artists and video games because we market to the same consumer.’ EA, the world’s biggest games publisher, now has an entire division devoted to acquiring music. Competition is high and deciding which songs get placed is the job of Steve Schnur, world-wide executive of music and audio. ‘The impact of musical introduction that MTV and radio have had, video games now have,’ he observes. Music travels in the opposite direction as well, as the underscore for very popular titles is released on CD and online. Top games sell in numbers that music artists can only dream of — GTA:San Andreas shifted an amazing 677,000 copies in its first weekend of release in the UK. With those audience numbers, it was a no-brainer for Rockstar Games to release an eight CD box set of music from the game, for the San Andreas faithful. The use of music follows several patterns, depending on the type of game play. A common solution now involves key songs licensed from labels, with an underscore commissioned from a composer — a familiar structure derived from feature films. In the case of sports games with a constant spoken commentary — like the UEFA football games, for example — the underscore can be dispensed with, and the player may choose from a jukebox-style menu of licensed tracks to play when the sports action is not in progress. With NexGen consoles featuring Internet connectivity, record labels would love to capture the opportunity of updating the jukebox song selection. ‘If you play some of these titles, the soundtracks can become tedious,’ thinks Adam Klein, EMI Music’s executive vice-president of strategy and business development. ‘How do you update that? This is becoming increasingly possible technologically and we are actively looking into doing that.’ A more challenging form of game music is the so-called ‘interactive’ score. At the simplest level the interaction is intensity based, with different mixes supplied by the underscore composer. If the player is just limping through the game, the mix would be weak and dry, if the player is doing well the mix would become bombastic and up-tempo, a trick to double the score might drench the mix with reverb. This variation is achieved through crossfades during play to different mixes of the same track. A recent development involves stems, where the sound designer is able to introduce or eliminate different elements of a composer’s work based on the player’s success — won some wings? Fade up the strings! Perhaps the hardest type of interactive music to compose is for adventure odyssey games: the timing of the cues is indeterminate, as a player might be investigating a virtual landscape for a while. Music is essential, but must give the impression of constantly changing. Marty O’Donnell, composer of the 11 million-selling adventure Myst for Bungie Studios, explains how he builds ambient, chordal and percussive beds that will be triggered at random by the playback engine. The elements have to fit together in any combination: ‘I have ambient music, I have rhythmic and percussive, I have stingers ... because it’s the Xbox I can play back as many tracks as I want,’ explains Marty. ‘Music is very malleable, more than you would think, the important thing is that the sting happens with the action!’ A new genre of game has recently emerged, where music IS the game, and the graphics are somewhat secondary. Examples of these are Sony’s Singstar and RedOctane’s Guitar Hero. Singstar comes with two USB-equipped microphones, it’s essentially a Karaoke game where two players sing along to a genre-spanning range of tracks, from Madonna to Motorhead. The game has an Autotune-like function September 2006


business that scores players on how well they hit and hold notes. Gold notes held for the correct time give extra points. So, when Madonna yelps an ear-piercing ‘hey!’, you go with her for the extra score. If you have an Eyetoy (camera) plugged in your face will replace the face on the video clips. RedOctane’s Guitar Hero comes with a small plastic ‘guitar’ controller, equipped with a virtual strumtrigger and a tremolo arm. Five coloured buttons on the neck trigger guitar samples that are played in time to an on-screen band. At the easy level it seems like a cheap game for kids as you ham along to Smoke On The Water, but switch to expert mode and you’ll find rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs obligatory as you riff to Crossroads and try to play chords on the plastic buttons for Killer Queen. These games are addictive because they can be seriously challenging, and having two controllers adds a vital social element to game-play. In recording terms, my mind boggles just thinking of how many samples had to be perfectly played and recorded for Guitar Hero — and I’m a tape-veteran who remembers managing superstar albums with 90 plus reels strewn around a control room. Of course the music is not by the original artists, it has been very, very carefully re-played by good session musicians, so the only license involved is for publishing. The fact that you can almost run a complete virtual recording studio in the background of a game on the new Sony PS3 gives a clue as to where this game genre may be headed — and not with plastic controllers. It’s easy to look at the numbers in the games industry — The Sims 16 million, Myst 11m, Gran Turismo 10.8m — and assume that the production tools must look just as slick as, or be even more sophisticated than, the tools we use to record music.

In fact, game programming tools bear comparison to the state of business software in the early eighties: not for their technical abilities, but for the fact that it’s quite normal for each game studio to write its own development tools in-house from scratch. At one time this may have delivered some competitive advantage, but, with increasing team size on sophisticated games, this means primitive interfaces and a huge learning curve for new programmers joining the company. It means sound designers either require some programming knowledge, or they need to go and explain to a programmer: ‘look — I want a doppler effect on this sample, so I need a frequency

shifter and maybe a couple of 80ms delay lines ...’ It bears comparison to the 1960s and early 1970s in the recording industry, when studios still built their own mixers and recorders. As composer Inon Zur (Lineage II, Warhammer, Pirates of the Caribbean) wishes: ‘If only I had a bridge between Cubase and the audio engine — meaning I could in real time shoot stuff into an Xbox and see how it woks — then I wouldn’t need to pay a salary to someone to sit with me. I sit with guys and help them place the music with maps and flags — it’s a waste of time. When I’m scoring film, I look at the picture and spotting notes, and do it. Why not in games?’

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business Richard Jacques, the composer for Headhunter: Redemption and Sega Rally 2006 believes audio budgets must be understood better, as development studios frequently impose unrealistic limits on the audio, while simultaneously demanding unscheduled surround mixes and live musicians. ‘If they don’t push the resources forward, their games are just going to sound worse than the rest of the titles on the shelf, and that equals bad reviews, which can be the kiss of death to the sales,’ Jacques maintains. ‘They need to know what good audio really needs in terms of budget. It cost £250,000 for Headhunter’s sound — and this included compelling features like live newscast recordings, multiple voice actors, Foley artists, and the orchestra. Films have huge audio budgets, around a minimum of 5% of the total film budget, and we have to make the players’ experience even more immersive than that of a film,’ he added. ‘There is no denying that quality audio costs, but why should we have to try and better the production quality of a film in a tenth of the budget?’ However, composer Marc Canham of Nimrod Productions makes an interesting point about the failure rate of game titles: ‘With games, the break-even ratio on projects is remarkably low, as low as it is for major label CD projects, less than 20:1. But a music album costs a lot less to make — games cost about $5m — the really big titles are around $10-12m including the marketing. Games publishers do scrutinise every spend and music, whether we like it or not, is always the bolt-on component. Of course there are producers who are savvy and like to involve composers early on, Henrik Strandberg of Atari got us involved when the graphic artists were still coming up with concepts, but that is still the exception rather than the rule.’ There’s a definite learning curve for the games industry to climb to achieve its audio ambition, at every level from budgets to recording. The tradition of do-it-yourself-for-everything is still quite ingrained. Despite being a very experienced sound designer at EA, Nick Laviers seemed quite surprised when explaining he had obtained better results for the voices of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter games by employing a casting director and agent. I was myself surprised that a top studio would even attempt to hold their own auditions for actors (which EA did, initially). Laviers thought £8000 for a casting director was rather expensive — I was impressed with the good deal! Nick presented the idea of maintaining an open mic from control room to recording talent as a discovery — I wondered which music recording engineer didn’t do this as a matter of routine! Despite the big sales, it’s still an industry that’s growing up. Around 55% of European games development studios are in the UK. Titles such as Eidos’ Tomb Raider and Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto have become global brands. There is currently such a shortage of skills that headhunting and talent-poaching have become a bitter issue. Already recruiters are looking outside the games field for experienced artists and animators working in high-end CGI from other media sectors. With the NextGen range of consoles, audio has finally thrown off its Cinderella role. Sony’s new PS3 lacks dedicated sound hardware, everything is done in software. So Sony has built an engine called Multistream with the ability to play any sample at any rate, up to 8 different DSP effects on each stream, and the capability of handling 512 audio channels on one processor. The many effects include IR reverbs, and all the DSP functions are being converted to VST format — looks like a huge opportunity to me — as audio for games finally gets its party dress. It’s a fantastic chance for young audio engineers to work in a world where imagination knows no bounds. ■ 56

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September 2006


meet your maker

John Stadius The man behind the technology at Soundtracs and DiGiCo talks fixed point, floating point, one-box solutions and central heating control.

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GRADUATE OF Surrey University, John Stadius joined SoundOut Labs — later to become Soundtracs — after leaving in 1978. He was promoted to technical director in 1980 and has been designing the company’s consoles ever since. Stadius is one of the genuine few with experience in designing analogue, digitally controlled analogue, and all-digital desks for the studio and live market sectors. Best known now for the DiGiCo range of live sound consoles that grew out from the Soundtracs range of digital studio desks, his contribution has been crucial to the manufacturer’s development and has reflected the changes the firm has undergone. The Virtua and then the DPC-II signaled Soundtracs’ metamorphosis from an all-analogue to an all-digital company and the firm is celebrating a decade of digital this year. Further back his analogue contribution had seen high levels of digitally controlled dynamics control on Soundtracs desks and sophisticated automation — all at a price that set new standards for the day. When not designing desks he says he’s fishing, cooking or fishing...

What’s special about Soundtracs products? All our digital consoles have a common design theme from the DSP engine (with minor tweaks) to a surface interface that would be familiar to any user of our consoles from post to theatre. Our simple and quick touchscreen technology interface has been our key selling point since the launch of the DPC-II in 1998. I have always adhered to the design philosophy of ‘keep it simple’ and I have been that way from the early analogue days. I always tried to keep my circuits as simple as possible without compromising performance. This has many advantages including a cleaner signal path, lower power requirements and better reliability. The same goes for today. Our current DSP engine design is way more efficient than many others out there. Using very efficient coding we probably achieve more channels/buses per processor than any other manufacturer. 58

ZENON SCHOEPE What’s tougher: designing your first digital product or the second one? It has to be the first one which was — apart from all those reject ideas — the Virtua. Although not using the touchscreen technology of all our other products that followed, a lot of the basic principles were derived here, such as multi screens and the automation. It is always good to have a rough idea of where you are going. Designing a product for the first time will take you up many a blind alley and our R&D lab is full of product ideas that went nowhere. How has user acceptance of digital worksurfaces manifested itself in your designs? I think the evidence speaks for itself. If you compare our DPC with our latest D1 the familiarity between them is immediately obvious. Because our surface concept is so simple and easy to use it has remained virtually unchanged for the past eight or so years. Of course, under the surface things have changed and improved manufacturing techniques have made the product simpler to build. I find most sound engineers to be very conservative when it comes to major operational changes. They never seem to have time to cope with a steep learning curve. Priority number one is to get the job done. I have a number of wacky and not so wacky ideas waiting in the wings and to launch them all at one time would give any operator sleepless nights. We have looked at being more adventurous, such as replacing the faders with touch surfaces, but the take up was very low. The analogue console surface has remained basically the same for a number of decades now and all engineers are very familiar with them. What technological advances have made the biggest difference to Soundtracs digital products? A few years ago I would have said the floating point DSP (SHARC). Without it — I don’t do fixed point resolution

unless it’s I-O — we probably would not have been into digital until much later. Now I would have to say it’s the large scale FPGA. FPGA stands for Field Programmable Gate Array; basically it’s a large integrated circuit with a huge number of uncommitted logic cells (some have over 125,000). With it you can design your own specific DSPs, microprocessors or almost any logic circuit you like. Currently we use them in a number of applications such as filters, MADI, and optical communication. FPGAs are slowly but surely taking over. With repetitive tasks such as audio processing it is better to fix it in hardware than to throw multiple large DSPs at it. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place for DSPs — reverberation effects being one of them. High speed comms using fibre optics between consoles, I-O and other consoles have provided huge benefits. It’s simple, impervious to external electrical noise, truly redundant, robust and idiot-proof.

You’re one of a select group of designers with experience of analogue and digital desk design, what do you miss about analogue desk design? I really miss the bus noise, limited headroom and crosstalk problems, their size, power consumption, using VCAs for gain control, huge wiring looms..... No, in fact I don’t really miss it at all. Digital is so much more flexible. You can put a control on a surface without considering the implications of getting signals too and from it. Did I hear someone mention digital controlled analogue? I tried that with the assignable dynamics system in our later analogue desks. It worked very well but I would never design a whole console that way. Digital is so much more elegant. Analogue is still here today. We poor humans are still unfortunately analogue by design so there is still the front and back end to the console. I am still messing about with new mic preamp ideas and remote analogue gain control. The only thing I miss about analogue is the bread boarding of circuit ideas, not something you can easily do with high-speed digital. What were the key stages in transferring Soundtracs technology to DiGiCo live consoles? Our DSP core was fortunately flexible enough to be adapted to the live environment. Not bad considering it was conceived ten years ago now. Of course, there have been a number of updates but the basic design structure remains the same. September 2006


meet your maker Our worksurface philosophy also transferred to the live domain very well, requiring only a few additional features such as snapshots, matrix and output processing channels. MADI was not the ideal medium for transferring large numbers of channels over 100 meters (front of house to stage) and I was not going to put the whole concept at risk by using CAT5 type cables. I cannot believe some manufacturers today are expecting users to rely on flimsy computer network cables for the main front of house snake. That is why we went to optical. Rather than reinventing the wheel we approached Optocore in Germany as they in my opinion had the best solution. It is capable of carrying 512 channels in a redundant loop. In conjunction with ‘battle field’ Kevlar lined cables and expander beam connectors we now have the perfect solution. There’s also serviceability. I would be a fool if I said our products never go wrong. We live in the real world and the touring environment is a very harsh place for any piece of equipment. Taking this into account we re-engineered our live consoles to be very easily serviceable such that we can now swap a complete engine core in less than two minutes.

How significant are the differences in expectation between studio and live engineers? Live engineers live in the fast lane and the theatre engineers appear to travel that bit faster. There is no going back for a retake in live, they have to get it right first time. Having said that both studio and live engineers want a console that is responsive and easy to use. Neither wants to stop and read the manual. I hate products where you have to constantly refer to a manual every time you want to use it. My central heating control box at home springs to mind. It’s my old philosophy again, keep it simple. From your standpoint, what differentiates the different brands of competing digital desk in the market? They all, more or less, do a similar job but it’s how they present themselves, i.e. the man-machine interface, that mainly differentiates the different brands. Currently nearly all digital consoles have a surface that is to a greater or lesser extent assignable. It’s the degree of assignability that differentiates the different products. Many products provide the controls for just a single channel accessed by a channel select key. While keeping the costs down it does not let a user control more than one channel at a time. The DiGiCo/Soundtracs approach is to

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September 2006


meet your maker provide visual indication of what is happening on all faders on the console, i.e. EQ, Dynamics, gain, pan, etc, and have dedicated controls for each block of eight channels. This I believe is a good compromise. I mentioned briefly floating point verses fixed before. DiGiCo/Soundtracs consoles have always been based around floating point processors. Early DSPs were fixed point and like analogue systems they had a fixed dynamic range. Some console manufacturers still employ them. Normally 24 bits gives a dynamic range of up to 144dB. This sounds like a lot but when you are bringing in signals around line level you only have about 22dB of headroom — same as analogue. Signals arriving at any digital console (from A-D convertors, AES-EBU or MADI) are by their nature fixed point. It’s when you come to mix them that you start to run in to headroom problems. A floating point system enables you to increase this headroom by a fantastic amount, 1000s of dBs. Now we have a system that is almost impossible to clip. Of course, when we return to the real world we have to convert back to fixed point but as long as we don’t clip the output by driving it too hard users can be happy in knowing that the integrity of the original signal is preserved. On the issue of the number of bits it is often assumed that 32-bit floating point is good enough. This is not the case. When it comes to low frequency signals we found we had to up the process to 40 bits to again preserve the integrity of the signal. If you listen carefully to a low filter on a 32-bit floating point product you will hear what I call a slight gritty sound. One other aspect I feel differentiates digital mixers is how manufacturers build them. Some are presented as a collection of boxes, worksurface, power supplies, racks of DSPs, I-O boxes, etc. Others provide a simple one-box solution. We have always been a one-box solution (apart from the I-O racks). Having separate worksurface, DSP and power supplies is not the way to go about designing a live desk. Engineers want to turn up, open the box, turn on and mix. For the studio engineer this is not so much of an issue. Having the I-O built into the product can also be a problem. The ideal solution is to do the conversion as close to the source as possible. Analogue signals, especially from sources such as microphones, are very sensitive to interference and degrade rapidly over long cable runs. Having all our I-O in remote racks again minimises this issue. The other advantage is the elimination of the expensive and very bulky multicore snake. Our 150-metre fibre optic drum capable of handling 512 channels weighs only 6kg.

What products are you most proud of and what would you most like to build? From a cosmetic point of view I loved the DS3. The DSP engine and power supply were held in a single leg with the very thin profile worksurface on top. It was a challenging engineering project. As for one product I would like to build... most products these days have too many functions for too few controls. Digital cameras, MP3 players, mobile phones and my central heating control unit spring to mind. I always have to keep referring back to the manual. Is it me or am I getting old? So, I will start with a simple central heating control box. ■ Quested_S8_Resolution_ad_5-05.qxd

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September 2006

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katz’s column

How to optimise levels in an analogue processing chain Part IV Last issue BOB KATZ told us we’d be discussing those pesky balanced and unbalanced analogue interfaces, but he’s postponing that to tell you the story of an album he just mastered for, Irish singer, Karen Egan, which used (and abused) some of the techniques he described last issue.

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TRY TO MASTER an acoustic album so that it sounds open, clear, transparent and natural, but these days even the pristine acoustic jazz idiom has fallen victim to the loudness race. I wish that mastering engineers would try not to raise the level of the average, but to fit within the average, so as to slow down or even reverse this terrible loudness race. But the average keeps on moving up from year to year, for clients often ask us to match or exceed the level of their favourite CDs. It takes a lot of discipline to come in a bit lower than ‘the competition’ but we should all do it, or suffer the consequences. And since ‘loud’ is the way to impress clients, we all have been known to sin, even by a quarter dB at a time. Remember that my use of the term ‘loud’ is facetious at best because we have no control over the user’s volume control. They are going to turn it up or down until they like the sound. Diana Krahl’s superb 5.1 DVD live album sounds fantastically natural and not overcompressed ... as far as I’m concerned, there’s every reason (except fear) for acoustic jazz CDs to be produced in the same way as this lovely DVD. You can find examples of dynamic CDs by artists such as Shirley Horne and Lyle Lovett in the Honour Roll at www.digido.com. Anyway, back to my Irish lassie. After I created her CD reference that is about at a K-12 level, as ‘hot’ as I could make her jazz CD without compromising the loudest song, and certainly at 1990-1995-era levels, I received this letter. 62

Dear Bob: Listening to ‘the 2005 competition’ at 15 on my stereo, I would have to put myself up to 25. If I listen to myself at 15, my voice sounds muffled and indistinct but as soon as I raise it to 25 or even 28, it sings out. So, I have no problem with my album once I put the volume way up. So what I’m saying is that reference CD of a jazz vocal artist isn’t too loud for me and to my ears — she’s not too compromised. I know you really think her 2nd album (which I don’t have) is compromised but do you feel the same about the first one? My main concern is that my voice sounds pretty low, indistinct and muffled unless I turn the volume up considerably and I’m not sure that many people will do that so I want it to sing out even at a lower volume. Given the above, do you think it would be possible to achieve a similar if not higher level? Obviously, you will be the better judge of how that, affects my album in terms of any potential damage. Given that fair (yet also unfair) challenge, I sought out ways to make a louder record (in front of the volume control), and, as much as possible, retain Karen’s open sound, mixed by Dave McCune, a Dublin-based engineer with a wonderful studio and piano. By the way, Karen produced 300 quick promo copies of the lower level CD, so if you catch one of those, you might compare it with the louder one that is about to be released. Normally, peak limiting is a tool to control momentary instantaneous peaks such as the initial attack of percussive instruments, but by 2006, engineers have begun using it as a mastering tool even for laidback acoustic material. It’s very easy for a mastering engineer to raise the level of an album consisting of vocals, strings, woodwinds and nylon-stringed guitar just by doing a bit of peak limiting, because there are no short-duration transients to damage. Ironically, we can raise the RMS level of a song that has no percussion until it is nearly as loud as Snoop Dogg or Motley Crue! But it’s very hard to obtain year-2006 acoustic jazz levels without causing the sound to get closed in, or getting clamping effects from excessive dynamics processing. To match the competition, I would have to raise Karen’s album by another 2 or 3dB, and there was already about 2dB of (unnecessary) peak limiting on the loudest song just to get it to 1995 levels. So, either I would have to succumb to the spongy sound that would result if I resorted to heavy compression, live with clamping effects from excessive peak limiting, or find another way. ANALOGUE CLIPPING ON AN ACOUSTIC ALBUM? And that way was to leave the digital domain, where I had been transparently processing Karen’s record using Weiss and TC gear. To obtain more level without the harshness that comes from overdriving a digital chain, I had to resort to analogue clipping. I patched in my Cranesong HEDD as a D-AD processing loop and inserted my Cranesong Trakker as an analogue linear amplifier with no compression (threshold turned off). Since the highest digital peak prior to the analogue point was -2dBFS, I adjusted the resolution

The Mastering Engineer’s Dart Game

I present to you Exhibit A, a work of art titled, The Volume Control As an English Dartboard. What target are you aiming for today?

Trakker for 3dB gain in front of the Cranesong A-D, which resulted in 1dB of inaudible A-D clipping on the peak of the loudest passage of the loudest song. This saved me from having to push the digital limiter too hard, which can result in clamping or dynamic reversal. But imagine, we have reached the point where we have to apply analogue clipping on an acoustic album. I also had to juggle the issue of Karen’s loudest song, the only one that employed a trap set to drive the rhythm, and a Dixieland band takes it to a big climax. To my ears, the force of the climax has been clamped a bit by the peak limiter and the A-D clipping but the average listener will probably not notice it. Without mix engineer Dave McCune I could not have mastered such a warm-sounding and dynamic record loud because Dave engineered an open, clear, undistorted sound to begin with. That’s part of the trick of how to make a recording sound loud; don’t overcompress in the tracking and mix stages, or the distortion multiplies. ■

Information Resolution recommends Bob Katz’s book Mastering Audio — The Art and the Science as an essential source of information for every pro audio enthusiast who cares about sound. You can buy it on line at www.digido.com

September 2006


technology

Storage Area Networking Planning on a storage topology to meet current and future needs requires a review of your critical storage requirements — capacity, performance, security, segmentation and latency. CORKY SEEBER from Small Tree Communications looks at the options and explains the differences.

Disk utilisation

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Direct-Attached Storage

Networked Storage

40%-50% utilised

85%-90% utilised

HE GENERALLY ACCEPTED definition of Storage Area Network (SAN) is a network designed to attach computer storage devices such as disk array controllers and tape libraries to servers. SANs can be viewed with an inward perspective of a computer system with a communications path to transfer data between the computer system to the attached storage elements, or with an outward perspective of multiple computer systems transferring data to a storage system across a network. The distinguishing feature of a SAN and other forms of network storage is the low-level access method that is used. SANs employ formats that are very similar to those found in internal disk drive designs such as ATA or SCSI. This is done to enable the SAN to have higher performance by allowing the server to issue data requests for specific blocks or segments of data from the required disk drive with no intermediate translations resulting in much faster completion of requests. In the non-SAN environment of standard file storage requests, applications such as Common Internet File System (CIFS) or Network File System (NFS), the requesting system will issue a request for a file, which is a component of a larger file system and is often managed by an intermediary system. The intermediary system, acting like a traffic cop, determines the physical location of the requested file from its internal disk drives and sends the complete file across the network. The SAN configured data is able to be sent or retrieved much more quickly than a standard file storage solution because it can accurately request the exact information needed in the disk drive’s native format without an intermediary system being required. Most SANs use the SCSI protocol for communication between the requesting computer system and the storage elements, but they do not use the SCSI lowlevel physical interface. Typically, SAN’s physical interfaces use some performance level of the Fibre 64

Channel Host Bus Adapter (HBA), 1Gbit, 2Gbit or the new 4Gbit port interconnect connected to Fibre Channel Disk Drives for the superior performance and generally improved reliability over SCSI disk drives. The SCSI protocol information is sent via a mapping layer to the Fibre Channel drives, and most SANs in production today use some form of SCSI protocol systems mapped to Fibre Channel drives (using the FCP mapping standards). A well-designed SAN will use infrastructure specifically optimised for typical storage data patterns — sequential I-O to the disk

in 4 kilo byte (kb) blocks, which improves latency by minimising the number of missed revolutions of the spinning Disk Drive in the storage system. The combinations of these features allow SAN users to realise additional benefits beyond simple storage performance. Being able to communicate precise requirements for data across the network enables simplified storage administration by removing the need to cable the needed data from storage device to the requesting system, reducing system to storage distance requirements, eliminating the need to connect and disconnect cables (and the associated cables failures from the increased handling) and the improved workflow speed. SAN storage is still a one-to-one relationship between the storage device (or Logical Unit) and a single computer. The requesting computer is referred to as the initiator and the storage device is assigned a unique number, called the LUN for Logical Unit Number. The exception to this one-toone relationship is when a SAN is configured with a clustered file system, which is an additional software application allowing multiple systems access to the same LUN concurrently. SANs provide higher overall storage use than standard file systems, which slows the requirement to provide additional storage capacity for the systems being supporting. The SAN can be configured to boot connected systems, allowing faulty systems to be configured off the network and allowing any attached LUN to be reached by the remaining systems on the SAN while repairs are made to the faulty system. Perhaps the biggest advantage of SANs after performance considerations is data protection. SANs, by their nature of being a network, allow the ability to

Storage TCO Cost per managed Mbyte over three years

SAN and NAS

DAS

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September 2006


technology have copies of critical data in geographically distanced locations, providing protection from natural disasters and power outages and increasing security. SAN adoption providing this additional data protection has seen a dramatic increase since the September 11 attacks. There are additional methods to protect your data with SANs or to allow preventative or corrective maintenance, referred to as cloning, mirroring or snapshotting a LUN, each method provides a different level of protection and has a different impact on the system performance to provide this support feature. SANs provide many advantages over standard file system storage, including performance, flexibility, security, and overall lower total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing administration support and making higher use of the available storage capacity. Early Fibre Channel based SAN fabrics that incorporated multiple vendors experienced incompatibilities between the various Fibre Channel implementations. The lower level storage protocols typically worked well, but the higher-level applications tended to have the compatibility problems as vendors looked for ways to provide product differentiation in their solutions. This incompatibility created additional costs to customers by forcing them to have detailed knowledge on their fabric design instead of the simple plug-and-go scaling process. The members of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) worked together at attacking this specific problem and greatly improved the compatibility problems within two years and virtually eliminated the problems noticed in the earlier designs. There are several different types of SAN fabric available today, with by far the most common SAN solution being based on Fibre Channel. For most of the last 10 years, Fibre Channel has enjoyed a large performance advantage over most other fabric types, specifically 10BaseT and 100BaseT Ethernet. More recently, there have been a couple of other fabric-capable protocol standards developed, iSCSI (Internet SCSI), based on Ethernet TCP/IP and ATAover-Ethernet (AoE). With Ethernet being limited to 1Gbit while FC was operating with 2Gbit links, these alternative protocols have not received much interest from the market to date. There are other esoteric fabrics used in the Supercomputer High Performance Computing areas such as InfiniBand, which provides an interface to the storage attached to the system. With the release of the 10Gbit Ethernet protocol standard, coupled with the lower switch infrastructure costs, the performance advantage that SAN with Fibre Channel fabrics enjoyed were challenged. Today, many are rethinking what fabric protocol they should be using for their next SAN deployment. The alternative that is best positioned to challenge the dominant market position of Fibre Channel fabric based SANs is iSCSI. The iSCSI protocol was released in 2003, prior to the introduction of 10Gbit Ethernet. iSCSI fabrics, comprised of 1Gbit Ethernet, did not provide a performance advantage over Fibre Channel fabrics. When 10Gbit Ethernet was introduced, the initial cost of 10Gbit solutions were more that $5000 per port compared to $1000 per port solutions for Fibre Channel. The high cost combined with the fact that most computers were using the PCI-X I-O bus interface inside their systems, which limited the top end of a 10Gbit solution to 8.5Gbits, produced little market interest in an iSCSI storage fabric. With the recent introduction of copper-based CX4 10Gbit Network Interface Cards, 10Gbit Ethernet fabrics have dropped significantly, and today costs compare favourably with Fibre Channel, making a 10Gbit Ethernet or Fibre Channel fabric decision a toss up from the cost perspective. The decision points September 2006

have moved on to things like overall performance, compatibility between vendors and TCO. 10Gbit Ethernet enjoys a distinct performance advantage over Fibre Channel that is expected to widen as time passes. New systems are being released with the newer higher performance I-O Bus, PCI Express, which allows 10Gbit Ethernet to deliver its full performance potential (20 Gbits). Fibre Channel HBA performance improvements have slowed dramatically in recent years -— it has taken nearly twice as long to develop and release the 4Gbit capable HBA than originally forecasted. The 10Gbit Ethernet NIC is likely to move to 40Gbit performance levels sooner than Fibre Channel will move to 8Gbit. Another potential competitor to the Fibre Channel fabric is the ATA over Ethernet (AoE) protocol. This protocol was designed for accessing ATA storage

resolution

devices over an Ethernet fabric. AoE is different from most all Ethernet-based protocols in that is does not rely on the standard network layers such as Internet Protocol (IP) or User Datagram Protocol (UPD). This enables the network to bypass levels of the system’s operation software, greatly improving the latency of the data transfers. The AoE standard is a much less complicated design than the iSCSI standard; the AoE specification is a mere 8 pages, whereas the iSCSI specification is 257 pages long. The other principle difference to consider between a Fibre Channel SAN and iSCSI-based SAN is that iSCSI runs over the standard network protocol Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). This enables the storage to be configured as a Network Attach Storage (NAS) solution. This allows the storage system to reside directly on the network in the

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technology

Managing data growth over time

Worldwide factory revenue forecast for Disk Storage Systems by Achitecture Networked Storage

2001

2002

2003

2004

SAN-Attached Storage ($M) NAS ($M) Networked Storage Total ($M) Networked Storage Martket Share

$6,024 $1,618 $7,642 31.9%

$6,594 $1,472 $8,066 37.0%

$7,534 $1,681 $9,215 43.4%

$8,902 $2,095 $10,997 51.7%

$10,704 $13,424 $2,649 $3,302 $13,353 $16,726 60.5% 70.0%

17.40% 15.30% 17.00% --

DAS DAS-Attached External RAID Storage ($M) Host-Attached External RAID Storage ($M) Host-Attached Internal RAID Storage ($M) DAS Total ($M) Total Market Share

$7,228 $2,388 $6,687 $16,304 68.1%

$5,599 $1,814 $6,334 $13,746 63.0%

$4,970 $1,345 $5,691 $12,006 56.6%

$4,420 $973 $4,872 $10,264 48.3%

$4,040 $694 $3,971 $8,705 39.5%

-13.00% -27.40% -14.40% -15.20% --

Total RAID Storage Market ($M) $23,946 Total Y/Y Disk Storage Market Revenue Growth -18.6%

$21,811 -8.9%

$21,221 -2.7%

$21,261 0.2%

$22,059 $23,895 3.7% 8.3%

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2005

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2006

$3,608 $482 $3,078 $7,169 30.0%

CAGR 2001-2006

0.0 --

NAS configuration compared to residing behind one specific system in the SAN topology. The benefits of NAS over SAN are that your storage access performance is not limited or bottlenecked by the single system that is configured in front of the specific LUN that you are trying to access, nor does it require any administration to get to the LUNs behind a failed system because all the storage is accessible to all the functional systems on the network. Additionally, in a NAS topology, it is easier to scale the size of your storage solution as all storage is attached directly to the network making more uniform access to all of the attached storage. The benefits of the Fibre Channel SAN topology over a NAS solution are the maturity of the protocol that translates into fewer setup problems and the superior performance for sub 10Gbit Ethernet fabrics. In today’s industries, the need for more storage and faster access continues to grow. The Small and Home Offices (SOHO) of less than 10 clients are increasingly looking at attaching their storage via their network to improve their workflow time. The days of sneaker-netting storage back and forth between systems are numbered even for small offices. Larger storage solutions are required to keep pace with the data intensive video and audio industries and to be competitive. To be effective, everyone involved with turning the raw work into the finished product has to have the quickest possible storage access to all the necessary data. Making your storage available to all your clients via a storage network allows the best use of the current storage capacity to hand, and delays costly upgrades. Planning ahead to ensure that you have selected the storage topology that will meet your current needs and that will have the ability to grow with you requires a thorough review of your critical storage requirements — capacity, performance, security, segmentation and latency. Typically, SANs are better suited for Enterprise-size solutions as they offer better segmentation and latency than their NAS counterparts, which are generally better suited for smaller sized configurations, but have naturally superior capacity and security characteristics. No matter what storage topology you end up selecting, one thing is certain, to get the best use of it you need to make it accessible to all of your systems on the network and today you have options on how to configure that storage network to meet those requirements. ■

September 2006


slaying dragons

john watkinson ‘In some cases inventions are ahead of their time. The field effect transistor was invented during Queen Victoria’s reign, but no-one knew how to make it.’

Patents Audio equipment is often based on inventions covered by patents, yet the issues surrounding patents are widely misunderstood. JOHN WATKINSON looks at the basics.

F

IRST OF ALL, the word is pronounced with an ‘a’ as in cat. A lot of people think a patent is to prevent other people exploiting someone’s invention, but a moment’s thought would suggest that there is little point in inventing something if it isn’t going to be exploited. In fact a patent is a kind of contract between the inventor and society, whereby in return for publishing details of the invention, the inventor is given an exclusive right to license use of the patent for a certain number of years. After that time the patent expires and anyone is free to use its teaching. In an ideal world someone has a bright idea and invents something, is granted a patent for it and then is paid royalties by grateful manufacturers. In practice it’s not quite like that. Your patent may be greeted with total apathy. If known mousetraps are adequate, your better one may not arouse much interest. resolution

Patents stand or fall by their claims. Claims define the scope of the patent and must be written very carefully so that it is clear what is and is not claimed. The rest of the patent may contain examples, known as embodiments, but it is usual to warn that the patent does not restrict itself to those embodiments. If your patent is sloppily written, it may be possible to make something that delivers most of the benefits of the invention but which doesn’t infringe the wording of the claims. On the other hand if you are a private individual, a large company may simply choose to exploit your invention knowing perfectly well that you can’t afford to fight them in the courts. My view of intellectual property is that its ownership only differs slightly from ownership of physical property, such as a car. If some unauthorised person takes your car, it is theft. If some unauthorised September 2006


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slaying dragons person exploits your intellectual property, I view that also as theft. The major difference is that in the case of physical theft the location of the item concerned is a good indicator of guilt. In the case of intellectual property proof is much harder. On the other hand you wouldn’t accuse someone of stealing your car when it is still where you left it. Accordingly you shouldn’t accuse someone of infringing your patent unless you are certain they have. That doesn’t mean such accusations are not made. A good way for a large company to impede a small but growing competitor is to start patent infringement actions. When the PAL television system was invented, a key component was the inversion of phase of one of the colour difference signals from line to line so that it could be averaged in the receiver. Once PAL broadcasts started, a number of manufacturers made TV sets that only decoded every other line without averaging. This could be done with an NTSC decoder. The picture was slightly inferior, but it circumvented the PAL patents. A patent should only be granted if the application meets certain criteria. The most important one is that of novelty. In other words something that has not been done before and not disclosed before the application was made. An important concept in intellectual property is the man ordinarily skilled in the art. This hypothetical individual, into whose shoes I step from time to time, represents someone working in the field of the invention and who keeps himself abreast of developments in that field. It is important that the invention is novel but not obvious to this hypothetical person. A good example is the optical disc technology invented by Philips. Everyone else was exploring various ways of obtaining contrast between the two states of the recording using holes or areas of different reflectivity when Philips came up with phase contrast, where the apparent reflectivity is changed by optical interference in a relief structure that could be replicated by pressing. That invention became LaserVision, then CD, then DVD. In the case of technical inventions, one of the indicators of inventiveness I have found useful is where all of the components needed to assemble the invention had been available for years. In this case anyone could have assembled the device. The fact that no-one did suggests that the first person to do

so invented it. In some cases inventions are ahead of their time. It’s a good idea but it’s either not economic to put it in to practice, or the technology of the day does not allow the invention to be made. The field effect transistor was invented during Queen Victoria’s reign, but no-one knew how to make it. The Patent Office has to check for novelty, but this is quite difficult. Any prior document available to the public containing substantially the same thing will destroy the novelty, but the problem the Patent Office has is that it is practically impossible to consider every document in existence and the result is that patents are sometimes granted that would not have been had the existence of certain documents been known. The vast body of prior art would suggest that novelty would be unusual, but that’s not the case. Inventors have always bemoaned the amount of prior art. Chester Rice once complained to E.W. Kellog, his co-inventor of the moving coil loudspeaker ‘the ancients have stolen all our inventions’. After World War II, Decca spent a lot of time developing stereophonic sound, only to discover that Alan Blumlein had patented virtually everything in the 1930s. Sometimes individuals or companies are unable to patent their inventions because they publish details before applying for a patent. In general, if you think you have invented something, keep quiet about it until the IP position has been checked. It is prudent for patent holders to take steps to see how valid their patent is before seeking royalties, in case the organisation from whom they seek those royalties does their homework and invalidates the patent. In general I would not agree to any royalty request without testing validity. Another way in which a patent can come unstuck is insufficiency. The patent is supposed to contain enough information that the man skilled in the art can put it into practice without having to be an inventor himself. If the patent was written in such a way that one key step isn’t disclosed, it can be invalidated because the contract with society has been broken. One of the problems we have in IP is that whenever an invention proves successful, everybody and his dog suddenly claims to have invented part of it and starts demanding royalties. This was seen with Compact Disc, DVD and MPEG. In my experience a lot of these patents are only useful for the hamster to

shred because they are either obvious, not infringed or are simply invalidated by a proper prior art search. Nevertheless it only requires one manufacturer to take a patent at face value and pay royalties and then the patent owner has cash flow to fund action against further targets. It can be quite rewarding to invalidate bandwagon patents of this kind. One of the reward indicators is how many years earlier the invalidating prior art was published. When this is several decades it is very pleasing. One of the difficulties of proving obviousness is that one of the definitions of obvious is that it is something everyone in the art knows. If everyone knows it, there is little point in writing it down. Consequently, years later it may prove quite difficult to find a prior document that states the obvious. Most patent litigations don’t get as far as a court. Usually once both sides have done their homework it becomes clear what the position is and there will be a settlement. However, once in a while things do get to court. While it might be imagined that intellectual property proceedings might be rather dull, it’s not always the case. I recall being cross-examined in a case involving an item worn on a belt. The other side’s QC, in exploring ad nauseam every item of clothing that might be construed to be a belt asked me if I knew what a baldrick was. Not being satisfied with my answer said QC then insisted that a dictionary be consulted. The Judge turned to me and said I would find the entry next to balderdash. ■

DON’T

Run around telling everyone if you think you have invented something. Assume any patent is valid until you have failed to invalidate it. Assume a patent is valid because others are paying royalties on it.

DO

Check the IP position before manufacturing a new product. Keep abreast of the art by building a library of key contributions. Ensure your patent is carefully written to avoid circumvention.

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ten

Console stepping stones Continuing the ‘consoles of note’ concept introduced in the last issue, KEITH SPENCER-ALLEN looks at ten mixing consoles that identify key points in the continued development of the mixer. ERGONOMICS AND INNOVATION USA — From 1962 to the mid-70s Quad/Eight was a custom console designer for film and music studios. With individually tailored consoles it could respond to changing needs and as it often handled complete studio installations it was able to take a more complete view of operator needs. This console circa 1974 at A&M Records, Hollywood visibly reflects its move to make larger consoles slightly more ergonomic. Less obvious is the fact that its 32/32 frame includes vertical light beam meters; VCAs; DC sub-grouping; simultaneous quad, stereo and mono mixing; and it’s ready for fitting Compumix mix automation — all less common facilities at the time. A few years later it introduced standard product ranges and unfortunately began to lose its way.

automation allowed storage, recall and reset of all console parameters including EQ. First seen in 1988, it was adopted by Neve US two years later and promptly disappeared.

ERGONOMICS AND INNOVATION UK — London’s Olympic Studios was one of the more independent thinking of non-record company studios. The team of Keith Grant and Dick Swettenham opted for a wraparound console concept where the majority of controls would be within arm’s reach for the then new Barnes studio location. Swettenham carried this approach forward with his Helios Electronics company, refining it for larger consoles where the original concept couldn’t be fully accommodated. Largely making custom designs he was able to incorporate VCA level control and grouping, fader automation interfaces, LED column meters and quad panning on all channels. As with other custom makers, the rise of the standard console hit its business but Helios remains notable for being the first to place a video monitor within the console (Mainos TV, Finland) used for level monitoring throughout the console.

ANALOGUE BUT DIGITAL US — The US Harrison company had a long history of console design but was losing ground to the big names. The SeriesTen was its magnificent statement of confidence to bring it back to the high end. Digitally controlled analogue and physically big was the total opposite in design to the rack and compact controller mentality. Each channel strip was crammed with knobs and LEDs while the frame was clad in bolsters of padded leather — a more masculine console would be hard to find. Unusually, each channel strip controlled two signal paths and a pair of microprocessors for all module operation and automation — distributed processing rather than central. The real attraction was the total dynamic control of most audio functions — ahead of everyone else in 1986 (and a wonder to behold in full Christmas tree demo mode. Ed) — and became the basis for its following consoles.

DIGITAL CONTROL US — While most mixer makers were digitally controlling analogue audio all within the console, the idea of reducing the console to just a compact controller of a remote rack of analogue electronics was an adventurous step. The user would have to embrace multifunction controls, a degree of assignability and the concern that digital control of analogue audio was really only a stepping stone to a fully digital end. Still, the ability to fit a lot of console in a small space had a lot of appeal to broadcasters. Orion Research of Cleveland developed a range of TV consoles of up to 32 stereo inputs and a means to access 320 sources. The small control surface was deceptively simple while the integral ReMem September 2006

DIGITAL CONTROL UK — Novation was a digitally controlled analogue console developed by the power amplifier maker Harrison Information Technology (HIT). It featured a compact control surface and associated rack but a number of the development team were ex-Neve and had considerable experience in the practical side of assignable controls and what didn’t work. Although it raised a lot of enthusiastic response business troubles at the parent company halted the project. However, it can be seen as an influence on products that followed such as early Euphonix consoles.

ANALOGUE BUT DIGITAL UK — Trident was another company whose consoles were primarily addressing a declining middle market. The Di-An (Digital-Analogue) was its response, a digital controlled analogue console, large with a distinctive appearance (That was the swathes of black blank panel. Ed), and almost all controls bar faders, mutes and solos centrally controlled. The console was fully automatable, had a number of unique features, and was virtually knobless, depending on nudge buttons for control. Many still consider this to be the easiest assignable console to use. Lengthy delays in completion in 1986 caused the marketing to be out of step with production, a few were sold but it had damaged the company which was then sold itself. The new owners developed it a little further before quietly dropping it. resolution

CLEVER DEAD END — In 1988, a completely new mixer concept was demonstrated by French company ABAC. It was a digitally controlled analogue desk but rather than thinking in channel strips the control surface was made by specialised modules that clipped together, each module being one console function for a number of channels. Apparently available in up to 64 inputs, the input channels were able to be user configured. All console functions were fully automated, and with the electronics being in a cable or fibre optic connected rack it was possible to have more than one control surface for the same rack with assigned priorities (Still rare today. Ed) SMALL BUT INFLUENTIAL — As makers of their own chips, Yamaha has consistently been able to launch ‘surprise’ products with components only available to them. The DMP7 Digital Mixing Processor appeared at the Autumn 1987 AES Convention — an 8x2 digital mixer with motor faders, full automation and internal effects all for a price that was in the loose-change bracket. It wasn’t about to challenge the pro consoles but it did announce the MI maker’s capabilities at an MI price point. A year later, the DMP7D added digital I-Os and suddenly was capable of handling a simple digital multitrack mix when multiple units were used in cascade mode. It was advance warning of the DMC1000, the O2R and everything that’s come after. BIG BUT COMPACT AND TRANSPORTABLE — First seen in 1987, Synergy One from Florida-based Analog Digital Synergy Inc was an outwardly refined console concept. It was the first design to have the appearance of transportability but it stuck closely to a fairly basic in-line approach with a knob-per-function and fully modular construction. The pictured version was 16channel but 64 appeared a maximum size. Aside from a means of digital interfacing with full reset and recall it didn’t appear to offer a ‘digital advantage’ and was last seen in 1990. To most it proved that while an analogue control surface is initially attractive most expected more for a ‘digital’ price tag. DIGITAL SORTED — Neve did much of the commercial ground work for the all-digital console with its DSP consoles in the early 1980s and hawking demo boxes around for a couple of years previously. The first two DSP consoles were commercial products but in retrospect were very much still prototypes that experienced continuous development to make them do what was originally promised. The last few DSP consoles were sold to German broadcasters by which time they were far more refined and ‘standard’. With this knowledge Neve then started afresh with music recording consoles, the result being the Capricorn which defined in 1992 much of what is now accepted as ‘normal’. ■ 71


your business

Almost like being there Get ready because digital is about to do to the live concert industry what it did to the recorded music business — change its world forever.

dan daley

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‘Advertising for concerts, promoting the artists, podcasting the show, and providing access to archived versions of shows for download later make the 17,000seat arena itself seem kind of puny. O2 and AEG estimate a crowd of three million visitors over a three-year period.’

Y

OU DON’T THINK of live concerts as having a music producer, per se. Sure, there is a concert promoter — generally a paroled felon of some grade or other who learned the trade in jail. Live concert recordings have a producer, though the genre is a relatively small niche in the grand scheme of the record business; Running On Empty doesn’t come along too often. The point is, producers resolution

DAN DALEY

don’t necessarily connect record production and live concert performances. Well, that might be about to change. A couple of big-time players are trying to extend the afterglow by letting fans take a piece of the show with them. Live Nation, the concert production arm spun off by Clear Channel last year, touts its Instant Live service, a CD of the show you can buy on the way out, churned out by high-speed duplicators in the backs of trucks on site. (Sounds like a normal day in the markets in Beijing or Moldova.) Network Live, a year-old venture between America Online (AOL), global event presenter AEG, and XM Satellite Radio, is trying to build a virtual version of Woodstock in every iPod with post-show streamed distribution of concerts. After radically altering the recorded music industry’s business model, technology is now targeting live concerts. And not a minute too soon: though rebounding this year, concert revenues in the US are still volatile, down nearly 20% at midyear in 2005, saved by second-half blockbuster tours by hoary rockers like Paul McCartney, U2 and the Stones. Furthermore, as illicit downloads eat into recorded-music revenues, artists of all types increasingly view touring as a more reliable source of income. According to a study by Princeton University economics professor Alan Krueger in 2002, 31 of the 35 top-grossing music artists made more money from concerts than from record sales. And then there are the ultra-peripatetic Artic Monkeys, which gave the music away and used non-stop live shows to build the buzz. Live Nation’s Instant Live after-concert CD product gives concertgoers a souvenir of the show, but it also can act as a draw to get them to the concert in the first place. That CD you got at the Arsenal game not only has cool music on it but is also a coupon good for a pack of crisps and a six-pack at your neighbourhood Sainsbury’s. The concert event is becoming less an ‘event’ and more of another stage in the larger evolution of music as a marketing tool. But just as much of the rest of the music industry is moving towards the virtual paradigm, can concerts be affected by that same shift? More to the point, how can they not? Launched last year, Network Live combines AOL (which has become a big producer of Internetbased live performances), AEG (which operates live entertainment venues, owns sports franchises in the US and Europe, and promotes concert tours for such artists as Prince and Paul McCartney), and XM Satellite Radio to leverage the immediacy of the Net and that of live concerts. It’s Isle of Wight on an MP3 player, only with more people — AOL, which streamed 2005’s Live8 event (which, incidentally, was coproduced by Network Live CEO Kevin Wall), declared that the show had 5 million viewers globally, and more as the archived version of the show was pulled down on an on-demand basis by millions of others after the fact. The sheer numbers show how virtuality can change the concert business. AOL’s ‘Music Live’ concert series asserts an audience of 100 million, to which XM adds another 4.4 million. On that kind of scale, September 2006


your business getting people into an actual venue for musicians to perform in front of could become an exercise similar to assembling a studio audience for a television game show. The really big bucks aren’t in the ticket sales; they’re in the eyeballs for advertisers. Virtuality in live concerts is taking quick steps forward. AEG announced in May of this year a new sports complex it’s building in Berlin that will be wired for wireless –- cellular telephone provider O2 will manage and beam wireless broadcasts and event alerts throughout the venue and from the venue to their entire subscriber base. Advertising for concerts, promoting the artists, podcasting the show, and providing access to archived versions of shows for download later make the 17,000-seat arena itself seem kind of puny. O2 and AEG estimate a crowd of three million visitors over a three-year period, with about 300 events anticipated in that timeframe. They say that makes it worth the almost-US$200 million it will cost to construct the new venue, and they’re planning to team up to do the same with the former Millennium Dome in London next year. Permutations keep evolving. Network Live launched with a Bon Jovi concert in Times Square last summer and partnered with Nokia to extend the concept’s reach beyond the walls of a performance venue. Their next new product is Standing Room Only, an AOL-AEG-XM venture that kicked off at SWSX in Austin, where a kind of built-in audience waited for music to be slid past them on rails. The reality is that the ticket sales were to the music conference, not the concerts. The concept is now a juggernaut. Festivals like Bonaroo have their own during- and after-concert digital distribution systems. Even neighbourhood clubs have been experimenting with in-club kiosks that allow patrons to download a recording of the night’s shows to a USB drive right then and there. The kiosks are viewed as loss-leaders, bringing thirsty patrons into the clubs, who will then hopefully buy the CDs of the band (who are almost certainly playing for free), and who will be encouraged to sign up for the digital distribution subscription service of eMusic, which put the kiosks in the club in the first place. Now, here’s where record producers can fit into this changing mix of formats, technologies and business models. And where I can get to beat harder a few of the drums I’ve been thumping these last few years. First off, notice that much of the revenues these products and services will generate are front-loaded, the direction I believe the most reliable revenue stream is headed. Sure, there’ll be royalties paid down the line, but they’re already truncated and ultimately they’ll be small compared to the revenues from their sales of the immediate products and services sold before, during and after the concerts. This is not a place to be worrying over points; this is where you’re jockeying to get the entire tour or to be named as the in-house music recording producer for the venue. It’s not unlike what several engineer/mixer/producers have done with AOL’s ‘Music Live’ series, done from a few recording studios, such as Sony Music Studios in Manhattan. The live show has an FOH mixer and a monitor mixer. But if so many shows will become fixed in physical or virtual media, they’re going to need a technically savvy, artistically inclined and eminently musical supervisory person. The producer may not be able to stop takes in the middle and ask the band to start again (though Elvis Costello did just that on a now-famous show of Saturday Night Live in the 1970s). But they can do any number of repairs and tricks in real-time or off-line in between songs, September 2006

including pitch fixes and dynamics adjustments. (It’s simply a variation on the workflow of most hip-hop records, where the programmer does the fixing and edits while the main recording continues across the hall.) And of course, the show is being mixed as it goes along, with ample opportunity to put the sheen on it that we’ve come to expect from a quality record. Think of it as mastering on the fly. (And with a slight delay for latency, Autotune works pretty well real-time, in case we’re talking Ashlee Simpson.) In fact, the need for savvy music producers will be propelled by the fact that artists who once knew they could shrug off the odd less-than-perfect performance now know they might be contractually committed to a recording of that show. (That prospect has already kept several artists from agreeing to do these post-show recordings.) On the other hand,

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artists may have to get used to accepting that a warts-and-all version of a show might wind up on a disc or a download moments after the last note fades. But that’s not much different from recordings –- legal or illicit — that fans make at shows anyway. At least the artist, with the help of the producer and engineers, could put some audio cosmetics on the worst of the warts. And even the warts themselves might not be so bad. As Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert trade magazine Pollstar, told me, ‘That’s the appeal of a live show — the blemishes and mistakes that make them real and human.’ When it comes to music, there’s still nothing like being there. But it could soon be a whole lot more as entertainment technology transforms live concerts into the gift that keeps on giving. ■

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headroom BATTERY LIFE Many thanks for the excellent review you gave the HHB FlashMic in the July/August edition of Resolution. We’ve been shipping FlashMic since the beginning of June and are very excited by all the positive reactions received from around the World. With respect to battery life, we are finding that a pair of fresh AA-sized 1500mAh alkaline batteries actually provides close to 8 hours operation rather than the 3-5 hours you quoted. In addition, we were surprised you stated in the Cons list that there was no record mode indication; as well as the REC symbol on the display, there is a bright red LED on the base, just to the right of the jogswitch! Finally, perhaps you should buy your reviewer one of the latest man-bags so he can dispense with his handbag! Simon Burges, new product development engineer, HHB Communications, UK

IS AM THE NEW HI-FI? Serves me right, really. I went over to DAB Digital Radio four years ago and gave away the FM set. After all, I was promised ‘near-CD’ audio and I hadn’t treated myself to any new kit in years. Planet Rock was the first station I heard, playing those classic air-guitar Zepp riffs demanding turn-toeleven volume settings. Not a good idea. Listener fatigue kicks in after about 15 minutes. Classic low bit-rate symptoms. Contacting Digital One, they said very firmly it was all about choice. More stations mean reducing sound quality as the fixed number of bits in a multiplex are shared out. The Advertising Standards Authority now rules you can’t claim ‘near CD’ quality sound anymore. You can use the far more misleading phrase ‘digital quality sound’ which covers anything from ring tones to whatever you guys run in post these days. I coined the phrase ‘near cassette quality sound’ but DAB is generally of so low resolution, they don’t see the joke. BBC Radio 3 recently reduced bit rates from 192 to 160kps. For serious radio listeners this means a loss of stereo imaging and very audible artefacts on live classical concerts. For the first time in 35 years, I won’t be listening to the Proms Season. I can’t — I love music too much. BBC World Service had set a new low at 64kps which is poor for speech but music simply breaks up. They said bit rates are being reduced to allow more stations on the multiplex again in the name of choice. What choice? Just more of the same. BBC7 and Oneword Radio are the only innovators, both in mono and the latter at cell phone quality. When did anyone launch a new station in mono? The industry states that a DAB radio is easy to tune but nobody understands secondary services. BBC Five Live Sports Extra, one of the secondary services, used to air only for major sports events but nobody knew it was there. They now keep the channel alive with a looped announcement at a dire 32kps. Even an ardent AM listener won’t make the switch to digital if this is the sound quality they can expect. Is AM the new Hi-Fi? When I bought my radio, the chap at Dixon’s said DAB was crap. Concerned, I asked to see the manager and he said it was crap. Now I know how honest they were, I feel I owe them a drink. http://guide.aoruk.com/dabdash.asp Bob Ellis, grumpy producer, Hope In Hades Productions, Derby, UK

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CONSOLES OF NOTE Thanks for your interesting ‘Consoles of note’ in Resolution July/August (V5.5). As you certainly do NOT seem ‘disinterested’ I think maybe the following might interest you. THE FIRST SSL: As far as I know, the oldest functioning SSL console is situated at Grape House Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. It bears S/N 4012, and knowing that 1-10 were never made, it is No. 2 ever made. It was originally bought by Toccano Studios, Denmark, in 1977 and was the first with computer automation. It’s in a 40-channel frame with 32 channels fitted — some of which bear the printing ‘SSL611A’. I’ve maintained the console since 1985, and although I’ve replaced quite some parts (capacitors, pots, switches), the console still works fantastically. Most of the documentation is Colin’s own handmade drawings. The VCA used on the dynamics card is a sort of ‘brick’, which Colin (the story goes) developed partly under his eiderdown to obtain a stable temperature. Just thought you’d like to know. B Elberg, ELT, Denmark

Advertisers Index AKM ........................................................ 15 AL.SO ......................................Classified 69 AMS Neve ............................................... 35 Beyer Dynamic ........................................ 20 CabSat ..................................................... 59 Calrec ...................................................... 07 Cedar Audio .......... Outside Back Cover 76 Charteroak .............................................. 50 Dean Cook Productions ..........Classified 69 Digico ...................................................... 11 Digidesign ............................................... 39 DPA ......................................................... 31 Enhanced Audio ......................Classified 69 Exhbition Freighting ...Inside Back Cover 75 Genelec ....................Inside Front Cover 02 Harman UK .............................................. 27 Holophone .............................................. 21

PRAISE

Interbee (JESA) ....................................... 67

You’ve done it again (V5.5)! Where do I start? Begin at the beginning... Leader. Excellent stuff. Although I am probably (certainly?) ‘of a certain age’, I don’t delight in other people’s misfortune not to have experienced the enjoyment we had in the 60s and 70s discovering how to balance and mix stereo (and the frustration of trying to line up analogue tape machines and Dolby A361s!), but they ‘were’ golden days — the culmination of nearly a century of striving for better sound. Am I being a doom merchant to worry that audio quality has passed its zenith, and that the pursuit of perfection has been abandoned in favour of the craze for content? Setting aside the arguable claims for SACD, the linear PCM CD provides the highest quality of domestic audio that can reasonably be required, and with 24-bit capture and editing, who can ask for anything more? So then came Minidisc, followed by iPod, complemented by Internet radio, all of which use various flavours of encoding to provide greater capacity at the expense of quality. DAB was announced to much hype about ‘near CD quality’, but started badly and got worse, to the point where R3’s bit rate has been reduced from 192 to 160kbps — to cram Radio 5 Sports Extra into an already overcrowded multiplex. By comparison, CDs give us 1,441kbps and FM radio, via a 32kHz link, can offer 832kbps. Progress? It was a delight to see the stunning photographs of Yash Raj Films, and read Daman Sood’s wise and perceptive comments: ‘You shouldn’t correct acoustics with equalisers’. Excellent! Quality certainly lives in India. They don’t use DAB! Rupert Neve continues to amaze us with more retrodevelopment. Next there’ll be a box that introduces tracking distortion and simulates a worn stylus. You read it here first! John Watkinson and Dan Daley continue to educate and entertain us in equal measure, but you certainly kept the best bit ‘til last. I nearly missed it (p58). HD or not, does it do 5.1? And who’s the distributor? John Andrews, chairman, Institute of Broadcast Sound, UK

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Interfacio .................................Classified 69 KMR Audio ..............................Classified 69 IZ Technology .......................................... 57 Lawo ........................................................ 25 Lydcraft/Tubetech ................................... 18 Merging Technologies ............................ 37 Millennium Music .................................... 13 Neumman ................................................ 09 Neun Heimat ...........................Classified 69 Neutrik .................................................... 45 Peter Newbrook .....................Classified 69 Prism Sound ............................................ 51 Quested .................................................. 61 Radial Powertools ................................... 63 RSS .......................................................... 60 Rupert Neve ............................................ 49 SBES ........................................................ 68 Sennheiser ............................................... 70 Schoeps ................................................... 17 SCV London/Fostex ................................ 55 Shure Distribution/Sound Devices ......... 19 Sonic Distribution/Apogee ..................... 53 Sonic Distribtuion/Ghost ........................ 73 Sonic Distribution/SE .............................. 56 Sonic Distribution/Waves........................ 65 Sonifex .................................................... 66 Sony Plug-ins ........................................... 33 SSL ........................................................... 41 StageTech (Salzbrenner Mediatech) ....... 29 Stirling Trading ........................................ 43 Studio Spares .......................................... 47 TL Audio ................................................. 72 TL Commerce ..........................Classified 69

September 2006


Profile for Resolution

Resolution V5.6 September 2006  

Ray Gillon, Willi Zürrer, John Stadius, ten console stepping stones

Resolution V5.6 September 2006  

Ray Gillon, Willi Zürrer, John Stadius, ten console stepping stones