Thursday, July 09, 2015
Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum Adds API BOX To Studio B
RCA studio B has a long-standing partnership with API—housing everything from a custom 1971 console to a new eight-slot lunchbox.
In the music industry, it’s equally as important to respect the past as it is to look forward into the future.
Perhaps studio manager Justin Croft knows this better than anyone else—he manages the Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville, TN, operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Studio chose API’s newest product, a BOX console, for their control room.
This choice mirrors the dichotomy RCA has struck between preserving the legacy of country music stars, and moving forward with new chart-toppers and record-breakers every year.
Croft spoke with API about RCA’s long-standing tradition of keeping one ear on the past and the other on the future.
Croft says it was important the new console fit in aesthetically with the classic vibe at RCA Studio B: “We wanted the BOX in an enclosure from the famous WSM radio station in Nashville, the station that broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry.”
RCA studio B has a long-standing partnership with API—housing everything from a custom 1971 console “filled with API parts, including 2520 op amps and Melcor 1731 op amps” to a new eight-slot lunchbox.
Croft talks at length about how many different purposes the BOX serves, and how its versatility has changed the way the studio functions. “The BOX has solved so many problems. We had no signal routing going on.” Now, he continues, the BOX “is running the studio loud speakers. We mix on it live to two track, use it for reverb returns, we use its preamps and EQs…we’ve recorded vocalists, choirs, orchestras, jazz bands, and concert bands.”
Croft says even though he expected great things from the BOX, he was still pleasantly surprised by how extensive its abilities are, noting in particular “I love the compressor, that’s something I wouldn’t expect to find on a unit like this. I use it all the time; it’s awesome.”
All of this means Historic RCA Studio B can do an even better job at running the programming for which it has become famous, including educational recording projects “for middle schools, high schools, and colleges. We educate students about studio recording. We also do group tour recording packages, where the public is invited to be a ‘star for a day’ singing along to a hit song that was originally recorded at the studio.”
Of course, “we also record special projects that have historical relevance to the studio.” RCA Studio B’s association with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum means the ties to historic preservation are as crucial to the studio as educating and inspiring future Country stars—and the BOX is an important element in both.
Croft is highly enthusiastic about his new console and API. “We’ve noticed a big jump in audio quality since acquiring the BOX—API rocks.” While the BOX epitomizes variety, Croft’s feelings about it and about API are of a singular nature: “I just love API. The BOX is a great unit. We’re overjoyed with it.” That joy stems in part from the knowledge that API and RCA will continue working together to weave the past, present and future into a wide tapestry of possibility.
ABOUT HISTORIC RCA STUDIO B
Historic RCA Studio B is the Home of 1,000 Hits, where artists like Eddy Arnold, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, and many others recorded some of American music’s most enduring songs. Preservation of Historic RCA Studio B made possible through a partnership between the Mike Curb Family Foundation and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
RCA Studio B
CONVERT Reference DACs From Dangerous Music Now Shipping
The new CONVERT one-space rack units support all standard sample rates up to 192k, with inputs for AES, SPDIF, ADAT, Optical SPDIF (Toslink), and USB.
Dangerous Music launches the ‘CONVERT-2’ and ‘CONVERT-8’ 2-channel and 8-channel reference D-to-A converters.
Based on end-user demand, Dangerous set out to to design the next generation of converters as stand-alone units, incorporating the design ethic of ‘Transparent yet Musical.”
The new CONVERT one-space rack units support all standard sample rates up to 192k, with inputs for AES, SPDIF, ADAT, Optical SPDIF (Toslink), and USB.
Bob Muller, president of Dangerous Music, states, “We needed to answer our customer’s requests for standalone and multi-channel D-to-A converters based on the reference DACs built into our monitoring products that they have come to depend on.”
“It was time for a new generation of Dangerous converters so we ignored cost considerations, as we always do when developing a new product and set out to make the best sounding D-to-A converter that we’d ever heard. After more than 2 years of development the consensus from all of us within Dangerous as well as a select group of very discerning world-class engineers is unanimous: Mission accomplished! We are very excited to share the new CONVERT-2 and CONVERT-8 with the world.”
Dangerous Music worked throughout the development process to assure the new CONVERT series exceeds engineer’s needs and expectations by having them used in real projects.
Todd Whitelock, audio engineer for Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride and others, says of the CONVERT-8, “Finally a converter that puts clarity in the bottom end. Basses and kick drums articulate naturally, finding their own space in the mix. It was the clearest, widest, most detailed stereo field I’ve ever mixed in.”
Mike Wells, mastering engineer for clients such as Green Day, Prince, DJ Earworm, and Apple Computer, says about the CONVERT-2, “This converter redefines spatial imaging, depth, and detail. It crushed my primary reference converter in a shootout. The CONVERT-2 is the new standard of excellence.”
“I was expecting quite a lot from this converters. It’s not my fault, it’s just that Dangerous has set the bar pretty high with units like the D-Box, Monitor ST, Bax and Compressor,” says Ryan West, recording/mixing engineer for Jay-Z, Eminem, Usher, Kid Cudi. “Super solid and light on it’s feet, the DAC definitely feels and sounds like a Dangerous product: punchy, open, musical, and accurate. Setup is really simple and the clocking is rock solid.”
Rueven Amiel, a Grammy winning mixer/producer for Pony Asteroid, Sarah Packiam, Susana Baca, states about the CONVERT-8, “It’s so important to make a song feel right, and I feel like I bypassed hours of work by just plugging in the CONVERT.”
Producer/mixer Fab Dupont, concludes, “With the CONVERT Series, Dangerous Music managed to beat their own DAC-ST as my favorite Reference D-to-A.” Dupont has worked with Toots and the Maytals, Kirk Whalum, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira (ft. Freshlyground), Marc Anthony, and many other top recording artists.
The two new CONVERT DACs are now available through dealers worldwide, street prices are: CONVERT-2 is $2499 US; and CONVERT-8 is $3,499 US.
There’s no denying that digital mixing consoles have overtaken old school analog at all levels of the live sound industry; the recent slew of low-priced desks is completing the takeover that started at the highest levels and gradually trickled down.
We’ve certainly come a long way from the earliest digital consoles with their clunky controls, monochrome screens and audio quality which sparked into flame the raging fire that is the analog versus digital debate.
One of the very first commercially available digital mixers was the DMP7 from Yamaha, introduced in 1987 and designed as a recallable mixer for keyboard players. It was soon adopted by sound engineers and pressed into service as a live mixer.
Yamaha proceeded to plow a mostly singular furrow through the 1990s with a succession of digital consoles designed for different purposes while many of the other leading manufacturers looked on, either unwilling or unable to dip their toe into the digital arena. I can only imagine the amount of investment, in time and money, required to build a digital console from the ground up.
Now we’re in what can only be described as a golden age of digital live sound consoles, all of the leading manufacturers have models out, and many others not known for live consoles have also entered the crowded marketplace. This presents a new set of challenges to aspiring engineers.
The great thing about analog desks is that once you’ve learned to work one of them, you can pretty much work any of them.
The basic design was established in the early 1970s and has been reasonably consistent ever since, the only difference being scale. Another key feature of analog consoles is that every single function has a dedicated control, which means a quick glance across the control surface tells you everything you need to know about how many inputs and outputs it can handle as well as what degree of control you have on the signal path at every stage.
The Vistonics interface on a Soundcraft Vi Series digital console.
Digital consoles, on the other hand, are essentially powerful audio computers with custom interfaces, and it’s these interfaces that can differ dramatically from model to model as each manufacturer attempts to define the digital paradigm.
Thankfully certain commonalities of design have started to emerge and been adopted as common ways to make sense of the increasingly complex features offered by digital consoles. Most now have a screen (some of which are touch screens), single channel controls, fader banks (in layers) and some sort of master section.
However, if you’re not working at the level where you can either travel with your favorite console or at least specify which model is provided, then you need to be able to adapt on a daily basis to whatever console you are presented with. This can be quite tricky so I’ve got a few tips on how to make this process easier.
All manufacturers are keen for engineers to adopt their products so a lot of them provide some form of free training or access to their consoles.
Soundcraft, Midas, DiGiCo, Allen & Heath and SSL all provide free training in certain regions, Yamaha offers various seminars, and Avid hosts many webinars. So it’s always a good idea to check the manufacturers web sites to see if they do anything in your area. A quick search of YouTube should reveal a host of tutorials and demonstrations from companies such as Mackie, PreSonus, Roland Pro AV, Behringer and others.
If you can’t get near a desk you want to try out, another way to familiarize yourself with a particular console is to install the offline editing software. The software from Soundcraft, Midas, SSL, Avid, DiGiCo and Behringer all closely resembles the console itself so you can get a feel for how it works at home (even though you won’t be able to pass any audio).
The new Yamaha Rivage PM10 provides an idea of just how far digital has come since the company introduced the DMP7 almost 30 years ago.
Yamaha is the main exception here as all of their offline editing software is based on the generic Studio Manager platform that presents a uniform interface which doesn’t resemble the individual desks (but will allow you to edit all parameters). However be aware that the vast majority of offline editing software is Windows only except for the Midas PRO series (which is Mac only) – most manufacturers suggest that Mac users utilize a Windows emulation program such as Parallels or Boot Camp.
The other great thing about offline editing software is the ability to pre-program show files.
I’m a big fan of this functionality as it allows me to save precious time in the venue by configuring the console in advance, often while I’m traveling.
Obviously there’s a limit to what you can pre-program without the inputs and outputs being active but I’ve come up with a simple check list to ensure I cover everything that can be pre-programmed:
1) Channel Name. The first thing I always do is program the channel names. While not all desks have visible scribble strips (particularly the older ones), it can still help when navigating around the offline editor. The number of characters available differs greatly so I’ve gotten in the habit of using standard 4-letter names for all channels to ensure consistent naming across all consoles
2) Patching. Most consoles let you patch inputs and outputs in offline editing mode (assuming you know what stage boxes you’ll be using).
3) Panning/High-Pass Filter. I usually have a clear idea in advance of a show how I want to pan things and where to apply high-pass filters.
4) Polarity Invert. Some microphones will be on the opposite side of the instruments to most of the other mics, so those channels should have the polarity invert switch engaged.
5) EQ. I would never advise equalizing anything without first hearing it, but there are certain EQs I tend to use as starting points on certain mics/sources.
6) EQ Type. Some console manufacturers offer a choice between precise and accurate digital EQ and a more analog algorithm. I generally prefer the latter so will switch all channels (for Yamaha you switch the EQ to Type II and for Avid you engage the “analog” button).
7) Gate/Comp. Again, you can’t really set a gate or comp without hearing the signal, but you can put them in a ready state for specific sources by preselecting range, ratio and attack/hold/release envelopes (and in the case of Midas you can select the compressor type).
The Allen & Heath dLive, just launched at InfoComm, offers plenty of color to serve as a guide.
8) Graphic EQs. Need to be assigned to the relevant outputs.
9) Effects. Not all consoles allow the editing of effects parameters in offline mode but those that do will help you save time on the day of the show.
10) Short-Cut Keys. Don’t forget to assign that all important tap button to delays. I always find it handy to set up instrument/vocal/FX mute groups and create shortcuts to the effects parameter pages.
11) VCA/DCA. We all know that no digital desk has VCAs but the terminology has stuck so that’s what we will call them. I like to put my stems and effects on individual VCAs so that I can (typically) have them on the surface at all times.
12) Custom Layers/Fader Assign. Many desks enable customization of which channels appear on which fader layers, and this can be a really handy way of ensuring the most commonly used channels are always at hand.
13) Store It. Once you’ve done all editing, you invariably need to save it to the virtual console before you can export it to a USB stick. It’s always a good idea to put the band name and show date in the file name, especially if you plan to email it in advance of the show.
Word To The Wise
A couple of warnings about pre-programming.
First, it’s important to ensure you know the exact firmware version of the desk you’re using so you can program the desk on the same version of the offline software.
There’s nothing worse than taking the time to pre-program the desk only to discover your show file is incompatible – and then realizing you have to do it all over again. I’ve yet to see firmware information displayed on a venue tech spec so this is something you will invariably have to chase up with the venue/event production manager.
Second, be aware that some venues/events insist that if you’re to pre-program your show file you must send it to them a certain period in advance of the show.
This not only ensures that you have the correct firmware version but also enables them to integrate it with their system (for instance they might have a complicated output set-up involving matrixes and delays). In this instance, if you turn up on the day of the show with your USB stick you won’t be allowed to insert it anywhere.
With a very few exceptions (most notably the Yamaha M7CL), all digital consoles have more channels than faders. This is an obvious consequence of trying to cram as much processing as possible into smaller boxes, resulting in a condition I like to call “layeritis.” This is an affliction that affects all operators of digital consoles whereby you forget which layer you’re on and start pushing the wrong faders.
Even with a decent complement of faders and a modest number of inputs, you can quickly find yourself having to deal with multiple layers which blur the lines between your input and your outputs – an issue that is greatly exacerbated if you’re running monitors from front of house.
Some consoles, such as those made by Soundcraft, have colored faders that are great for telling you where you are (and what kind of channels you have beneath your fingertips). Most consoles have the ability to color the scribble strip, and some even have the option of using photos to quickly help you identify key channels.
But the key to avoiding layeritis is to organize channels intelligently. Identify which channels you rarely touch during the show and which you are constantly adjusting and assign them to layers accordingly, such that the ones you need most often are always on the surface – this includes the effects returns. If you can’t get the effect returns on the same layer, put them on individual VCAs.
Another trick is to always label sends with lower case letter and returns with capital letters. It’s a simple way of differentiating groups of channels that will invariably have the same names.
Before concluding, a quick word (actually two words) on one of the great advantages of digital consoles: remote control. When your console is essentially controlling a powerful audio computer it becomes much easier to utilize other methods of control, a tablet computer being one obvious method.
All that’s needed is a wireless router plugged into the Ethernet port of the console, and as long as you have the appropriate software, the desk can be controlled from anywhere that the range of the router will permit. And this is where the pro-Windows/anti-Apple bias of offline editing software is flipped on it’s head, as the vast majority of remote control apps are iPad only.
The new DiGiCo S21 packs a lot into a smaller platform.
Remote control is brilliant for those times when the console is in a less than ideal position as well as enabling engineers to wander around the space and quickly tweak the mix to ensure it works for as much of the audience as possible. It’s also handy when you want to quickly get on stage and EQ the monitors – although be careful when pushing things close to the precipice of feedback as it can be harder to find that all important mute button.
There are even some consoles just entering the market that can only be controlled by an iPad. This is great from a cost point of view but I imagine die-hard engineers will not be happy with the complete lack of those comforting faders.
Whatever your approach to using them, digital consoles have a lot to offer, and they’re certainly here to stay, so it’s important that we all familiarize ourselves with the digital evolution.
Andy Coules is a sound engineer and audio educator who has toured the world with a diverse array of acts in a wide range of genres.
Monday, July 06, 2015
ASP880 Takes To The Stage With Róisín Murphy
Producer Eddie Stevens uses Audient's eight channel preamp to capture live performances from the stage.
Moloko front-woman Róisín Murphy is performing tracks from her third solo album, Hairless Toys across European festivals this summer, where an Audient ASP880 mic pre is joining her on stage.
Album co-writer and producer Eddie Stevens – whose credits include Freak Power, Zero7 and Moloko - has continued to work with to Róisín since her Moloko days to create this 8-track album, and is pretty pleased with how the Audient eight channel mic pre is managing to capture the music live.
“It isn’t being used by either front of house engineer or monitor engineer,” begins Stevens, mysteriously. “It’s being used on stage - and, in fact, on full display to those with particularly fine eyesight in the audience. It helps, in this regard, to have all those lovely multi-colored lights.”
He explains further: “Our set-up takes a split from Róisín’s vocal mic, a split from acoustic guitar and a feed from three contact mics attached to bottom skins on the snare, rack tom and floor tom, into the ASP880. From here I can send audio either via the D-sub line out to laptop number one, where it then can be processed and sent to two huge on-stage vintage guitar amps/cabs or it can be sent via ADAT to our second laptop for more ‘in the box’ processing. The vocal split also gets sent after the asp880 to a Digitech Vocalist Live for all sorts of vocal effects - mainly harmonies and odd manipulation and gender-bending. So, you see, we are really using the unit to its full capacity,” he adds, with a degree of pride.
“I know of no other unit which would be this versatile with this quality of sound: it is essential that the vocal channel, for instance, is of sufficiently high quality to replace the dry vocal channel at front of house where needed, without the audience noticing any drop in quality. The ASP880 gives the so-called vocal FX channel exactly this level of quality to compete with the Langevin DVC dry vocal channel.”
It’s not just how it sounds, though, the portability of the Audient unit is just as important to Stevens. “When you add to all this that the eight channels are squeezed into a 1u rack mountable box - space is tight in a touring rig - then I can justify this statement: The ASP880 is a compact unit of exceptional quality and versatility of which I know no alternative for our application. Hand made just for us. (It seems).”
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
API Honors Four Scholars With “Visionary Scholarship”
In order to qualify, applicants must attend a school with an API 1608, Legacy, Legacy Plus or Vision console.
This year marks API’s eighth annual Visionary Scholarship.
After much consideration and review, president Larry Droppa and a team of API representatives have awarded Justin Rhody, Jacob Rains, Anthony Soto, and Gibran Sponchiado with scholarships of $2,000 each to put towards their education in professional audio.
In order to qualify, applicants must attend a school with an API 1608, Legacy, Legacy Plus or Vision console.
The recipients are varied in experience, but united in their love for audio.
Soto is a second year audio engineering student at the New England School of Communications (now a part of Husson University). His submission is a track of Mes Amis’ upcoming album “Gypsy Jazz”. Soto worked primarily on NESCom’s API Vision console to complete this track.
Sponchiado is a second year MFA student, originally from Brazil. He is currently enrolled in the Recording Arts and technology program at Middle Tennessee State University. “One Kiss At a Time”, his submission to the scholarship, is a “pop/country ballad,” tracked on the 48 channel Vision console at MTSU’s “studio B”.
Rains, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University, also took advantage of the school’s API Vision. Rains took full advantage of the surround capabilities of the Vision while recording and producing “Mexican Standoff,” his scholarship submission. Rains is also a member of the Recording Industry department.
Rhody is in his junior year at SUNY Purchase, where he studies Studio Production. Rhody submitted a track titled “Never Come Down”, which he produced and co-engineered. Most of the tracking was done on site at SUNY Purchase, particularly using the school’s API 3124+ unit. Additional work was completed at what Rhody calls his “modest apartment studio”.
API managing director Gordon Smart, who was part of the judging panel, said this about this year’s applicants: “It’s extremely encouraging to see such a talented group of people going through these various audio programs. Students deserve to learn on the very best equipment, and we appreciate the fact that more and more schools are incorporating API consoles into their audio departments.”
DELEC Audio Announces unito Series Dante
Audio Networking Interfaces
The unito Series now incorporates interfaces and bi-directional format conversion tools that facilitate solutions to replace traditional 100V PA systems.
DELEC Audio, a member of the Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup organization, announces the new ‘unito’ Series of Dante audio networking interfaces.
Building upon the strengths of its NAM (Network Audio Modules) power amplifier modules originally introduced in 2012, the unito Series now incorporates a range of interfaces and bi-directional format conversion tools that, together, facilitate the assembly of paging and public-address solutions that replace traditional 100V PA systems.
The DELEC DIO (short for Dante Input / Output) provides a host of interfaces and conversion options for a wide range of installation scenarios.
The DIO has onboard DSP that can be programmed for a variety of functions, 1.000 point FIR filters, as well as a VCA input.
This affordable unit features two 1GB Ethernet ports (1 x RJ45 and 1 x SFP), AES/EBU inputs and outputs, a microphone preamp, stereo line input and output, a stereo headphone amplifier, two GPIOs (General Purpose Input / Output), and can be powered by either the internal power supply unit or via POE (Power Over Ethernet).
The DELEC NIO (Network Input / Output) 0800, NIO 1212 and NIO 1624 are each single space rackmountable units (NIO 0800 is half 1RU) that provide bidirectional format conversion of analog line signals and AES/EBU audio data to and from the Dante format, which features uncompressed, multi-channel digital media networking technology with near-zero latency or synchronization delays.
All three models offer a combination of 1GB Ethernet ports, AES/EBU inputs and outputs, and an internal power supply. The two larger models—the NIO 1212 and NIO 1624—also offer analog line inputs and outputs. The number of AES/EBU inputs and outputs as well as the number of analog line inputs and outputs varies by model, with the NIO 1624 having the greatest overall capacity.
Live sound reinforcement professionals will find the new DELEC NIO 0204 particularly appealing. This versatile half 1RU interface provides four 1GB Ethernet ports (3 x RJ45 and 1 x SFP), two AES/EBU inputs and outputs, two high-quality 32-bit stereo microphone preamps, stereo line input and output capability, a stereo headphone amplifier, and an integrated audio mixer. Power for the NIO 0204 can be supplied by either the internal power supply unit or via POE (Power Over Ethernet).
The DELEC NAM power amplifier modules— consisting of the NAM 203 and NAM 602/603 models—complete the product group. The NAM 203 is the smaller capacity of the two NAM models. Designed for indoor use, this unit provides two 1GB Ethernet ports (2 x RJ45), four outputs that deliver 12W RMS at 4, 8 or 16 Ohms or, alternatively, two outputs delivering 24W RMS at 8 or 16 Ohms, plus Delay and Gain, as well as FIR and IIF filters on each channel.
Designed for either indoor or outdoor use, the NAM 602/603 carries an IP66 rating that ensures solid performance under the most challenging conditions. This unit incorporates dual 1GB Ethernet ports (2 x RJ45), four outputs that deliver 12W RMS at 4, 8 or 16 Ohms or, alternatively, two outputs delivering 24W RMS at 8 or 16 Ohms, AES/EBU input and output capability, plus a microphone input. Like the NAM 203, this higher capacity model also provides Delay and Gain, as well as FIR and IIF filters on each channel. The unit is powered by an external power supply. Also noteworthy, the NAM 603 offers redundant audio sources for power amp inputs when used in combination with other DELEC Dante enabled products.
Arnie Toshner, vice president of sales & marketing for Salzbrenner Stagetec Media Group, commented on the new DELEC unito Series products. “We are pleased to offer the new unito Series.”
“These products offer unprecedented versatility for a myriad of audio environments—particularly those where traditional analog audio and the newer, network-based Dante audio formats intersect. All unito models feature two Ethernet ports that can either be used to connect to a redundant network infrastructure or for daisy-chain wiring, all of which further reduces the expenses associated with any installation. I’m confident audio professionals and AV integrators alike will find these products a compelling choice.”
The new DELEC unito Series of audio networking interfaces are available now.
Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Radial’s Space Heater 8 Channel Tube Drive And Summing Mixer Now Shipping
The Space Heater is an eight channel tube summing mixer with high voltage tube overdrive.
Radial Engineering announces the updated version of the Space Heater is now shipping.
The Space Heater is an eight channel tube summing mixer with high voltage tube overdrive.
Company president, Peter Janis: “We first showed the Space Heater over a year ago and anticipated delivery mid-way in 2014. As we got closer to production, we discovered anomalies with tubes that were beyond our control. This forced us to pull back the product and redesign the circuitry to accommodate.”
“To understand the problem you have to start by understanding the Space Heater’s circuit. 12AX7 tubes have two filaments inside that enable us to drive two channels using a single tube. The original design was configured with a single input and output control for each channel pair or each tube.”
“During beta tests, we discovered that the output from each side of the tube can vary significantly depending on the filament. And although the user could perform gain make-ups in a workstation or via a recording desk, we felt that having individual inputs and outputs for all eight channels would be a much smarter option. This of course sent the design back to R&D where the circuit was redesigned and new dual concentric potentiometers had to be custom made to suit.”
Designed as a character box, the Radial Space Heater packs eight tube channels into a compact, single 19-inch space with individual drive and output for each channel. A 3-position ‘HEAT’ switch enables the user to switch from 35, 70 or 140 volts to dial-in a touch of distortion or go over the top with full saturation. Each channel may be used individually or all eight channels may be mixed to a stereo bus. This, for example, could be used to fatten up the sound of a drum kit.
A built-in headphone amp is available for monitoring or trouble shooting. Connections to and from the Space Heater are supported with both balanced ¼-inch TRS and 25-pin D-subs along with XLRs at the master output.
Janis continues: “Distortion is often thought of as an effect as made famous by acts as diverse as the Beatles and Nine Inch Nails. But what few realize is that distortion can also be used in a very subtle way to add character to a vocal track or accentuate a bass giving it more presence without increasing the level. It also has tremendous appeal for live performers who employ in-ear monitors. The Space Heater can be set to act like a natural limiter by clipping transients which in turn will make in-ear monitors sound more natural.”
MAP for the Space Heater: $1699.99 USD.
Friday, June 26, 2015
RE/P Files: The Grateful Dead, A Continual Development Of Concert Sound
This article originally appeared in the June 1983 issue of Recording Engineer/Producer magazine.
The Grateful Dead have been playing their unique brand of improvisational, eclectic music going on 18 years now.
Though their records are modest sellers, and more or less ignored by radio and the “establishment” press, the Dead are consistently among the highest-grossing concert acts in the country.
What they do musically is improvisational, existential, and not always satisfactory; but since the beginning the Dead have been attended and experimented upon by forward-looking sound specialists, always seeking to improve the quality of their live sound.
Dan Healy has been mixing the Dead’s concerts since the band first took to the San Francisco clubs and ballrooms, and he says he’s never been bored.
To Healy, the Dead is “a vehicle that enables an aggregate of people to experiment with musical and technical ideas. It’s a workshop and a breadboard, as well as a dream and a treat. There’s no place in the world that I know of that would give me this much space to experiment and try new things and also to hear good music.”
The Dead’s own people have developed equipment and techniques to improve the state of the sound reinforcement art, and they have invited others to use Grateful Dead gigs as live testing grounds.
“We live on the scary side of technology, probably more than we ought to,” guitarist Bob Weir concedes. But you don’t learn much from maintaining the status quo, and the Dead have always encouraged experimentation and sought new knowledge in many areas.
The Early Days
The first PA system Healy operated, at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, consisted of a 70-watt amp, two Altec 604s, and a two-input microphone mixer.
“And that was far out compared to what was there the week before,” he recalls. When Healy and his fellow soundmen started trying to put better systems together, they found that the hardware available was not very advanced.
“The first thing we did was go get tons of it, only to find that that was only a stopgap measure,” Healy remembers. “It was obvious that there was nothing you could get off the shelf that you could use. Furthermore, there were no answers to our questions in journals or texts; where the equipment ended, so did the literature and research. What we needed was past the point where R&D had taken sound equipment.” So they set out to find the answers for themselves.
Healy and the Grateful Dead became willing guinea pigs for John Meyer, then of McCune Sound; Ron Wickersham of Alembic; and others on the scene who were looking for ways to deliver music painlessly and efficiently at the often ridiculously high SPLs of the San Francisco sound and rock music in general.
“Those guys were long in the design and prototype area,” Healy explains, “and we were long in the criteria. We built a system and scrapped it, built another one and scrapped it. We never had a finished system, because by the time we’d get one near completion it was obsolete in our minds, and we already had a new one on the drawing boards.”
The concept of speaker synergy and phase coherency in particular was understood by the early Seventies, and several designers had come up with ways of implementing it. John Meyer and McCune Sound developed a three-way, tri-amped single-cabinet system with crossovers that reduced phase shift considerably. It was a significant improvement, but there was plenty of work yet to do.
While Meyer was in Switzerland studying every aspect of speaker design, acoustics and the electronics of sound, Healy and Alembic and the rest took off in other directions.
The Dead debuted a new system at San Francisco’s Cow Palace on March 23, 1974, in a concert dubbed “The Sound Test.” Bassist Phil Lesh calls it the “rocket gantry” and maintains that it was the best PA the Dead ever had.
“It was the ultimate derivation of cleanliness,” Healy explains. “No two things went through any one speaker. There was a separate system for the vocals and separate systems for each guitar, the piano, and the drums. You could get it amazingly loud, and it was staggeringly clean, cleaner than anything today. It still holds the record for harmonic and most especially intermodulation distortion.”
Healy calls this system’s theory of operation the “as above, so below theory. If you stack a bunch of speakers vertically and stand close to one, you hear the volume of that one speaker. If you move a little farther away, you hear two speakers; move away some more and you hear three. If you have a lot of them stacked up high, you can move quite a ways away and the volume stays the same.”
There was no mixing board in the house. Each musician controlled his own instrumental volume, because his speaker stack was its own PA system.
Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia each had about 40 12-inch speakers in vertical columns, and bassist Lesh had a quadrophonic system. Vocals also were delivered to the band and the audience by the same speakers. Each singer had a pair of mikes, wired out of phase so that background sound arriving equally at both was canceled, while what was sung into one mike was passed on to the amplifier.
Healy recalls one unfortunate incident a year before the gantry system was officially unveiled, when some of these principles were tested at a concert in Stanford University’s basketball arena.
“We spent maybe $20,000 on amplifiers, crossovers, and stuff,” he recalls, “and we rebuilt a lot of Electro-Voice tweeters. We pink-noised the room from the booth and got it exactly flat. If you flatten a system from a hundred feet away, it’ll sound like a buzzsaw, and it did.
The Wall Of Sound, a.k.a. “The Sound Test System,” in action at the Hollywood Bowl, 1974. Photo by Richard Peshner.
“We started the show, and in the first two seconds every single one of those brand-new tweeters was smoked. We went through all those changes to put protection devices in, and they never worked, they blew long after the speakers were gone.”
There was no hope of replacing the 80 or more tweeters they’d blown, so Healy says they “opened up the tops of the crossovers, equalized a little bit and faked it.”
Healy points out philosophically that recovery from such catastrophes is “another thing that you learn after enough years. Recovery is your backup buddy.” He also notes that the years of experience make it much easier to estimate what will work and what won’t, so it’s easier to avoid disaster.
[This writer happened to have been in attendance at that Stanford concert. Although there were some rather long pauses while the equipment was worked on, the show itself was a good one, and a high time was had by all.]
It was economics that caused the “Sound Test” system to be dismantled. The gasoline crisis of the mid-Seventies made it unfeasible to truck tons of speakers, amplifiers and spares plus two complete stages which leapfrogged so that one could be set up before the PA arrived from the last gig.
“It began to eat us up after a while,” says Healy. “Remember that we were trying to take this across the country and interface with halls: set up the equipment, play a show for 20,000 people, tear it down, then show up the next day in another city and do it again for three weeks in a row, or a month, or six months.
“We were damn lucky,” he adds. “We got a tremendous amount of knowledge out of that system before it became such a burden that it started to distract from the music.”
Smaller Can Be Beautiful
When the Dead resumed touring in 1976, after a 21-month hiatus, PA technology had advanced sufficiently that it was no longer necessary to isolate each instrument and run it through a separate speaker system—not to mention the fact that it was economically impossible to truck those mountains of gear around.
“Efficiency comes down to the number of boxes that you have to carry, of weight in a semi-truck going down the highway,” Healy observes.
Not only was it impractical, but it was no longer necessary. In the intervening years, what Healy and the Dead wanted—a system that performed as well as the Wall of Sound, but which was “one fourth the size and four times as efficient”—came into existence. “The system we have now is better than the ‘74 system, overall, even though the ‘74 system may have been better in certain ways.”
The Dead currently tour with a PA owned by Ultra Sound, using speaker systems and associated electronics by Meyer Sound Labs. “Meyer has been able to extend the low and high frequencies without hopelessly distorting the rest of the sound,” Healy notes. “That’s actually the main significance.” And by arranging the speaker cabinets to work together in a very precise way across the whole frequency spectrum, it takes fewer drivers to cover the desired area, and intelligibility is uniformly good nearly everywhere.
With the quality of the PA hardware firmly in hand, Healy says that the Dead’s concert setup these days goes through subtler changes and refinements.
Ultra Sound concert system for a Grateful Dead concert at the Oakland Auditorium, December 1981. Main flown speaker system is made up of Meyer Sound Laboratories MSL3 cabinets. Photo by Kurt Anderson.
One interesting development came to Healy almost by accident, and resulted in a very useful device to make his job easier.
“The vocal mike is the loudest one in the mix,” he explains, “and if it’s open on the stage it’s picking up drums or guitars from 15 feet away, and adding them in 15 milliseconds later—which is that many degrees of phase cancellation—and the net result is a washing-out of the mix. You can’t use audio amplitude to gate those mikes, because the guitars are frequently louder at the mike than the voice that’s standing right in front of it.
“So a certain amount of me always had to be on the watch for the singers so I could turn their mikes on,” he continues. “That was annoying, and it kept me from being able to listen on a more general level.
“The Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon, has a balcony that’s right on top of the stage. I was looking down at the guitar players, and it all connected for me. I’m a musician myself, and I know that one of the most embarrassing things that happens when you’re playing rock ‘n’ roll is running into the mike and banging yourself on the lip or being a mile away from it when it’s time to sing.
“That night in Portland I realized that every musician has a kind of home base where he puts his foot in relation to the stand so he knows he’ll be right at the mike. It was duck soup: I got the kind of mats they use to open doors at the grocery store, then designed and built the electronics that gated the VCAs [to control the mike-preamp gain], and lo and behold, it worked!”
For keyboardist Brent Mydland, the situation wasn’t so simple. John Cutler, who works with the Dead in R&D as well as other capacities, designed a system around the sonar rangefinders used in Polaroid cameras. Using discrete logic rather than a full-blown microprocessor, Cutler came up with an automatic gate that opened the mike when Mydland’s head came within singing distance of either of his two mikes.
Detail of the right-hand cluster of MSL3s at the Oakland Auditorium in 1981. Photo by Kurt Anderson.
“It’s just one of those things that came about as a means to an end,” says Healy. “I built the floormat [device] just so I could be freed from switching on microphones.”
Rather than get involved in marketing a device like this, which Healy says is “not my business,” he just has a few extra circuit boards made. “If somebody comes by and wants to try it, we give them the cards and a parts list.”
Because every Grateful Dead gig is different—no songlist, plenty of room for instrumental improvisation, no pre-arranged sound cues to speak of—mixing for the band has never settled into a routine for Healy.
“Some nights they start out screaming and get softer, and some nights they start in one place and stay there,” he says. “There isn’t really any good or bad in it—it’s just a different night in a different way. From the start to the end of the show, it’s a continuous progression, figuring out how to spend the watts of audio power that you have in such a way that it’s pleasant and human.”
It’s been years since Healy went into a hall and pink-noised the sound system. “I leave my filter set flat, and I dial it in during the first couple of songs. After enough years of correlating what I see and hear, I know what frequencies, how much, and what to do with it.”
Test equipment is on hand for reference, but Healy prefers to rely on his ears. “You have a speedometer in your car, but you don’t have to use it - or even necessarily have it. You don’t need it to know how fast you’re going, but it’s there for reference: That’s how I use the SPL meter and the real-time analyzer.”
In the “hockey-hall-type spaces” the Dead play in these days, Healy likes to set up about 85 feet from the stage.
“In my opinion—and my opinion only, for that matter—the ideal combination of near-field and far-field is 85 feet. I don’t like to be far enough into the far field that it’s a distraction, but for me it’s important to hear what the audience hears. Healy considers himself the audience’s representative to the band, comparing notes with the musicians after shows, and telling them things they might not want to hear “if I feel I have to.”
He also encourages—within reason—those members of the Dead’s following who bring their recording gear to concerts.
“I’m sympathetic with the tapesters, because that’s what I used to be,” he says. “I remember buying my first stereo tape machine and my first two condenser microphones, sweating to make the payments, and going around to clubs and recording jazz. So I’ve sided with the tapesters, helped them and given them advice and turned them on to equipment.
Side stack of the Ultra Sound system at Ventura County Fairground, July 1982. Photo by David Gans.
“I learn a lot from hearing those tapes,” he continues. “The axiom that ‘microphones don’t lie’ is a true one. If you put a microphone up in the audience and pull a tape and it doesn’t sound good, you can’t say, ‘It was the microphone,’ or ‘It was the audience.’ You’ve got to accept the fact that it didn’t sound good. When you stick a mike up in the audience and the tape sounds cool, it’s probably because the sound was cool. So it’s significant to pay attention to the tapes.”
Even after 18 years of working with the Dead, Healy says he still enjoys going to work every day. “I’ve been doing it so long that I don’t even look at it as a job,” he explains. “It doesn’t get stale for me on any continuous basis. I react more to ‘Tonight was a good night,’ or ‘It wasn’t so good.’ I can have a bad night and go home discouraged and kicking the dog, grumble-grumbie, but I’m always ready to start again tomorrow.”
The Grateful Dead System At The Oakland Auditorium, December 1982
According to Howard Danchik of Ultra Sound, ‘‘The Dead’s system, as always, was run in stereo. The main speakers were flown, and comprised 12 MSL3s at each side of stage, plus a center cluster of eight (four lelt and four right channel), also above band.
“Suspended from the side clusters are three Meyer Sound Labs UPA cabinets, angled downward to fill in for those at the front of the audience. There are also four UPAs below the lip of the stage at the center (two left and two right) for the spectators at the very front-center, plus one UPA at the rear of each main cluster, pointed up and back for spectators in the balcony directly to the sides of the stage.
“Each MSL3 is driven by 650 watts RMS of amplification—225 to each 12-inch speaker (two per cabinet), and 200 to the four piezo tweeters. One MSL processor is used to drive all the MSL3s on each side; two (one per channel) to drive the center cluster; and two (one per channel) for the front and sidefill UP1As.
Diagram of the system in Oakland, 1982.
“The subwoofers were made up from eight MSL 652-R2 subwoofer road cabinets (two 18-inch drivers, front-mounted) on each side, stacked on their sides, four wide and two high. Each speaker is driven by 225 watts of Crest amplification. The processor takes a full bandwidth signal from the house mix, and extracts 80Hz and below for the subwoofers.
“Additional speaker systems included: for the lobby four UPAs (stereo, via Meyer processors); for the bars one UPA in each bar (mono, one processor each); the kitchen one UPA (mono, one processor); and the kids’ room a pair of Hard Truckers five inch cubes (mono, no processor).
“All power was provided by Crest amps, 225 W RMS per channel into 8 ohms. House mixer was a Jim Gamble custom board, 40-in/8 stereo submasters, wtth automatic built-in mono output The monitor mixer was a Gamble custom 40/16 console. House effects included a Lexicon 22/lX digital reverb and Super Prime Time; dbx Boom Box subharmonic synthesizer; a collection of vocal gates; and an autopanner, homemade by Dan Healy & company. Microphones included Shure SM78s for vocals, plus a new Neumann mike for Jerry Garcia, and Sennheiser 42ls, AKG C451s and C414s.’’
Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.
Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
The Sound Of Sound: Analyzing Acoustic Versus Amplification
What makes acoustic sound sound acoustic?
I got to thinking about this when I attended a performance of Wozzek by Alban Berg at the Santa Fe Opera. Like most top opera companies in the world, the SFO mounts most of their performances 100 percent acoustically.
The exceptions are when the composer calls for effects on the vocals, or for one of the orchestral instruments to be highlighted with reinforcement.
Even in those rare cases, the goal remains to present the performance as an acoustic event. Wozzek does not involve any effects, and was presented without any reinforcement. Once again, I was struck by the differences in this kind of sound when compared to when reinforcement or amplification is used.
Dynamics & Frequency Response
Anyone who has heard a direct comparison between a live microphone feed and a recording of the same source played over a high-resolution system can tell you that there’s a difference.
Part of the reason is that the recorded signal faces restricted dynamic and frequency range. While today’s super-high quality recording systems, particularly those with 24 bit (or greater) resolution, can serve to minimize these restrictions, this is still “something” missing from recorded playback.
I was at an interesting demonstration many years ago, involving a pair of Sennheiser MKH800 microphones (with an upper end response out to 50 kHz), as well as True Systems microphone preamps, Bryston amplifiers and PMC loudspeakers. A performer played acoustic guitar and sang, joined by a piano player.
The setup was carefully done so that we in the audience would be able to compare a live mic feed with 16 bit/44.1 kHz and 24 bit/96 kHz A/D and D/A digital conversion, with no recording taking place.
Speaking for just about everyone who was there, we could hear the difference between all three modes of transmission. The live mic feed sounded, well, live. The two digital conversion formats sounded different than the live mic feed - and different than each other - with (of course) the higher bit rate/sample rate version sounding closer to the live mic feed, but not exactly the same.
Loudspeakers In The Mix (Or Not)
Back to the opera. Here are the specific things I noticed about the sound.
First, especially with the singers, there was no bass. Sure, there were bass notes from the bass and baritone singers, but there was only what was coming from these performers’ mouths and bodies.
It really struck me that there is something very artificial about having a lot of low frequency content coming from a voice. There is a combination of (usually) some proximity effect at the microphone, and then EQ in the system.
Even if the voices aren’t going through the subwoofers (and they usually aren’t), there is much more bass in the vocals coming out of the loudspeakers than was originally in the voice itself.
Next, I noticed that the ambience, including echoes and reverb, seemed entirely integrated into the sound itself. In a sound reinforcement scenario, there is the reverb that is coming through the system, and then there is what is happening in the venue.
That was not the case at the opera, and thus, there was a certain “smoothness” about it.
Localization was absolute - with my eyes closed I could pinpoint where the singers were on the stage, just from hearing their voices.
The orchestra, being in the pit, was a bit more diffuse, but it was still possible to tell that the strings were on one side of the pit and the winds were on the other.
There was simply no distortion - zero percent. Distortion in a sound system can be a subtle thing, and it has been proven that most people can’t hear the difference between .1 percent and 1 percent, and maybe even 5 percent.
But once we get used to hearing sound with no distortion at all, we have a frame of reference and can probably find parts of reproduced or reinforced sound that will stick out as being different somehow - a bit distorted, shall we say.
It wasn’t too loud. There, I said it. When all of the sound is being produced acoustically, it only gets so loud. But if you’ve ever heard an opera, you’ll know that the singers can actually project in a surprising way. So, there were times when it did get “loud” but only for a moment or two.
Sure, when the orchestra was playing full volume with the brass and percussion involved, it was loud. But again, only for short periods. I could hear everything that was going on, and there was a refreshing contrast between the quietest parts and the loudest parts.
Mostly, it was in the middle, and, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the average stayed under 95 dB SPL for the whole evening. Peaks might have been 105 dB. And I was sitting about 15 rows back, right in the center. It was possible to have a conversation immediately after the opera, with no ringing ears.
Don’t Push It
What can be gleaned from these observations? For one thing, I’ve long held that most amplified shows are just too loud. There’s really no reason for it, but show producers and promoters often push for it. And at times, we even push the volume on our own. (Maybe it’s our egos…)
But particularly if we’re working with acoustic acts like jazz, crossover, bluegrass, show music, classical “pops” and the like, I believe we can all do better in presenting sound to the audience that is truer to the source.
How? Start with careful attention to mic selection and placement, as well as setting gain structure specifically for low noise and high headroom. Delay can be employed judiciously to enhance the illusion that there is no sound system present. Loudspeaker choice and placement matters too, of course.
Equalization also plays a role. Believe it or not, I don’t think a system has to be perfectly “flat” – rather, it just has to sound that way. Finally, how the various elements in the mix are balanced has an effect. Huge, throbbing bass just gets in the way of most acoustic music. Same goes for drums.
Back to my broken record statement: to know how to mix acoustic music, we must know what the various instruments, ensembles and bands sound like acoustically. How does a piano really sound? How about a saxophone? Or even drums for that matter? Without experiencing these things for ourselves every so often, we can lose our perspective and mix accordingly.
But it’s all part of continually getting better at our craft - we need to keep learning how things sound in their natural habitat. The goal is to present acoustic shows without the audience even knowing a sound system is present. Wouldn’t that be something?
Karl Winkler is vice president of sales/service at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
U.S. Army Band Enlists API Analog Console
Pershing’s Own installs 48 channel API Legacy Plus console in the balcony studio at Bruckner Hall.
The U.S. Army has—among many other resources—a 260 piece band.
Like any other division of the Army, “Pershing’s Own” has a rich history and now, with the installation of their 48 channel API Legacy Plus Console, the Band is outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment for their work.
Pershing’s Own was established in 1922 when General Pershing saw that many European armies fighting in the Great War had musicians travel and perform with them to increase the soldiers’ morale.
Before World War I drew to a close, America had a band of its own.
Pershing’s Own travels internationally to perform and educate. While their Legacy Plus is too large to travel with the band, it certainly did enough traveling to get from the API factory in Jessup, MD to Brucker Hall in Ft. Meyer, Virginia, which serves as the band’s home when they are not on the road.
API’s commissioning team of Richard Josephs, Radovan Maricic, Jordan Shirks, Thanh Diep, Ben Ecklroth, and Jeff Richards oversaw the console being lifted more than ten feet into the air by chain motor and hydraulic lift before it was carefully guided into place in a balcony studio.
API president Larry Droppa has this to say about the company’s work with Pershing’s Own: “We are thrilled to have placed a Legacy Plus with such a prestigious organization as the U.S. Army Band. The band’s obsession with sonic excellence and precision closely mirrors the same qualities we strive for in all of API our products.”
The company released a video compilation of the installation on the official API youtube channel late last week after the commissioning team returned to the factory. The Army Band records all of their music, and saves it to an archive that is preserved by the Library of Congress. All of the clarity and power of the 260 piece Band’s music will now be captured through 48 channels of API, and either saved as multi-tracks, or mixed for distribution. Either way, API is honored to serve alongside Pershing’s Own.
The official API youtube channel
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Sounding Sweet Post Production Studio Upgrades To Audient
UK studio specializing in audio for video games and television voice-over work finds favorite preamp in ASP880.
Sounding Sweet studios has chosen to upgrade to the Audient ASP880 8-channel mic pre “…because they sound so clean.”
Post production sound engineer and studio co-owner, Ed Walker can’t stress this enough. “It’s difficult to explain, the Audient doesn’t sound clinical. It’s a high-end mic pre which sounds really musical somehow, whilst being incredibly accurate. That’s what I get when I use Audient.”
Sounding Sweet has recently been shortlisted for a Develop Award in the category of ‘Creative Outsourcer – Audio’ for their contribution to racing game Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One, which was released late last year.
Something of a specialist in the genre, with GRID, DiRT and F1 also on his CV, it’s not unusual to find Walker out on runways recording the sound of high-end super cars. “It’s only in recent years that we have had the ability to play back truly cinematic high fidelity sound in games, the future of game audio is incredibly exciting.” explains Walker.
“Things are changing so fast. There is very little compression, we’re running hundreds and hundreds of channels in real time, and it needs to sound as good as a film. Yes, we draw from the creative and technological advances in TV and film, but we’re also doing really very ground-breaking and exciting things with games.”
There are a few things he’s working on right now that are so new, he can’t talk about them. “Suffice to say, all audio that comes through my speakers has been through Audient.” he laughs, indicating the Audient master section monitor controller, Centro that he uses along with the new ASP880.
“I don’t do that much music,” he adds. “Most of my work is audio post production for Computer Games, Film and TV – including ads. I tend to use the Audient mic pres for ADR and Foley. The AS880s are perfect for this type of recording as the signal often needs to be really clean.” Sounding Sweet boasts a 7.1 surround sound dubbing suite with two big voiceover booths, which double as Foley studios and music recording spaces when necessary.
Walker has used the Audient mic pres to record various actors for the RSC’s recent CD and BluRay releases, and in addition to this, the studios’ film and television credits include: Postman Pat: The Movie, American Dad and Family Guy, as well as the #epic Money SuperMarket ads featuring Patrick Stewart on voiceover.
Sounding Sweet’s location is great for work; the studios are just five minutes away from the Royal Shakespeare Company, so as well as high profile actors such as Patrick Stewart and David Tennant, RSC directors have also been in the voiceover booth, commentating on their BluRay DVD releases. “They can come here and work at an industry standard level without having to head all the way down to London,” explains Walker.
Despite all the secrecy surrounding new games developments, he can disclose what he would tell a young Ed Walker just starting out in the business: “Don’t cut corners when it comes to gear and your production values. I strongly believe in getting the best possible signal chain. If you’ve got somebody important in the v/o booth, or you’re trying to capture some Foley to picture, or record a guitarist for a band, you get ONE shot at it. Use the wrong mic, the wrong mic pre or if there’s a problem anywhere in the signal chain, then you’ve lost that opportunity.
“I’ve dabbled with various bits of equipment in the past, and I shouldn’t have messed about. Go for the jugular: get a couple of Neumanns and do the right thing from the start.”
Posted by House Editor on 06/16 at 08:55 AM
Friday, June 12, 2015
BAE Audio Expands 500 Series Product Line With The New B15 EQ
Built with Jensen transformers, gold plated switches and connectors and other unique touches such as a fully discrete gyrator circuit.
The new BAE Audio B15 multi-band equalizer, which ships this month and is priced at $1,000, is designed to deliver sonic attributes of the 312 circuit in an economically efficient and compact 500 series package.
The new B15 EQ is an all-discrete design, outfitted with three bands with five (5) selectable frequencies per band. Created to BAE Audio’s discriminating vintage specifications, the build includes Jensen transformers at the input ande output stage, Elma gold plated rotary switches, and a 15-way gold connector.
“We are very proud of our latest 500 series creation,” states BAE Audio president and founder Mark Loughman. “When people listen to the new B15, they may recognize a ‘punchy’ sound characteristic, reminiscent of the classic 312 circuit. The B15 is built with Jensen transformers, and includes other unique touches such as a fully discrete gyrator circuit. People will not only feel the difference of the B15, but hear it as well.”
The B15 is the latest in BAE Audio’s 500 series. Last month, the company announced its 1073MPL 500 series preamplifier. With the B15, the 1073MPL and its other 500 series units, BAE Audio has maintained a high manufacturing standard, with each of its units hand-wired and assembled in California.
The B15 is available now through BAE Audio’s network of authorized dealers.
Kletch Upgrades With JBL VTX-II Line Arrays To Grow Business In Czech Republic
Kletch has grown from smaller regional events to larger productions, selecting JBL and Crown products to grow its inventory accordingly.
Brno-based production company, Kletch, which specializes in providing sound, lighting, staging and video technology within the Czech Republic, has confirmed an order for JBL’s new VTX V25-II and S25 subs along with three Crown VRack 4x3500 amplification systems, from territorial distributor, AudioMaster CZ.
Kletch has grown from smaller regional events to larger productions, and is taking advantage of JBL and Crown’s scalable product ranges to grow its inventory accordingly.
The V25-II line array loudspeaker features a new waveguide for improved long-throw performance and wavefront control, as well as improved power matching with the Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD 4-channel amplifiers, which have also been purchased by the company as part of the same consignment.
Explaining the company’s decision, Kletch’s founder and ceo, Jakub Klecka, said, “We wanted an unrivaled audio system in the Czech Republic to match our leading projection, large screen and LED technologies … something beyond compare. Thanks to the great support of [AudioMaster CZ sales rep] Tomáš Novák we were able to make the decision even before we knew the price of the system.“
Set up in 2011, Kletch stepped up its interest in Harman Professional components at the beginning of last year when the company bought its first JBL VRX Constant Curvature loudspeaker system, followed shortly after by a Soundcraft Si Performer 2 digital mixing console. Impressed with the performance, a supplementary JBL PRX700 system was also added to Kletch’s existing PRX setup later the same year.
In fact, Kletch has never looked back after switching to JBL’s PRX platform soon after setting up, according to Klecka—whose first business enterprise had coincided with him reaching his 18th birthday. “PRX was very light and powerful, thanks to the construction, and also the price was right. After that everything just progressed smoothly,” he noted.
This helped Kletch boost its work profile in the trade fair, exhibition, corporate event and concert sectors. However, acquisition of V25-II, with the revolutionary D2 Dual-Diaphragm Dual-Voice-Coil Compression Drivers, moves the company to a different league entirely.
Klecka again reinforced his confidence in the system. “The advantage for us is supplementing the small-scale and mid-scale systems with a large-scale system so that now we have a complete menu to offer,” he said. “And with a complete offer of lighting, projection, truss and filming technology added in, we can definitely anticipate that this will lead to more business.”
“As far as VTX is concerned, we expected reliability, quality and ease of use—and all these features have been delivered, while the distributor’s support has been perfect,” Klecka added. He also admitted that JBL HiQnet Performance Manager proved to be a major benefit with system setup.
As for the Crown VRack 4x3500s, Kletch said, “I have found them to be invaluable; without them it would be a completely different system.” The three I-Tech 4x3500HD amplifiers that each VRack comprises, also benefit from the optimized power matching of the new V25-II waveguide.
The first gig with the new system was in Nová Karolína Hall in Ostrava, followed by a spoken-word show at a Velodrom in Brno. But Klecka noted that it is the upcoming open air festival season where the system will really come into its own.
Finally, as the company moves its production values onto a larger scale, Jakub Klecka is confident that this will naturally lead to an investment higher up the Soundcraft chain. “We will certainly need a larger console in the future,” he believes. “As we build demand for the VTX system, the console will be added in due course, according to our customers’ needs.“
Monday, June 01, 2015
Prism Sound Helps Preserve Unique Tanzanian Music Recordings
Digitally archiving Tanzania's musical heritage, from acoustic folk songs to distinctive dance music from the late 1960s and 70s.
The Tanzanian Heritage Project (THP) is using Prism Sound‘s Lyra Audio Interface in a unique bid to rescue and digitize the country’s tape-based music archive, thus preserving a precious musical heritage for future generations.
Rebecca Corey, co-founder and executive director of the Tanzania heritage Project hatched the idea for the digitization project in 2010, with her Tanzanian friend and THP co-founder Benson Rukantabula, while Corey was at home in the US recovering from a motorcycle accident in Dar es Salaam.
“Just before leaving Tanzania, Benson had given me a few CDs of old Tanzanian music,” explains Corey. “The quality of the recordings weren’t great - they sounded as though they had been recorded from the radio on to a cassette and then transferred to CD - but the music was wonderful.” The music became a soundtrack to Corey’s recovery and she spent hours talking with Rukantabula and researching the history of Tanzanian music.
“That’s when I learned about Radio Tanzania, and the fact that pretty much all of the music recorded, from independence in the early 1960s through the mid-1980s, was all stored on reel-to-reel tapes that had never been professionally digitized,” she recalls. Corey was determined that once recovered, she would go back to Tanzania to preserve and digitise those tapes. She also wanted to raise awareness of the country’s wealth of musical heritage. “While West African music has got a fair bit of attention, East African music is virtually unheard of on a global level,” she says.
Finally able to return to Tanzania in early 2012, Corey visited the archives. “That year, we managed to purchase a Tandberg reel-to-reel machine and a Studer was donated by the British Library,” Corey explains. But due to lack of funds, the digitization project effectively stalled for most of 2013 and 2014. “In the end, we weren’t able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement with the government radio station about future access to the digitized material,” she explains. “So we’ve shifted our focus to digitizing the reel-to-reel archives of other radio stations and private collections.”
As well as the Studer A67 and Tandberg TD 20A, Corey has been using Prism Sound’s Lyra Audio Interface, and Ableton Live software. “We bought the Lyra after speaking to several professional archivists and they all recommended the unit as being the best for A/D conversion on the market. We found it to be affordable for our limited budget and a great centrepiece to our DAW.”
Corey says the THP studio setup is kept “relatively simple. The key is achieving the highest quality conversion possible from the analog signal from the reel-to-reel machine, to the digital version on the computer. We’re confident that the Lyra is capturing and converting the signal and making the most faithful copy possible.”
Ease of use has proved crucial on this project, which relies on enthusiasts. “No one on our team is a professional audio engineer or archivist,” says Corey. “We took on this project because we were music lovers who believed that this music needed to be preserved before it was too late, and because no-one else had stepped in to do it. So the fact that the Lyra is easy to use and produces incredible quality sound has made us very satisfied with its performance so far.”
Having just got the project moving again, thus far around four hours of material from 12 tapes have been digitized. Many of the tapes are in poor condition and need to be assessed and cleaned before they can be played and digitized. As Corey explains, it’s a slow, careful process. “We assess the condition of each reel to determine whether it is in good enough condition to digitize. We don’t want to attempt digitization on a reel and end up damaging it further. Once a reel is ready, it sometimes needs to be re-wound so that the ‘pack’ of the tape is even and won’t rub against the reel flange. We minimize the number of times the reel is wound and played as much as possible, to avoid any potential damage to the tape.”
Due to the slow nature of the work, Corey estimates the process will take at least another eight to ten months of full-time work, using one Digital Audio Workstation to preserve and digitize the remaining reels. “We are continuously searching for additional reels to digitize though, so it’s really an ongoing process,” she adds.
The process has already unearthed many cultural gems, with Corey’s favourites being songs dating back to the time of the country’s struggle for independence, and just after. “At that time, the music was all about building unity, promoting peace; gaining (and then celebrating) freedom from colonization,” she explains. “Musically, there’s some wonderful content, ranging from acoustic folk songs to Tanzania’s distinctive dance music from the late 1960s and 70s, with influences encompassing Congolese rumba guitar styles, full horn sections, and beautiful vocal harmonies.”
When the digitization project is eventually complete, Corey plans to make the music “as widely accessible as possible to Tanzanians, particularly music students, through music schools and arts programs. We also hope to release the material internationally, through a record label. Any proceeds from these potential releases would then go to musicians who have never received royalties from their work, and to the musicians’ health insurance scheme, jointly administered by the National Social Security Fund and the Tanzania Musicians’ Network.”
THP’s studio is located in the same compound as the Music Mayday music school, which as she explains, also organizes listening and discussion sessions, seminars and workshops with elder musicians, and studio recording projects. “In this way, the digitization is just a piece of a larger cultural revitalization effort that THP is undertaking.”
Tanzanian Heritage Project
Friday, May 29, 2015
Japanski Recording Studio Scores Neve Console From Capitol Studios
GC Pro’s used gear sales division helps a facility in Athens, Georgia purchase the 24-fader Neve Genesys console from Studio E.
Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro) recently helped a studio source the centerpiece for the facility – a legacy 24-fader Neve Genesys console that previously resided at Studio E at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles.
When Matt Tamisin and his brother Abraham saw the opportunity to acquire a console that had been part of one of the historic studio, they knew they had to have it for their Japanski Recording Studio in Athens, Georgia.
“I knew that if I didn’t get this one, I’d never get a Neve,” says Matt Tamisin, referring to the 24-fader Neve Genesys console. “It was a bit scary,” he continues, talking about what it’s like to buy the most central piece of equipment a studio can have long distance, by phone and Internet. “But I took the plunge because I’ve been buying from GC Pro for years and every experience has been a good one, including this.”
Tamisin cites GC Pro’s 30-day unconditional return policy, pricing, access to classic equipment and customer support for why he didn’t have to think twice about this critical purchase. “I knew GC Pro would have me covered,” he says.
The Neve Genesys had been acquired by GC Pro’s Hollywood office, a result of its relationships with the pro audio community in the Southern California region, including with Capitol Studios. “They were doing some ‘house cleaning,’ upgrading some of their rooms, which is something that we helped them with,” explains Brian Overton, GC Pro account manager. “We purchased several really nice pieces of equipment from them, including a pair of TL Audio mic pre’s. Once we had the console tested, checked out and up on our dedicated pre-owned equipment website, Matt saw it and knew that’s what he wanted. We were able to get it to him cost-effectively, and we’ll be there to back him up when he needs us.”
“The Used Gear website is great because it lets smaller studios access equipment that puts them into a higher tier at prices they can afford,” says Overton. “Our used inventory is constantly being refreshed, and we’re always picky about what we decide to acquire, so buyers have lots of choices but also know that they’re getting the best stuff.”
Tamisin agrees — in fact, he’s chronicled the arrival and commissioning process of the new deck on a detailed blog. “GC Pro has taken good care of me,” he says. “And I love having a piece of history in my studio, and GC Pro made it happen. It may have been in Studio E at Capitol, but it’s our Studio A console now.”
Guitar Center Professional
Japanski Recording Studio