Monday, January 18, 2016
Northbrook College Selects Audient For New Studio Complex
The Studio People outfit new Sussex campus with ASP4816 and ASP8024 consoles to support Music for Creative Industries program.
The Audient ASP4816 console and its big brother, the ASP8024 has been installed in the brand new 24 studio audio complex at Northbrook College which was launched at the beginning of this academic year.
According to curriculum leader in Music for Creative Industries at the college, Mick Feltham, “Students really love the uncluttered, logical format – identifying signal paths and mixer sections is much easier on these desks. It’s great to have both the ASP4816 and ASP8024 because it allows them to progress to larger format consoles without getting overwhelmed.”
Designed and built by The Studio People, the Northbrook Audio Complex combines multiple analog tie lines and full digital connectivity to ensure that students get a solid understanding of all aspects of state of the art audio recording.
“We believe that a pristine signal path is the foundation of all great recordings – everything starts and ends as an analog signal, regardless of where it goes in between. Students have to understand that fundamental concept and pay attention to gain structures and audio fidelity at all times,” explains Feltham. This is embedded in the central concept of the Northbrook College Music Department: “Traditional Skills Future Proofed”.
Installed in Control Rooms A & B, the desks are used in both further education (16-18 year olds) and higher education (18 plus) and right across all levels for tracking and mixdown.
“These desks can be used at entry level and all the way up to advanced production techniques. We like to introduce students to the concept of multitrack recording using the ASP4816. They can then progress onto our ASP8024, TL Audio VTC and SSL AWS 900+. Ten pre-production booths, three post-production studios, four control rooms and five live rooms, all of which have been designed and built for world class acoustic performance with full analog and digital audio networking,” says Feltham.
When it came to choosing kit he didn’t cut corners, thinking through the benefits of each piece of gear thoroughly. Of the Audient desks, he says, “Firstly the design layout is clear, all buttons and faders are well marked and intuitive and the overall feel is solid and well-engineered. Add to that the flexibility in the routing design and you have a really well thought out, great sounding console. What really sealed the deal for us was the passion and support we got from Chris and Simon, we certainly feel that Audient are true industry partners, a company we can rely on.”
“Students and staff have been all over them right from the get go – I love the Solo in Front feature it is a really great production tool and is a fantastic teaching aid to get students to really hear what is going on when processing or using EQ on individual sounds / instruments”.
“To be a professional you have to train like a professional in a professional environment and it is our mission to provide the very best in music industry education at all levels and in all disciplines; Performance, Production, Media Composition and Business and Management,” concludes Feltham.
The Studio People
Posted by House Editor on 01/18 at 10:56 AM
TECnology Hall Of Fame To Induct Manley VOXBOX
Introduced in 1998, all-tube channel strip joins six other products recognized by the NAMM Museum of Making Music for 2016.
Manley Labs announces the induction of their VOXBOX into the NAMM TECnology Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
The VOXBOX joins the Neumann KM84 and Shure SM58 microphones, Auratone Sound Cubes, Eventide H3000 UltraHarmonizer, Lexicon PCM41, and Roland RE-201 Space Echo, all part of this year’s inductees.
The TECnology Hall of Fame was established in 2004 to honor and pay recognition to audio products and innovations that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of audio technology.
Since 2015, the TEC Hall of Fame Awards have been presented by the NAMM Museum of Making Music, as part of the annual Technical Excellence and Creativity Awards. Inductees are selected by a panel of more than 50 recognized audio experts, including authors, educators, engineers, and other professionals. Products must be at least ten years old for consideration.
Introduced in 1998, the Manley VOXBOX combines Manley’s all-tube preamp design with the ELOP compressor, an extended Mid-Pultec-inspired EQ, and a second dynamic controller set up as a de-esser and ELOP limiter. The VOXBOX was designed from the onset to be the world’s premium high end channel strip.
“The VOXBOX endures decade after decade as the unrivalled ultimate vocal channel,” observes Manley Labs president and co-founder EveAnna Manley, “although bass players always tell me it’s the greatest bass preamplifier too. We’re intensely proud to see the VOXBOX be inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame, and I couldn’t be more honored for myself and everyone at Manley Labs.”
The TECnology Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place just before the 31st annual TEC Awards, at 4:00 PM on Saturday, January 23, 2016 in Room 202A at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Posted by House Editor on 01/18 at 07:51 AM
RE/P Files: Styx “Kilroy Was Here” Tour 1983
From the June 1983 issue of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, David Scheirman catches up with Styx on their 1983 tour of North America.
To promote their latest album, Kilroy Was Here, the rock group Styx is spending much of 1983 performing in theaters and arenas across North America.
The chart topping band has been consistently filling the largest available venues for the past several years.
The current tour, however, offers several interesting twists: an initial “small-hall” tour of classic theaters; a new stage show in tune with the Kilroy theme, complete with motion-picture projection and robot costumes; and a new sound reinforcement company for the first time in nearly a decade — Audio Analysts, a concert sound specialty company with offices in Plattsburgh, New York, and Montreal, Quebec.
The 1983 American tour started in early March with a series of shows held in smaller, older theaters (Styx has shown an interest in promoting this type of venue since its Rockin’ The Paradise album told the story of a vintage Chicago-area theater due to be torn down by developers).
The first stop on this leg of the March tour was at downtown San Diego’s Fox Theater, an aging, high-ceilinged room with well preserved and ornate plaster proscenium moldings. The characteristics which make theaters such as this one so picturesque often can contribute to poor acoustics. The high ceiling and thrust balconies create three (or more) separate acoustical zones, each presenting the sound man with its own problem to be solved.
The high balconies typically get little direct sound, due to the physical problems involved with accurately focusing temporary loudspeakers at extreme angles (Figure 1). Seating areas underneath the thrust balcony often suffer from a lack of low-frequency response, and the high-frequency program material can become very irritating at the back wall due to the beaminess of horn-loaded systems. Forward seating areas either get “blown away” by excessive sound pressure levels, or else hear only a jumbled bunch of reverberated sound from the other two problem areas.
House System Loudspeakers
Perhaps the Styx tour’s greatest challenge faced by a sound company was that the same loudspeaker system to be used for the small-hall portion of the tour also had to serve the arenas. The show’s house mix engineer, Rob Kingsland, settled on the patented TMS-3 speaker enclosures from Turbosound, of London, England. “I knew that whatever speaker system I picked, I had to live with for six months,” explains Kingsland, who has been involved with Styx’s sound for the better part of the last decade, both in the recording studio and on the road.
“The TMS-3 system offers very high efficiency in a relatively small package, has excellent fidelity, and is versatile enough to handle both the small theaters and the large arenas. Of course, I am not bringing all of the system into the small halls; as you can see here [at San Diego] I have a total of 22 cabinets including the subwoofers. I’ll start the arena tour with 48 cabinets.”
As provided by Audio Analysts, the house loudspeaker system consists of two basic types of cabinets: the TMS-3 box, a three-way composite loudspeaker package, and the TSW-124, a TurboSubWoofer with single 24-inch speakers (Figure 2).
The TMS-3 measures only 33 by 40 by 23 inches, and weighs 298 pounds when fully loaded with two LF 15-inch drivers, two MF 10-inch drivers, and a HF driver mounted on a Northwest Sound 340F 90- by 40-degree constant directivity foam flare. Turbosound claims an unequalized response for this cabinet of 55 Hz to 20 kHz, +3 dB. It is designed for both stacking and flying. Typically, the cabinets are supplied in equal amounts of “left” and “right” boxes. When stacked, the mirror-image cabinets are designed to allow for vertical and horizontal acoustical coupling of the low-frequency chambers, and vertical coupling of the mids and highs.
Low-frequency speakers are horn-loaded in the TMS-3 box, one above the other. This low-frequency section of the cabinet, utilizing the TurboBassDevice, is a separately patented unit developed by Turbosound (Figure 3). Also patented is the TurboMidDevice that gave the cabinet, and the sound company, its name: each 10-inch speaker is loaded to a specially molded horn and phasing plug assembly. The plug resembles nothing 80 much as the front end of a turbo-jet engine — hence the name. The cone drivers provided with the TMS-3 are designed by Turbosound engineers, and assembled by a subcontracted acoustical transducer manufacturing facility. Turbosound supplies the cabinet with a TAD 4001 compression driver for the high-end.
For the Styx tour, Audio Analysts’ chief sound engineer Albert Leccese had some ideas of his own for modifying the TMS-3 cabinets.
The boxes were shipped from England with only the 1-inch drivers pre-loaded.
Then the box underwent acoustical testing in an anechoic chamber at the Canadian government’s National Research Council. Basing his decision partially on this data, Leccese decided to install 15-inch JBL 2225 units in the low-frequency compartment, and J BL 2445 drivers on the high-frequency horns.
Audio Analysts also is experimenting with additional super-high-frequency units to be used with the TMS-3 cabinets, a new JBL prototype tweeter.
The already sturdy speaker boxes (constructed of 17-ply Finnish birch, butt-jointed, and sealed with marine glue) were then covered over with a super-tough epoxy-bonding paint.
“We discovered this black paint almost by accident,” comments Leccese. “A Canadian chemical manufacturer was throwing this stuff out; it was a byproduct of their regular products. It has turned out to be so good, scuff-resistant and scratch-proof, that we now use it on everything.”
When asked why Audio Analysts had chosen to purchase the Turbosound TMS-3 cabinets for the Styx sound system, Leccese provided a perfect advertising-brochure answer: “It is a very high-Q device . . . a very high directivity factor. The painstaking care that has gone into the research and development really shows. The cabinet acts as a very coherent sound source.” Audio Analysts placed an initial order with Turbosound for 48 TMS-3s, and took delivery of the first 18 for the theater portion of the Styx tour.
Styx engineer Rob Kingsland echoes Leccese’s sentiments about the TMS-3 system: “Wherever you point these things, that’s where the sound goes,” he emphasizes. “I also was particularly drawn to this speaker design due to the very real mid-range reproduction. Right in the vocal range, the most critical area for me, this box is unbelievably smooth.” Kingsland also commented that the Styx system packs more “sound-per-pound,” and thug saves on labor costs, truck space, and get-up time. (Of course, the game could be said for most composite speaker systems.)
Although the TMS-3 speaker system was designed as a self-contained, full-range system, some customers, including Albert Leccese of Audio Analysts, had asked for the development of a subwoofer system to complement the three-way box in the lower register.
A foot or so deeper than the TMS-3, and not quite so tall, the subwoofer cabinet houses a single 24-inch cone driver that loaded into an identical and larger version of the Turbo-based device. A year of R&D by Turbosound engineers Tony Andrews and John Newsham went into the design of the 24-inch speaker. The first run of speakers was hand-made by Andrews and Newsham.
“This speaker has a 4-inch voice coil, and we rate its power-handling capacity at 700 watts,” Newsham says. “It took us months to find just the right paper to use for the cone. We tried everything, and finally settled on a heavy craft paper. We hand-formed the cones, and bonded them initially with quick-set adhesive. We get the baskets cast from one supplier, and the magnets from another.”
Newsham is currently on the road with the Styx tour, overseeing the system, and working as Kingsland’s assistant house mix engineer. According to Alan Wick, president of Turbosound, “The 24-inch speakers are still being made by hand at our plant in England. We can only put out 8 or 10 a month, as it is a very labor intensive process.” Wick also comments that demand for the TSW-124 with its 24-inch cone has been high.”
House System Stacking
For the theater portion of the Styx tour, a stack of two subwoofers and five TMS-3s is positioned on each side of the stage, with the boxes in vertical columns of three and four. Additionally, overhead groups of four TMS-3s are flown from a single hanging point per side with a chain motor hoist.
“Ideally, we would have the overhead speakers positioned in a single center cluster, but it was not possible here because of the plaster sculptures above the proscenium,” Leccese points out. “The single point source would have been better, but this is certainly an acceptable compromise.”
The flying clusters were positioned at approximately the mid-point of the thrust balcony. The lower stacked columns were splayed out from each other slightly, with the back center of the theater being on-axis with the two inside columns (detailed in Figure 2). Audio Analysts’ crew chief Everett Lybolt comments that all 22 cabinets —18 TMS-3 and four TSW-124 subwoofers — could be stacked, hung, and wired within less than one hour . . . a definite plus, he offers.
Prior to the Styx tour, Audio Analysts took possession of 88 of QSC’s new Series Three amplifiers. This new generation unit is capable of developing approximately 550 watts into’ an 4-ohm load. “QSC really underrates the output capabilities of their product,” Leccese says. “These amps really dish it out, and are practically (Leccese claims to have left QSC’s prototype Series Three operating on the test bench with an overloaded input into a dead short for several days with no ill effects, failure, or overheating.)
The Series Three boasts a true dual-mono design configuration, with front panel access modules, and a very comprehensive input-output interface. As well as utilizing passive cooling (no internal fan noise), the amplifiers feature a floating internal connector system to prevent contact damage due to road vibration.
“These amps really do run cool,” Leccese says, referring to a bank of QSC amplifiers loaded four to a rack (Figure 4). “They cut our cooling requirements down to half of what was required for my old [amplifiers].” Each rack develops in excess of 4,400 watts RMS. One complete rack was assigned to the four subwoofer cabinets, left and right channels of each amplifier in that rack being bridged to mono, and the resultant 1,100 watts traveled down a doubled pair of 14-gauge speaker cables to a single 24-inch driver, with the purpose of providing over twice the normal amount of headroom. The nine TMS-3 cabinets per side were powered by the remaining three racks.
AC power for the Audio Analysts’ sound system and the band’s stage gear was supplied by a distribution panel of the company’s own design and manufacture.
A fairly typical road AC system, it supplies up to 200 amps per leg, three-phase.
A digital voltmeter on each leg is constantly reading voltage, and can be switched over to register current draw in amps. Distribution lines running out to various demand areas are joined to the panel with Hubbellock connectors.
The stage monitor system utilized for the Styx tour was perhaps as complex as any currently in use. Two brand spanking new Soundcraft Series Four mixing consoles were overseen by Mike Cooper, the band’s personal monitor mix engineer for the past five years (Figure 5).
“What l have here is a 40-channel board and an auxiliary 26-channel board, giving me 66 inputs,” Cooper explains. “These really are the first Series Four consoles in use… I have serial numbers #0002 and #0003. The primary board takes the vocal mikes and solo instruments; I’ve loaded extra percussion, auxiliary keyboards, and tape returns from the house on to the 26-input board.”
The two monitor consoles are tied together via bus transfer, and were set up by Soundcraft to be a linked pair; a circuitry modification was incorporated into the units by the factory at Audio Analysts’ request.
As of this writing, 11 of the available 16 mix outputs were in use on the tour, as detailed in the accompanying table. (Cooper did feel that he might add another mix or two as the tour got underway, however.) Five mixes covered the downstage areas; two were used for overhead mixes left and right; and three covered the upstage performance areas. The remaining mix was a feed to one of the EXR Exciter sides, primarily vocals and percussion, which was then brought back into selected primary mixes.
Monitor Signal Processing
Four monitor electronics racks were used to house a host of processing devices: graphic and parametric equalizers, compressor-limiters, EXR Exciters, noise gates, and a real-time analyzer (Figure 6). “Much of my processing is done with individual channel inserts,” Cooper comments.
“I am using a noise gate on every single drum; six individual [Valley People] Kepex IIS. Additionally, I have a side of dbx 160 compression for each of two kick drums, the bass guitar, and the bass pedals. I also use a frequency-triggered noisegate [OmniCraft GT-4] on the top snare drum mike, which really lets me get a crisp snare sound with tons of gain, but very little bleed through of the stage instrument noise.”
Nine sides of EXR Exciter were used as individual channel inserts on each vocal mike, the hi-hat, and overhead cymbals. A tenth side received its own mix, which was then available to be brought up in any monitor mix that needed more definition. “The Exciters give the listeners—in this case the performers themselves—a subjective impression of greater intelligibility,” Cooper explains. “The words are easier to understand, and they are worth using for that reason alone.”
Each monitor mix followed an interesting signal path from the console to its respective amplifier channels, as detailed in Figure 7.
At the Soundcraft console, insertions were made into the mix output summing amp. The signal first hit a dbx three-band parametric equalizer, and then a Phase Linear third-octave graphic, before returning to the console.
“This lets me visually shape a curve, and still have filters left over which I can sweep the program material with to locate feedback rings,’ Cooper says. “I don’t have to use a lot of heavy EQ, but it’s sure there when need it.”
From the mix output on the console, the signal is fed into a John Meyer crossover and signal processor, and finally into QSC amplifier channels that power the low- and high-end components in the monitor cabinets.
When this writer remarked that Cooper’s graphics were depicting an unusually smooth system response, he attributed this to the Meyer Sound Laboratories’ electronics and speaker cabinets.
“The Meyer system offers a speaker system which is very flat to begin with,” he explains, “and their crossover is not just a crossover; it has amplitude and phase-coherency correction, as well as three limiters. There are two broad-band limiters and a peak limiter; the high-frequency limiter is a sort of sliding-type which narrows or widens its effect to take out only the peaks which are altering the system’s correct frequency response. And, it is a very fast circuit, so it works well for pulling out feedback transients.”
Meyer Monitor Speakers
All stage monitor speakers on the Styx tour are John Meyer products, and are owned by the band.
Meyer advises that the amplifier used to drive one cabinet should produce at least 250 watts driven into 8 ohms.
As in the house system, Audio Analysts uses QSC Series Three amps to drive all of the monitor lines in a bi-amplified mode.
Three different Meyer speaker cabinets were in use for the Styx tour. the UM-I, the UPA-I, and the USW.
The UM-I Ultra-Monitor is the smallest Meyer speaker cabinet available. Intended to be used as a “spot” monitor, the cabinet contains a single 12-inch speaker in a ported chamber (Figure 8), and is used by Cooper as spot reinforcement at each vocal mike.
A high-frequency driver is mounted on a conical horn with a narrowly controlled pattern.
Six cabinets were placed along the edge of the downstage line, with a pair angled up at each of the three vocal stands; cabinets also covered the bass guitar and keyboard positions.
With the same single 12-inch speaker and HF driver, the Meyer UPA-1 differs from the UM-1 only in the choice of horn, and contains a radial to provide wider coverage. The box has a slightly different exterior dimensions than the UM-I to maintain a constant internal cubic-inch displacement. Four UPA-1s were used for wide-area coverage, and were placed offstage.
The drummer’s monitor mix was heard through five stacked cabinets: two UPA-I s, and three USWs. The latter is a dual-fifteen cabinet with an internal cubic displacement of five feet. These three subwoofers were stacked a mere two feet behind the drummer’s stool, and inadvertently projected the amplified kick drum well out into the audience seating area. The effect of this interference would not have been noticeable in an arena setting, but was evident in the smaller theater.
Setting Up The Monitor System
At load-in, Audio Analysts’ engineer Sean Webb placed the monitor speaker cabinets on stage, and cabled them up. First to go in were the flying side-fills, which were hung from the downstage lighting truss, and required immediate attention. For this application, a pair of Meyer UP A-I boxes were strapped together and hung from each end of the truss with nylon webbing and metal hooks. The cabinets were secured at an extreme downward angle with ratchet straps, as shown in Figure 9.
These small cabinets developed an amazingly high sound-pressure level from such a high over-head distance — strong enough that Rob Kingsland out at the house console was moved to comment that he noticed a slight interference with the house sound during the show’s louder passages.
After the Meyer speakers were positioned and wired, monitor engineer Mike Cooper used a White Model 200 real-time analyzer with pink-noise to perform an initial level check of the various monitor zones.
“We’ll use the analyzer, to a large extent to give us an idea what we are experiencing as far as acoustical problems go on a given stage,” he explains. “But, we don’t live by the analyzer . after I see what needs to be seen on it, I then look for problems. Often things like poor mike placement show up. The ears though, are the real thing. If the display doesn’t correspond with the ears, go with the ears.”
Cooper explains that, for this act, vocals and drums are most important. “I really have to spread the snare and hi-hat over the stage,” he says. “And, the EXR Exciters go a long way towards giving me a really bright, present sound on the vocal mix anywhere on stage. My downstage mixes are important, but the sidefills actually carry the show, since these boys move around a lot.” In addition to the overhead sidefill pairs, a Meyer USW and UPA-I are placed at stage level on either side of the front vocal line, and fed separate left and right mixes.
Feedback, with all those monitors? “Not really,” Cooper claims. “I never have all of my 64 inputs open at the same time. Drums and vocals are a constant, but the many keyboards and guitars come and go. I probably average about 22 open channels at any given time during the show, and half of those are likely to be direct inputs, so acoustical feedback problems are not really that common. It really depends on two things: how loud the band plays; and how well we tuned them beforehand. But, the Meyer speakers give me just as much level — and it’s cleaner — as any huge tri-amplified stack I ever used for sidefills.”
According to Cooper, unlike some tours that basically are done in a spontaneous, “seat-of-the-pants” method, the Styx Show places a great demand on him for proper monitor cues. As he explains, “What happens is this: we have a lot of cues some instruments may be used on only one tune during the entire show, maybe only for a few bars. But it has to be there on time. I also have four tracks of tape return from the house console, and a film audio track to bring in and out. And there are three different [Audio-Technica] wireless lavalier mike channels, each one used twice during the evening.”
With three multi-instrumentalists in the band, Styx featured many different guitars and keyboards — and that eats up a lot of channels.
There were three separate keyboard positions individually mounted on a rolling cart or riser (Figure 10).
Keyboard instruments included two Roland Jupiter synthesizers, a Fender Rhodes electric piano, Korg electric organs, among others. All keyboard inputs were taken direct, including the acoustic grand piano pickup. A Leslie cabinet was miked with an AKG D12E on the low-end, and a Sony ECM-22P on top.
Electric and acoustic guitars were all equipped with Nady wireless devices. One of the band’s stage technicians spent the entire show overseeing a bank of 20 wireless receivers. Guitar amp stacks received mikes, while the bass guitar and the Moog Taurus bass pedals were taken direct. Hard-wired vocal microphones were Beyer M600 models.
The drum kit took up 15 input channels with its double kick drums (Electro-Voice RE-20 mikes), the four rack toms (Sennheiser 4218), and the top and bottom snare mikes. A third mike was placed on the snare drum for use exclusively in the monitors. Hi-hat and over-head cymbals were covered by AKG C451E condensers, as were the various percussion “toys.” A large pair of concert tympani completed the set.
Stage lines were picked up by satellite boxes situated in various parts of the performing area. These 11-pair boxes utilize Amp g-2 connectors to feed signal into two identical 40-pair splitter boxes, providing lines from stage to the console areas. The junction boxes have three discrete outputs for house, monitor, and recording. “These three outputs are completely isolated from each other,” Albert Leccese explains. “1 won’t say whether or not we use transformers in there to split the signal, but we do use a very simple idea… I am surprised it is not more commonly known.
Of course, the splitter box is stuffed with PCB, and a lot of wires — we have had great success with it.” Two input snakes run from the splitter box to the house mix position, and two identical (though shorter) snakes feed the two monitor consoles.
House Mix Position
Two identical Gamble HC40-24 consoles provided 80 inputs at the house mix position. House engineer Rob Kingsland handled the primary board, while John Newsham assisted on the secondary board. In addition to the myriad lines coming from the stage, Kingsland returned a host of effects lines into the Gamble boards, along with a four-track music tape feed — tunes from the current album into which was mixed live vocals from the wireless lavaliers — and a film soundtrack, used as the opening sequence of the show.
Newsham found the Gamble consoles to be versatile when it came to having enough “ins-and-outs,” but had encountered a couple of problems with the pair in use on the Styx tour. “I get bleed-through from the cue circuit into the main outputs if the headphone amp input is overloaded,” he recalls. “Audio Analysts plans to modify this particular console and replace the graphic section with an auxiliary effects return panel,” Newsham added.
The tour was due to receive, by the end of May, a second pair of Soundcraft Series Four desks with 40 inputs routing to 16 discrete mix outputs for front of house. Shane Morris, technical manager for Soundcraft, says that the Series Four house console is equipped with eight stereo subgroups and eight mono effects returns, and has a full patch-panel, with easy access to the auxiliary and program group busses.
Audio Analysts engineer Ray Dilfield was the third man in the house mix area. As tape operator, it was his job to handle the Otari MX-5050 which fed four tracks of music into the system. Dilfield also had a TEAC 3300X reel-to-reel standing by as two-track backup, in case of primary tape transport failure. Both machines were started in sync and ran simultaneously, thus providing him with instant access to the two-track should problems arise with the Otari.
House Processing Equipment
A formidable array of processing devices lined the wall behind the house consoles.
Four separate equipment racks were packed with enough gear to stock a major recording studio or two (Figure 11).
Rack #1 contained 10 Valley People Kepex II compressor-limiter-gates, which were applied to each individual drum. including the snare. OmniCraft G-4 noise gates were used on the effects returns. Four dbx 160 limiters were patched into channels assigned to handle bass guitar, bass pedals, and two kick drums. Four sides of EXR Exciter were used on the left and right overhead drum mikes, and on the toms. A spare crossover and a Dietz parametric equalizer completed the rack.
Rack #2 housed a Crown RTA-2 real-time analyzer, connected to an AKG C414-B mike for ambient frequency response readings. Two Technics M-85 stereo cassette decks were included for recording and playback. Also contained within this rack. were the main sound system processing gear.
Console outputs first were put through a pair of Klark-Teknik stereo third-octave graphic equalizers, and then through a custom Brooke-Siren crossover.
These English-made units are built specially for Turbosound with additional phase correction circuitry, adjustable at the front panel, and are specifically recommended for use with the TMS-3 system. A four-way stereo crossover drives the stacked speakers, with crossover points at 60 Hz, 280 Hz, and 3.7 kHz. The flying clusters had a separate three-way crossover that allowed the TMS-3 cabinets in the air to start receiving signal at 30 Hz.
The third house electronics rack contains most of the show’s special effects devices. A Lexicon Super Prime Time Il (with 40 programmable memories), a standard Léxicon Prime Time, and two Eventide H949 Harmonizers were available for vocal processing. Also included was an URSA MAJOR space Station for reverb effects on the drums, a DeltaLab DL-I for vocal special effects, and a new Lexicon 224X digital reverb unit that served as the primary drum and vocal reverberation system for the show. “It’s interesting, this 224X,” says Kingsland. “It offered very long reverberation times [up to 70 seconds — Ed.] with a good, natural sound.”
Rack #4 primarily houses the channel-insert gear, including eight dbx Over-Easy compressors that were placed on vocal mike channels. Two de-essers were included for dialog and sound effects, along with six dbx Model 905 parametrics for vocal channel inserts. Omni-Craft GT-4 noise-gates and Bi-Amp Quad-limiters were put inline with the synthesizers as a safety factor for the main sound system. Other processing devices included a flanger for the drums, two more parametrics and compressor channels used as inserts on the lavalier mikes, and two sides of dbx noise reduction for the Otari tape deck (two tracks being run with dbx, and two without). An Eventide H910 Harmonizer was included in the rack for the Fender Rhodes; six more EXR Exciter sides were inserted on the vocals. A few more spare Dietz limiters completed the rack.
Speed Of System Construction
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the sound system put together for Styx is the fact that it was built in the month prior to the tour going out. Audio Analysts did not receive final confirmation of the tour until December 17, 1982. (Styx has been known for last-minute decisions in the past. Rob Kingsland sent mild shock waves through the concert sound business in 1979 by mailing out a bound set of specifications for essentially this same system, bids being sought for a tour hardly eight weeks away!)
According to Albert Leccese of Audio Analysts, “The recession actually helped us to prepare for this tour. Warehouses were full, and many of our suppliers were able to ship items right from stock.” Leccesse offers that the company’s biggest worry was the monitor consoles. “1 flew straight to England and laid out the specs,” he recalls. “Graham Blythe and Phil Dutteridge at Soundcraft were very helpful; those guys got these consoles out in less than 30 days.” Betty Bennett, general manager of Soundcraft, Inc., confirmed that the console manufacturer had only three week’s notice. “We were just getting ready for the holiday season, and Audio Analysts ordered two of our new monitor consoles. We had not even seen them here yet in the States. And Albert wanted delivery in three weeks.”
According to Alan Wick of Turbosound, the purchase order for the TMS-3 cabinets was received on December 16, 1982. By January 21 the boxes had been loaded, painted, and tested in Audio Analysts’ Plattsburgh facility. Consoles, speakers, cabling and electronics were all hastily . . . and expertly . . . put together as the parts arrived. Personally, this writer would not have known that the system had only been bits and pieces 30 days prior to the tour, had he not been told. The system seemed to be a well-built and finely-tuned package, right down to the last road case.
As stated earlier, the smaller, high-ceilinged San Diego Fox Theater can offer great challenges to a sound engineer and his system. During the course of the first night’s performance, I spent a great deal of time trying to locate spots in the room which had poor sound. I found none. Words were clearly heard even in the back row of the high balcony, though the low-frequency response was, expectedly, somewhat attenuated up there. The TMS-3 system, to my ears, was able to clearly reproduce the music program material in such a manner that I was not even aware that I’d been listening to 115 dB peaks until I stepped out into the lobby to find my ears ringing.
Inside, the system was very easy to sit and listen to. Odd frequency peaks and harmonic distortion were practically non-existent. The lack of distortion in the system definitely helped to make listening to it a pleasure. The PA looked good, and sounded better. A wide range of audio effects actually attracted the audience’s attention to the high-fidelity sound system. And, for a system assembled in 30 days, heard on the first night of a complex tour, that says a lot.
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 grew to become the 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.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Rat City Sound Adds API 1608 Console
Mixing room housed within Fort Knox Studios in Chicago incorporates new console into existing collection of API gear.
Don’t let the name of the studio throw you; the only thing Rat City Sound is infested with is musicians.
With the recent addition of a 32 channel API 1608, the studio is now so booked that owner Joseph Peven is considering adding rooms.
In addition to founding the studio, Peven works as a producer and engineer, but says creating this space for other artists is, beyond question, the highlight of his career.
Founded in 2013, Rat City is housed within the much larger Fort Knox Studios on the northwest side of Chicago.
“Rat City is best described as a cozy project studio,” Peven explains, “consisting of a control room, plus one large booth. It’s intimate and private, perfect as a mixing or overdub room for a producer working closely with an artist.”
The smaller space has not limited their extensive API gear list, which includes their 1608 as well as a host of 525s, 527s, 560s, 550As, and 550bs.
Peven’s tip for getting the best out of the 1608 is to “drive the console hard. I tend to do that, and you can get some real good ‘juice’ out of it.” Having a workhorse console fits Rat City well, where the majority of projects are rock and metal. “I also love funk bands,” Peven adds, “but that doesn’t happen nearly enough. I think the console lends itself well to genres that make me want to push the board to its limits.”—which in fact is exactly what Peven does on many levels.
“Everything I do uses the console in some way, from tracking to full blown mixing spread across every channel.”
Peven got familiar with API early in his education on a Legacy console at Columbia College Chicago, but says his 1608 is “a perfect fit for what I’m doing. While the Legacy consoles have a lot of very attractive features, the 1608 covers absolutely everything I need for a studio of my size.” Peven explains that the 1608 has added some specific advantages to the studio’s capabilities. “Zero latency parallel hardware compression is pretty rad. Also, I really like the 1608’s P-Mix automation. It’s simple and easy to use and rock solid.”
These elements shine through in Rat City recording sessions. Peven describes what he says was “by far my favorite session,” with rock band Archie Powell and the Exports. “We crammed the entire band into the studio, with a guitar player standing on the couch and the keyboardist in the hallway, and knocked the whole song out in less time than it took to set up the mics. The 1608 made it a breeze to switch from tracking to mixing and we had the whole project completed the next day. The 1608 gave the songs a funkiness that wouldn’t have been possible by just recording in the box.”
Posted by House Editor on 01/13 at 11:50 AM
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
Arizona’s Knight House Studios Selects Audient
ASP8024 analog mixing console selected for Lake Havasu High School’s CTE (Career Technical Education) Audio Production Program.
A 24 channel Audient ASP8024 analog mixing console is now at the heart of a new 1400 square foot teaching facility at Lake Havasu High School’s CTE (Career Technical Education) Audio Production Program.
Remodeled earlier this year under the close supervision of its director, Sam Brindis, the upgrade of this new studio space – to be known as Knight House Studios - heralds the beginning of a new era for the Music & Audio Production Technology program.
Brindis has adapted the course over the four years he’s been at Lake Havasu High School with program numbers steadily increasing from the initial 45 in his first year.
“The program used to be called Audio/Video; there was pretty much no audio whatsoever.” That has certainly changed, with 160 students in regular contact with the desk today, learning basic recording techniques, tracking, mixing, signal flow and patching effects, phasing, acoustic design and ProTools.
“Now with the new studio addition I expect the numbers to go even higher.” says Brindis, with confidence.
“Students learn audio production on the Audient console,” he explains. “It’s good for teaching as it is physically large enough to get more than a few kids on it at one time. I’m very impressed with the ease of use for instruction, and the EQ and the mic pres sound beautiful as well. I also like the assignment section, having both long and short throw faders, and I very much like the on board stereo compressor on the Master Bus.
“Of course, build quality and dependability are equally important,” he continues. “The desk seems rugged not flimsy, easy on the eyes with light colors, and there is room enough on the real estate to get in on and ‘work’ the different faders, knobs and buttons.”
With 2220 students, Lake Havasu High School is located on the shores of the Colorado River, along with the original London Bridge, relocated in the late 1960s. “I guess you could say we have some English ties as a result of the bridge.” laughs Brindis.
The ASP8024 console was purchased via US Audient dealer, Vintage King.
Posted by House Editor on 01/05 at 01:06 PM
API Spreads Across Spain
Jonan Ordorika of studio MAMIA, in Azkarate, Navarra is the first on the Iberian peninsula to install a BOX console.
Another API BOX console has crossed continents, this time into the north of Spain.
Jonan Ordorika is the first to install a BOX into the Iberian peninsula.
Ordorika installed the console in his new studio MAMIA, located in Azkarate, Navarra.
Says Ordorika: “When I was faced with the challenge to decide about a new desk, the BOX was, no doubt, the best option.”
Ordorika already had API in his arsenal before the BOX, citing ten 225L compressors and 16 550L EQs.
“With the help of all my other API outboard, I can perfectly emulate the classic sound of a big API console, but at a more affordable price with dimensions adapted to my existing space. With 20 channels on mix-down, I keep the analog flavor and I can move faders, which I really love.”
Special thanks to Sergio Castro, of API dealer Funky Junk Spain, who shared this news with us.
Posted by House Editor on 01/05 at 12:36 PM
Monday, January 04, 2016
Manley Labs Introduces New Manley Headphone Amplifier
Designed and manufactured in Chino, California, featuring proprietary hand-wound, air-gapped, dual-mode MANLEY IRON output transformers
Manley Labs announces the new Manley Headphone Amplifier.
Designed and manufactured in Chino, California, the Manley Headphone Amplifier is built for versatility, with twelve independent controls for performance and flexibility.
Each amplifier features proprietary hand-wound, air-gapped, dual-mode MANLEY IRON output transformers, easily configured to drive headphone loads ranging from 12 to over 600 Ohms, and the output stage that can be switched on the fly between all-triode Push-Pull or Single-Ended topology.
Other exclusive features include a Variable Feedback switch, Precision Stepped Relay ladder matrix volume control, fully symmetrical operation to drive balanced headphones via its XLR outputs, and a direct preamp out to feed an external power amp or powered monitor.
Created by Manley VP of engineering and design, Zia Faruqi, it’s available in three color schemes - Champagne and White, Titanium and Bronze, or Copper and Black.
Manley Labs president and co-founder EveAnna Manley observes, “In recent years, we’ve noticed more and more audiophiles turning to personal headphones as a listening preference. For us, this is nothing new - our Cue Mixers have been a staple of professional recording studios for more than 20 years. And our Neo-Classic 300B Preamplifier has been a cult classic among audiophiles for just about as long. So it made perfect sense for us to take our expertise and employ it to a headphone amp that was worthy of the Manley name.”
The Manley Headphone Amplifier makes its debut at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 6-9, 2016. Visit Manley in the Venetian, Suite 29-310.
RE/P Files: Toto World Tour 1985
From the August 1985 issue of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, David Scheirman takes a look at the touring setup for the international tour of the legendary band, Toto.
Take one of the music world’s best-known, Grammy Award winning pop rock groups, a custom-tailored concert sound system, 136 stage inputs, computer controlled stage instrumentation, a new concept in monitoring, six (6!!) veteran live sound mixers, and several months’ worth of international touring . . . and the recipe exists for one of the most complex concert sound projects to be out on the road this year.
Starting in February of this year, The Toto Entourage kicked off its 1985 World Tour in Japan.
A complete stage-monitoring system, and a house mixing package equipped with a regulated power distribution system, were shipped to all international dates.
For the Japanese portion of the tour, a house reinforcement system was contracted through Hibino Sound. All North American dates were handled by Schubert Systems Group, of Gardena, CA.
On March 19, 1985, Toto’s U.S. tour began at the Arizona State University Activity Center in Tempe, Arizona. This writer journeyed to the site for a first-hand look at the group’s advanced audio system, which features multiple mixing consoles with six operators.
David Bowers, Dirk Schubert, and Ed Simeone
Toto is a notable group, comprised of some of America’s busiest working studio session musicians. The group’s albums have often featured innovative recording techniques and instrumentation. Collectively, members of Toto — David Paich, Steve Lukather, plus Jeff, Steve and Mike Porcaro — have probably participated in the playing, arranging and recording of more recent, American popular rock music than any other similar group of musician/technicians.
Several of the band members operate personal-use recording studios, which are stripped of gear when the group does one of its infrequent tours. Shep Lonsdale, a recording engineer and audio mixer who has collaborated with the group on such recent ventures as the film soundtrack for Dune, is involved in all aspects of Toto’s sound.
“Having been involved with the actual recording to Toto’s music in the studio gives me a much different perspective on doing the live shows than many concert mixers might have,” explains Lonsdale. “Traditionally, a gap has existed between live and recorded sound.”
“That gap is starting to narrow, as the technology becomes available to recreate the sound of an album in a live performance setting. Stage technology is improving, and concert-sound systems are now beginning to offer the fidelity that has been lacking in the past. The sound of the recorded music and the sound of the live show are important to the members of Toto.”
The Live Concept
Dirk Schubert, of Schubert Systems Group, was actively involved in assembling Toto’ s custom studio monitoring system and performance hardware. When the band chose SSG to provide full sound reinforcement services as well for the group’s live tour, Schubert went along as a monitor mix engineer.
“One of the most important things to understand here is that these guys know what they want,” states Schubert. “They craft their musical packages in the studio, and they are used to a certain way of hearing everything . . . stereo keyboard monitors, special vocal monitors, and instrument submixers. It was up to us to figure out how to take the whole thing on the road in an easily-transportable package.
Stage plot for Toto’s 1985 tour.
“Our touring accounts get something that other sound companies are not often able to address: if the gear doesn’t exist to give them the sound or the operational functions that they want, we build it for them.”
To make Toto’s live show happen, 136 stage inputs were funneled down to house and stage monitor mixing positions, each with two Gamble consoles (and two board operators) by using separate, manned stereo keyboard submix positions (Figure l).
Hidden offstage, these two consoles gave both keyboardists David Paich and Steve Porcaro an individual audio mixer for submixing the multiple stage rigs (with banks of MIDI connected keyboards), as well as a “private” stage monitor man for each musician’s own musical program material. Personal computers assisted in the MIDI-switching of the two rigs.
Figure 2: Stage-left keyboard mix position — Gamble SC-24-24-11 console, manned by Ed Simeone..
The instrument submix for Steve Porcaro was handled by Ed Simeone, who gained a great deal of experience with complex keyboard setups during his several years of touring with Electric Light Orchestra.
Simeone mixed on a Gamble SC24-24-II board. Designed and built by Jim Gamble Associates, the transformerless console features 24 inputs and 24 outputs, and seemed to be ideally suited for use as a stage instrument mixer (Figure 2).
“Basically, what we are doing here is giving the musician access to a wide variety of electronic instrument voicings, and using MIDI-switching technology to keep the stage clutter to a minimum.” Simeone explains.
Several primary keyboards are located on stage at Steve Pocaro’s position, including a Yamaha DX-7. Interface cabling connects the stage area with Simeone’s setup, and those performance keyboards can access the additional instruments, including a pair of E-mu Systems Emulator IIS and an Oberheim X-Pander.
“Some of the latest electronic keyboard gear now available is being used with this show, and the factory support from companies such as Yamaha, Oberheim and Emulator has been tremendous,” Simeone confides.
“Things could get pretty complicated with this many keyboard units.” Having the auxiliary keyboard racks off-stage gave the stage a much cleaner appearance,” he offers.
To help the complex setup work smoothly, Simeone uses a Compaq personal computer placed next to his mixing desk (Figure 3). The screen editor displays a “menu” for each musical arrangement, showing what keyboard device is patched through which MIDI switch for each tune (Figure 4).
In addition, the computer program (arranged by keyboard expert Ralph Dyck) sends a pulse to a JL Cooper MS-II MIDI match-box device, when authorized by the engineer. Yamaha MIDI rack panel modules are hooked up to the various keyboard devices. A customized voltage-controlled attenuator module was designed by Jonathon Little of Village Recorder, Los Angeles, to provide a direct interface for level changing of the keyboard instruments.
Figure 3: A Compaq personal computer located at the stage left submix position. Each song in the show has a “menu” showing which instruments are in use, as well as MIDI patches. Figure 4: The Compaq display screen, showing an informational display designed by keyboard expert Ralph Dyck.
‘“This is a very high-quality way to control levels,” noted Simeone. “It would be counterproductive to put a very clean signal from a $50,000 console through a $1.50 volume pot! Steve Porcaro uses the VCA to control his whole rig, while David Paich uses his to fade different synthesizers in and out of the piano mix.”
Effects devices available to Simeone included a Yamaha REV-I digital reverberator, a DL-1500 digital delay unit, a Roland Super Jupiter, and a Lexicon Prime Time Il digital delay In addition, a Dynacord CLS-222 was available for an electronically-created Leslie rotor effect.
Figure 5: Stage right keyboard mix position.
The entire keyboard mixing rig was streamlined, and seemingly well designed as a synergistic package. All inputs and outputs to and from the VCAs are patched, and a 42-pair multicable connects the synth rack and console. For fail-safe operation, a 16-channel manual switching panel can take over in case of MIDI “hangup.” Additionally, a MIDI “Panic Button” is supplied just in case a glitch in the complex control-signal path line causes the system to disregard a computer instruction to change over to the next song’s settings.
“On this side of the stage, Steve likes to wait until I do the changes, and then he kicks it over himself with an on-stage switch,” explains Simeone. “On stage right, I think they did have a hangup once or twice during the shows in Japan, but a quick tap of the panic button sent out a burst of signal pulses in about 30 milliseconds, and that cleared it up. The button interrupts the signal bus, and gives the circuits a chance to clear.”
David Bowers, who has worked with the Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins, among others, mixed David Paich’s stage-right keyboard rig. Bowers also commanded a Gamble SC24-24-II desk that was located offstage right (Figure 5). Here, a bank of MIDI-connected keyboards was directly controlled with an IBM personal computer. (Figures 6 and 7) An Oberheim DSX synthesizer with Digital Polyphonic Sequencer, Oberheim OB-8, Oberheim X-Pander and Emulator Il were all controlled by either a Yamaha DX-7 or Paich’s concert grand piano. A cut was made into the piano frame, and the DX-7 nested snugly on top (Figure 8).
“The computer, the keyboard audio mixer, and MIDI technology make things a lot easier on stage than they used to be,” states Bowers. “Instead of mountains of keyboard instruments and miles of spaghetti-like cables, you just see a man up there with his piano. But, you are hearing many of the exact voicings and synth parts that appeared on such classic tunes as ‘Africa’ and ‘Hold The Line’. The grand piano keyboard can trigger sounds that have been stored in the Emulator, which were taken directly from the album masters.”
Bowers used a Lexicon PCM60, Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter, two Yamaha D1500 digital delays, two Roland SRE-555 Chorus Echos, and a Lexicon 224 digital reverb for special effects processing. In addition, an Aphex Compellor compressor-limiter and an Eventide H949 Harmonizer were available in the equipment racks.
As on stage-left, a JL Cooper MIDI Match-Box and a custom VCA panel formed part of the setup, along with a Yamaha MIDI Rack.
“An important part of assembling this stage-monitoring system was the concept that the performers wanted small, bright-sounding boxes placed up at ear level,” explains designer Dirk Schubert.
“Also, nobody in this band wants to hear much of anything below 150 Hz on the vocals coming from these boxes. It is like a ‘closefield’ mini-monitor approach. What we basically had to come up with was the Yamaha NS-IO or JBL 4401 speaker concept that could put out concert sound pressure level an be able to hold up on the road.”
Sets of compact, custom-built stereo keyboard monitors and interface electronics were designed and assembled by Schubert Systems Group to present the complex mixes to the performers.
For console monitoring, both David Bowers (stage-right) and Ed Simeone (stage-left) used a pair of cabinets that were identical to those placed on stage.
Figure 9: David Paich’s stage monitors.
The miniature loudspeaker columns each house two J BL Model 2118H eight-inch speakers with a passive contour network on each, and a 2404H tweeter.
The eight-inch speaker’s frequency response is essentially flat from 150 Hz to 4 kHz, at which point the tweeter is brought in with a passive crossover network.
The boxes are trapezoidal in shape, and fitted into the stage set with small metal support stands (Figure 10). Yamaha PC-2002 amplifiers power the keyboard rigs, while Metron A-400 amps drive the vocal monitors.
The small keyboard columns proved 80 popular during rehearsals that other performance areas also were supplied with them, including the sax/background vocal riser.
“The concept really makes sense,” explained sideman Scott Page.
“The little boxes give us bright reference information to sing with, right there in front of us. The kick and bass sound, the main rhythm section mix, comes from a little farther away in the bigger slant, instead of blasting me in the face like a lot of stage speaker system do. It works great.”
Critical keyboard, vocal and solo instrument program information is fed through the compact speakers.
Figure 11 (left): SSG’s custom low-profile vocal monitors each house two JBL 2118-J eight-inch speakers, and a 2425 one-inch compression driver on a modified Bi-Radial horn. Figure 12 (right): A protective cover latches onto the mini-monitors for travel protection.
Additional rhythm section material requiring better low-frequency presentation is fed to the various performers through separate larger floor slant monitors that house JBL K-140 15-inch speakers, 2441 drivers with 2445 diaphragms, and 2405 tweeters.
Block Diagram of Keyboard Monitor Signal Flow.
Where floor monitors are required for vocals, including Steve Lukather and Mike Porcaro, SSG’8 low-profile vocal slant monitors were used (Figure 11).
These tiny boxes pack a pair of JBL 2118-J eight-inch speakers and a 2425 one-inch compression driver mounted on a modified JBL 2344 BiRadial horn.
Actively crossed over at 1.5 kHz, the cabinets sit hardly 12 inches high, and offer an extremely smooth, yet bright, vocal reference mix; they also have a power contour network on the horn.
A protective cover latches into place for travel, and wheels make moving the package very easy. (Figure 12)
The main monitor mixing area (down-stage right) was handled by Dirk Schubert and Alan Bonomo (Figure 13).
A Gamble SC40-16 served as the primary board, while an SC32-16 was used as a drum and percussion submixer. (The latter also served the opening act). What started as 136 discrete stage inputs ended up as 58 combined channels at the house and stage monitor positions, plus various effects returns.
Yamaha Q-1027 third-octave graphic equalizers were available for some of the 16 monitor mixes, although the Gamble boards feature on-board parametric equalizers across each output mix.
A Lexicon 224X reverb with LARC remote, Yamaha REV-I digital reverb, Lexicon Prime Time, Eventide H949 Harmonizer, and a Roland SDE-2000 digital delay unit were available for processing use on vocals, drums, keyboards and saxophone. dbx Model 160 and 160X compressor-limiters were channel inserted for lead vocals, background vocal mix, piano and kick drum.
Flying overhead stereo, tri-amped sidefill cabinets flanked both sides of the downstage area. Lead singer “Fergie” Fredricson, using a Nady 701 wireless microphone, does not rely on any floor slants. The cluttered look of a half dozen slants along the front of the stage is changed here to a completely wide-open performance area.
“We have been using one of our PA cabinets as a box on each side, hanging from the lighting truss,” notes Schubert. “The stage-sound level on this tour is much lower than it has ever been: it is about 6 to 10 dB down from when we used a traditional loud monitor system. With less sound up here on stage, we are finding that everyone hears more clearly.”
Of Schubert’s 16 monitor mixes, two went to the tiny floor slants; three mixes fed the miniature keyboard speakers; and five went to full-sized 15-inch slant monitors as rhythm mixes. Additionally, three mixes were used as effects sends for the vocals and drums, while a headphone mix was sent to the piano area, and stereo sidefills completed the monitor board’s output assignments.
“Toto has been using the Gamble boards in the recording studio,” notes Alan Bonomo. “Since this whole complex setup has been created around the keyboard submixers and the different types of monitor cabinets, we are duplicating that on the road so the performers have the same system that has worked well for recording.”
“It is important to note that a monitor system designed around the needs of a recording studio seems to work well in a live performance situation,” Schubert explains. “The rolled-off low end, the smaller cabinets, the lack of floor slants for the front singer . . . it has all helped to cut down the stage noise tremendously. Things sound very clean up here.”
Vocal microphones comprised Shure SM78, Beyer M88 and a Nady 701 (fitted with an SM87 capsule). The drum kit featured a host of Sennheiser MD-4218, while Countryman Isomax Il miniature condenser mikes picked up the congas, bongos and timbales. A hybrid Fender/Yamaha wireless body pack unit was installed on the saxophone to allow freedom of movement.
International Tour Package
The North American concert dates posed no particular logistical problems for Schubert Systems Group, since the firm regularly handles nationwide touring assignments for a
variety of clients, including the Tubes, Willie Nelson and Jefferson Starship. However, much thought was given to the many concert dates to be performed in Europe and Asia.
“Toto wanted the entire stage instrument package and monitor system to be self-contained and consist of a recording studio seems to be consistent,” recalls SSG’s David Morgan. “Due to the great number of signal processors, crossovers and amplifiers, it was important that all of the racks be standardized, while travelling as compactly as possible.”
The standard-sized electronics racks were fabricated by Flag Systems of thick birch plywood, and covered with a tough charcoal-gray exterior nylon carpet material. An inner, foam surrounded birch frame protects the delicate electronic equipment. The racks measure 30 by 24 inches, and fit either three across in a 90-inch truck, or four across in the new 99-inch trucks.
Due to the microprocessor-based functions of many electronics devices, a clean, consistent source of AC power was considered essential. A compact regulated power supply was designed and fabricated by SSG (Figure 14).
“This distro serves the stage area, the monitor system and the house mix area,” explains Schubert. “Each performer and console area has two 20-amp legs of clean, regulated electrical power. Every man is on his own breakers. If the AC starts to drop or surge, the regulators automatically compensate, and can be set to allow up to a 12 percent ‘window’ for the optimum voltage lever.”
A custom-designed stage input panel/ splitter system was assembled for the group, with separate record/ broadcast capabilities for taking 96 lines on-stage into two 48-pair snakes.
A variety of unexpected difficulties can arise when taking such a complex live show to other countries. “We got to Japan, and were not even able to use our new Nady 701 wireless system because it turned out to be right in the middle of a Japanese television station frequency,” Schubert recalls “Over there, however, products are available for use which cannot be purchased here in the States.”
Shep Lonsdale and Clive Franks share mixing duties for Toto. The primary mixing console was a Gamble HC40-24, and a Yamaha M1516.
A submixer was set up to receive drum and percussion inputs (Figure 15). A separate Soundcraft Series 400 desk was provided for use by the opening act (Figure 16).
Effects processing devices included a Lexicon Prime Time Il, AMS 15-80S and RMX-16 delay units, Yamaha REV-I, Lexicon 224X digital reverb, and an Eventide 1-1949 Harmonizer. Ten Valley People Kepex Il noise gates were channel-inserted for drum and percussion inputs.
Channel-inserted compressor-limiting for vocal microphones was assigned to dbx model 160 and 165 devices. Four Yamaha C200 stereo cassette decks also were supplied for taping the show (Figure 17).
“This is my first time using this particular sound system,” explains mixer Clive Franks, known for many years of touring with Elton John.
“It’s pretty exciting. One can get better live sound results from a custom-tailored and correctly-engineered system such as this one. It’s good to have the designer out here with us, though… [Dirk Schubert] — that makes things go more smoothly, since some of the devices such as the crossovers are not off-the-shelf, familiar products.”
Like Shep Lonsdale, Franks felt that sound systems for live-concert use have been improving over the years. “We seem to be getting more sound from a fewer number of cabinets than what you would have seen several years ago,” he notes. “Improved array design and increased amplifier performance are all part of it.”
Lonsdale concurs: “Years ago, we made the best out of whatever we had. If you were good at what you did, you learned how to get the best sound out of anything, because so many of the available systems were poor in quality. It’s pretty easy to find good systems these days, as we all keep learning about what it takes to do the job right.”
Schubert Systems Group’s loudspeaker arrays comprise multiples of a three-way rectangular “column” cabinet, each of which houses two JBL Model 2220 15-inch speakers, a Bi-Radial horn with a two-inch compression driver, and four JBL 2402 tweeters.
The cabinets are easily assembled into hanging arrays (Figure 18).
Large subwoofer cabinets, each housing four J BL Model 2245 18-inch loudspeakers in a ported rectangular box, provide low-frequency reinforcement below 100 Hz. Stacked on the floor next to the stage, ramps also allowed these boxes to serve as an additional performance area for the acrobatic lead singer (Figure 19).
Figure 17 (left): House equipment racks held a variety of signal processing devices, including a Lexicon Prime Time Il, AMS 15-80s and RMX-16 delay units, and dbx compressor-limiters. Four Yamaha C200 stereo cassette decks were available for making reference recordings of each concert. Figure 18 (right): A total of 36 three-way loudspeaker enclosures, each housing two JBL 2220 loudspeakers, a Bi-RadiaI horn with 2441 driver, and four 2402 compression tweeters, were supplied to the tour.
Amplifier racks house five stereo units each. Three 1,200-watt, one 800watt and one 400-watt specially modified Cerwin-Vega amps are currently employed, a combination that yields 300-watt8 to each 18- and 15inch speaker, 150 watts to each 2441 driver, and 25 watts to each 2402 tweeter (Figure 20).
“Having enough amplifier headroom to adequately drive the loudspeaker system and the reserve to respond to transient peaks is very important to us,” observes SSG technician Mike Ferrara.
A 200-amp, three-phase power distribution system drove the C/M Lodestar hoists used to “hang” the sound system, and supplied the main amplifier racks. A neat, modular I-beam system with heavy nylon straps suspended the speaker arrays; one rigging point with a one-ton motor suspended a single beam and four speaker cabinets. For venues averaging 10,000 seats, SSG supplied Toto with 36 three-way cabinets and eight subwoofers, giving a total of 32 18-inch speakers, 72 15-inch speakers, 36 two-inch drivers and 144 compression tweeters.
Conclusions: Performance Sound
With enough consoles and digital signal processing gear in this one touring system to fill a couple of audio rental supply houses, one begins to wonder where the trend towards extensive hardware for live-performance use will stop.
A concert sound setup such as this one is extremely costly, and is far beyond the average system on the road today in terms of its complexity.
However, the extra care taken to assemble the audio tools required to achieve live duplication of recorded music deserves more than a few compliments.
The concert that this writer attended at the Arizona State University Activity Center featured an extremely well-crafted mix, with subtle nuances and effects not often heard in live rock concert settings, particularly of the one-nighter variety.
The stage-area submixers were perhaps instrumental in achieving the excellent end result.
The SSG system presented the detailed mix to a lively college-age crowd with power to spare.
Full-frequency coverage was well distributed throughout the listening area.
Twenty years ago, a “rock and roll” show had one soundman, perhaps 12 stage microphone inputs, and whatever house-sound cluster was available that night.
As I sat and listened to six experienced board operators mixing down 136 inputs on $300,000 worth of consoles and effects into high-fidelity hanging speaker arrays, the distance that the concert sound industry has traveled in those two decades was remarkable to behold.
Now, if we can only “fix” those sporting-arena acoustics!
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 grew to become the 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, December 10, 2015
At the heart of a sound reinforcement system is the mixing console, handling the routing, gain adjustments, balancing between inputs, EQ, and possibly some processing of the audio as well.
When it’s a large analog console, invariably at least one person walks up to us at a gig to ask, “Do you know what all those knobs do?” Recently while freelancing at a gig on an unfamiliar digital board, I had to ask another audio tech for help in finding a parameter adjustment in the vast menu. “I know what all the knobs do,” I explained. “I just don’t know where in the menu to find them!”
While some older techs (like me) might get lost in the layers of digital, some younger techs get lost on the basic principles of consoles. Analog boards are a little easier to figure out because every adjustment has a dedicated knob, switch or fader. Learn one channel strip and one master output strip and you pretty much know the entire console.
Digital consoles may have hidden features, such as a master aux pre/post switch I was looking for the other day along with additional processing like graphic EQs or FX units that can be “plugged in” and inserted where needed.
Let’s go through typical console routing, beginning at the channels. Input channels have a preamp and the volume adjustment on the preamp is usually labeled “gain” or “trim.” This allows setting the input gain into the console for different microphone or line level sources.
The new Avid VENUE | S6L, which is now shipping.
Setting the gain too low sacrifices headroom in the console and increases the noise floor. Set it too high and the signal can overload, causing distortion. There may be an indicator LED or meter on the channel that can be used to set input gain. If not, solo the channel and use the main meters to get a good level. Most consoles include a pad switch that will reduce the level of a “hot” audio signal in this quest.
Condenser and tube mics – and some DI boxes – require phantom power to operate, and larger consoles may include individual channel switches to supply it. Smaller or older boards may offer phantom power for groups of channels, or even the entire console. Make sure phantom power is off when plugging in mics and DIs or the resulting “pop” could damage the mics as well as loudspeaker drivers.
Larger consoles incorporate a polarity switch for input channels. This may be labeled “flip” or marked as a “phase” switch. Let’s go over the basics. A positive sound pressure on a mic should produce a positive voltage down the cable into the console. If you flip or invert an audio signal and add it back to the original non-inverted signal, there’s disruptive cancellation in the signal.
In the digital age, some functionality has moved to screens, as evidenced by the DiGiCo SD21.
A common example is a mic positioned above a snare drum – the first hit moves the drum head away from the mic, causing a negative pressure wave, but as the head rebounds back, it causes a positive pressure wave. Position a mic beneath the snare and the first hit causes both top and bottom drum heads to go toward the bottom mic, causing a positive pressure wave at the mic’s diaphragm. Use both mics at the same time and some of the sound will cancel each other out. Reverse the bottom mic’s polarity and a more rounded sound is captured.
Another use of a polarity switch can be with two kick drum mics, or a trick that I use with a kick drum mic and a loud drum monitor. With the kick mic placed inside the drum shell, when the beater strikes, it produces a positive polarity, with the woofer in the drum monitor moving forward to reproduce the positive polarity signal.
But in reality, the drum head is moving away from the drummer, so the loudspeaker and drum head are moving out of polarity with each other. Flipping the polarity on the mic or loudspeaker box produces a more full kick sound at the drummer, usually enough to stop them from asking for more monitor volume (always a good thing in terms of feedback and in general).
Many consoles include direct output jacks and channel inserts for each channel. The direct outputs can be used to feed another console like a monitor desk or recording board, or they can be used to feed a multi-track recorder directly. Insert jacks are used to “loop” a processor into the signal chain. These are still popular on analog desks that don’t have tons of processing on every channel.
The insert is usually a 1/4-inch TRS (Tip/Ring/Sleeve conductor) and a special insert cable that breaks out the TRS into two regular 1/4-inch plugs. One plug is connected to the Tip and is the send, while the other plug is connected to the Ring and is the return. Processing such as compression, reverb, and delay units can be inserted into a channel, and the effects are then applied to only that input.
The next stop for the audio signal in a channel is usually the EQ section. This can be as simple as a bass and treble control with fixed center frequencies, or a multi-channel parametric EQ section that enables the user to choose a center frequency, boost or cut that frequency, and adjust the width of the boost or cut with a control often labeled “Q” or “Bandwidth.”
Both larger analog and digital consoles may also offer pass filters, which pass audio above or below the selected frequency and roll off everything on the other side of the frequency. High-pass filters are great for removing low-end stage rumble that finds its way into vocal mics as well as for any low end sounds you don’t want mics (i.e., drum overheads) to pick up and amplify.
The Selected Channel interface on the new Yamaha Rivage PM10 allows all parameters of a channel selected to be directly controlled.
Equalizing (EQing) an instrument or voice is usually a matter of taste, but there are a few tricks that I’ve found over the years that can help get a better sound out of the PA. The first is to remove stuff that does not need to be amplified, like the aforementioned rolling off of the low end of vocal mics with a high-pass filter.
However, I don’t stop there, also electing to get rid of the ultra-high end of many things onstage. For example, I just mixed an Oktoberfest with a band that used a tuba for the bass parts. I know that a tuba does not reproduce harmonics past 4 to 6 kHz, so I rolled off everything above 6 kHz to eliminate the tuba mic from picking up the adjacent cymbals.
Another thing that EQ can be used for is making similar instruments sound slightly different so they can be better distinguished in the mix. Take two guitarists, for instance. They might be playing similar guitars, amps, and even the same chords, so they’re likely to sound pretty much the same in the PA. EQ each guitar a bit differently and there will be definition of each in the mix (and PA). They’ll still sound like guitars, just not like each other.
Sometimes it’s tough to exactly identify an offending frequency that is making something sound wrong. Working with parametric EQ during setup and/or sound check can help. Boost the signal with a very narrow bandwidth and sweep it around until the problem sounds even worse. Now that the problem frequency has been found, cut it until things sound better.
The subsequent destination is usually the auxiliary sends, referred to as aux sends or “auxes.” Equipped with volume knobs, they can send the audio signal to a separate output. Depending on the console, some may be configured as pre fader (the channel fader), some as post fader, and some may have a pre/post switch to allow the user to configure the send as needed. Some consoles also allow users to configure the sends as pre EQ and post EQ, giving the user the option to have the channel EQ affect the send.
Normally, pre fader sends are used for stage monitors and feeds for recording, while post fader sends are commonly used to send a signal to effects processing like reverb and delay units, or to provide audio feeds at different locations. Most small consoles have mono aux sends, while larger consoles may offer stereo sends, complete with a pan control.
Some consoles may label some auxiliaries as FX or effects sends because they’re intended for use with outboard processing and are configured post fader. Other boards may offer dedicated FX sends that feed the internal effects processing units.
Auxes are quite useful and may be used for feeding monitor mixes, recording feeds or sending audio to delay, fill, and subwoofer loudspeakers. Aux fed subwoofers are a very popular way of reducing low-end problems in sound systems.
A typical PA system usually includes full range boxes and subs, with a crossover splitting the signal between the two. An open mic onstage can pick up low-end rumble, and this will be sent to both the tops and subs in the system. Hard “plosive” consonants from vocalists will also be sent to the subs, and all of this adds up to unwanted energy in the room.
Using a post fader (and usually post EQ) aux, only the channels that the engineer wants in the subs (such as kick drum, floor tom, bass guitar, low speaker on a Leslie, etc.) get sent to the subs. That open mic picking up low end rumble won’t send the mush to the subs unless the engineer routs that signal with the channel aux send. Vocal plosives are reduced as well, with the subs only reproducing what is desired, not whatever leaks in.
Now we’re moving along the channel strip to the pan control and group assignments. On a basic console, the pan control will route audio to both the left and right main outputs evenly when it’s set in the center. Turning the knob to the left or right sends more audio in the direction of the turn and less to the other side.
The pan pot is my best friend at corporate gigs. A typical gig has full-range loudspeakers on stands to each side of the stage or by the walls of the room. The lectern is usually located off to one side of the stage, way closer to one of the loudspeakers. While I can ring out the mains to reduce the susceptibility of feedback, one of my basic approaches is to simply pan the podium and presenter mics toward the loudspeaker that’s further away. In smaller rooms, the audience still hears everything just fine, while the threat of feedback has been reduced.
Consoles with submaster groups offer group selection buttons near the pan knob. When groups are selected, the pan control will route the audio to the odd or even numbered groups, depending on the position of the knob. In the master section, the subgroups can then route the audio to the main left and right outputs or send the audio to independent group outputs.
Analog-style channel strip control on the new Allen & Heath GLD-80 Chrome Edition.
Submasters are useful for grouping like instruments together, such as drums and guitars, providing an easy way to manage their volume. Submasters are also useful in setting up mixes for recording or sends to remote loudspeakers. Processing such as reverb or compression can also be applied to a submaster group, giving, say, all background vocals the same verb by using the submaster insert points.
Solo and PFL buttons allow listening to a particular channel by itself or along with other soloed channels. PFL stands for Pre Fade Listen and as the name implies, you hear the channel before the fader. Solo (or less commonly called AFL or After Fade Listen) will take the channel’s fader position into account, but many consoles label the PFL as solo.
Some consoles offer “mute” buttons while others offer “on” buttons, and they basically do the same thing in an opposite way. Engaging the mute button silences the channel (or sub-master or mains) that its assigned to. Pushing an on button unmutes the channel.
Larger consoles also have mute groups, which allow the user to assign different inputs and outputs to various groups and recall the mute settings at the touch of a single button. This comes in very handy if there are different musicians or different actors appearing onstage at various times. I used mute groups a lot when I mixed musical theater, placing all of the chorus mics on one group, and various actors on different groups. As the play went on, I would unmute groups of mics with the touch of a single button and not miss a beat.
Our last stop along the chain is the channel fader that controls the master volume for the channel, and it affects all of the audio except pre fader sends. Larger analog and most digital consoles offer VCAs (Voltage Controlled Amplifiers), which are also called DCAs (Digital Controlled Amplifiers) in some digital models.
These controllers don’t pass audio but instead remotely control the position of the channel faders. Submasters are great for grouping channels, but every time a channel is added to a subgroup, another gain stage is added, and every time a channel is added to more than one subgroup, there’s an increase in volume.
VCAs work differently in that they remotely control just the channel’s fader position, and more than one VCA can be assigned to the same channel. The user can group drums, drums and bass, entire band, and entire band with vocals on four different VCAs without adding any gain to the signal while also putting a large number of channel volumes under one finger. On digital consoles that have hidden channel layers, this is a great way to bring groups of inputs to a single layer.
Digital boards may offer additional processing like compression, noise gates, or even audio delay to a channel, as well as the ability to patch in additional processing. But no matter the size or style of console, the basics always remain the same, and by understanding the basics, you can usually get through a gig even if you’re unfamiliar with the desk.
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.