Analog

Monday, February 24, 2014

MASS (Appeal) Connectors

While they’ve become one of the most popular and recognized multipin connectors in pro audio, the back-story of how MASS connectors came to have such impact shouldn’t be overlooked.

Interestingly, MASS connectors weren’t even intended for audio applications; rather, they were originally developed for use in oil exploration. Oil company engineers connected seismographs with miles of cable in areas suspected of containing oil deposits.

Explosive charges were then buried along the lines and detonated. The resulting echo “signatures” were captured by the seismographs and transmitted along multipair cables to a central location. There, a composite picture of the underlying geological structures could be determined and analyzed for the prospect of containing oil deposits. It was the connecting of these cables that necessitated a large contact count connector.

The characteristics that this connector possessed in oil exploration also made it ideal for multi-channel audio:

     - Rugged and able to withstand many connection cycles.

     - Resist the elements as it would be outdoors and often laying on the ground
       exposed to dirt, sun and rain.

     - Hermaphroditic (asexual, genderless) so that any connector could be mated to
       any other.

       This eliminated the need to keep track of the usual malefemale
       connector configuration. (Imagine laying out a mile of cable only to find that you’re
       holding onto the wrong end!)

     - Many pins and sockets, 88 each for a total of 176 contacts.

Unique Factors

While Whirlwind wasn’t the first company to bring MASS connectors to market, they’ve contributed significantly to their proliferation in audio applications.

Look familiar? An old-style Whirlwind W4.

Back in the late 1970s, several providers began using multipin connectors as a means to provide disconnects for faster and easier setup and teardown.

Whirlwind, already producing the Medusa snakes and getting into microphone splitters, saw the addition of multipin disconnects was a logical addition. Several multipin connector systems were used, but in the early 1980s, a connector produced at the time by ITT/Cannon had some unique features that gave it the edge.

At the time, these connectors were rather plentiful, and 176 contacts could transport the number of channels required by the use of large format audio mixing consoles that were becoming more popular.

The Cannon MASS connector became Whirlwind’s standard in 1986, called the W4. A smaller connector was also available with 122 contacts and that was added to the mix a short time later as the W3.

MASS Connectors rapidly became accepted in the industry due to their reliability, capacity to handle a large number of channels and because they were offered as the standard disconnect by Whirlwind, already a dominant player in this field.

Need that in solder (left) or crimp style?

However, a few years after the adoption of MASS connectors, the technique used to explore for oil began to change. Satellite imaging was proving to be an accurate and less expensive method of mapping geological structures and began replacing the dynamite/seismograph approach.

ITT/Cannon cut back on production but connectors were still available.

And then the unthinkable happened. During transport at the Cannon factory, the tooling for the W4 was dropped from a forklift, causing damage beyond repair.

Cannon believed that re-tooling wasn’t worth the effort due to the reduction in demand for the connector and the existing supply was deemed sufficient to last until the connector’s usefulness had expired. That door slammed shut and in 1989, Cannon abandoned its multipin connectors.

Decision Time

Numerous sound companies had invested heavily in the W3 and W4, adopting it as a standard.

As a result, MASS systems were available in most locations, making it very easy for touring groups to borrow or rent cables and fan-outs for an emergency replacement or to extend a system for a particular show.

With the Cannon door firmly closed, Whirlwind ventured to set up its own large-format connector production facility, a significant financial risk for a relatively small company.

With the original tooling completely destroyed, the company’s engineering team had to start from scratch, not only creating the means to produce quality MASS connectors, but ones that would be compatible with the thousands already in use.

After several months of design, prototyping, testing, and more, the first all-Whirlwind W4 quietly rolled into the company’s custom shop and then into Whirlwind systems.

On the left, the previous MASS design, with updated version on the right. The arrow indicates extra metal added to the ring to support the rubber locator, tightening the receptacle area.

The switchover produced almost no news in the audio world ­ which was good news for Whirlwind. And it wasn’t long before the W4 design was modified to produce the 122 contact W3.

Crimp In The Plan

Up to that time, all MASS connectors were solder type, making them difficult (if not impossible) for the average installer to assemble in the field. For this reason, designers were hesitant to specify MASS connectors into installations.

Also, if a pin happened to become bent or broken, the entire connector would have to be cut off and a new one soldered on. (There are stories of a few hardy souls that have replaced a solder type pin by prying the face of the connector insert away and disassembling it. Then they reassemble the whole thing pin-by-pin and socket-by-socket ­ all 176 contacts. Do not try this at home!)

This led Whirlwind to the development of a replaceable contact version, necessary if the MASS connector was to be accepted for installs like stadiums, theaters, theme parks and the like.

The right way to prep a MASS connector, keeping things organized and secure.

It was a challenging process ­ the solder connector was a known quantity. But a replaceable contact version would have to be compatible with the “mass of MASS” connectors already in use.

The project presented a physical challenge. The density of the contacts made it impossible to use a front release design and the required locking clip tolerances would never have been accepted if this connector didn’t have to mate with existing solder type MASS connectors.

Whirlwind engineers decided that the insert would be made of a three-piece assembly. The front piece was made of rubber and provided the face to the connector. The rear would be a solid wafer containing metal clips to hold the pins and sockets.

Since the metal clips would hold the contacts, the front rubber face would not expand as it was loaded. A center wafer was sandwiched between the front connector face and the rear wafer to keep the contacts aligned.

Working in tight quarters balanced by a clean, methodical approach.

Contacts would be inserted and extracted through the rear wafer. All three pieces were housed in a machined aluminum shell and held in place with a “C” clip.

Special pins and sockets were designed with a small cup on the rear into which the wire was placed and crimped with a standard hand-crimping tool.

The contacts could then be pushed into the insert from the rear until they clicked into position. If it became necessary to remove a pin or socket, a small tube like extraction tool was designed to be inserted around the contact and up into the connector shell where it pushed back the metal fingers on the retaining clip, allowing the contact to be pulled back out.

The Best Laid Plans

The first run of about 100 W4RP (replaceable pin) connectors were readied for the rigors of the field… Or maybe not. It quickly became obvious that the design needed work.

Out of those first 100 W4s, quite a few experienced problems with the pins and sockets not holding in the insert, so they were immediately recalled for analysis.

The retaining clips weren’t holding in the wafer solidly enough. The original design called for some “slop” in how the pins were secured side to side.

The feeling was that they should be free to align themselves when entering the socket.

However, the pins had enough movement that they would occasionally miss the socket opening entirely and hang up on the rubber face of the opposite connector. Then the mating force would cause the clip to push out.

Be prepared: All good “Cable Scouts” keep these tools handy when working with MASS connectors.

The design was totally re-thought and resulted in these solutions:

     - Elimination of the “play” the pins had when secured in
       the insert.

     - Slight softening the material that the clips were
       contained in, while increasing the shoulder size for
       retaining the clip. This caused each clip to have
       positive “bite” in the wafer.

     - Redesign of the shape of the pin to round its profile. This made them less sharp
       and provided more positive entry into the socket. The rubber face of the insert
       was also hardened so that if a pin touched the opposite face, the pin would deflect
       down into the socket and be less likely to stick in the rubber.

     - Creation of a cone-shaped opening into the socket, also to help direct the pin
       down into the socket.

     - Addition of an extra metal thickness to the shell receptacle area surrounding the
       insert to eliminate the ability to try and mate the connectors at an angle. Now, the
       opposite rubber “locator” must fit straight down into the narrow receptacle on the
       opposite face.

Clip failures virtually disappeared overnight. In fact, the improvements were so dramatic that all of the new features were incorporated (except of course for the clips) into the solder-type MASS.

MASS Goes Micro

Up until 1998, Whirlwind’s small-size multipins were the mil-spec W1 (39 pin) and W2 (61 pin). These are still available from a few manufacturers today.

Choose your weapon.

However, the pin counts don’t fall into “normal” channel configurations seen in audio systems.

In 1998, the company moved forward on production of the first multipin connectors designed specifically for audio professionals.

This connector would have all the features required for audio systems ­ the same “sexless” design found in the MASS connector, and that there would be two sizes, one with 48 contacts and one with 84 contacts.

48 contacts would handle up to 16 channels and be suitable for use as subsnakes or with small mixers. Also, 84 contacts would handle up to 28 channels and be good for use as subsnakes and 24 channel console snakes with four returns.

These connectors could also have reduced density of pins and sockets, making the design considerations a bit easier than the large MASS connectors.

The new W5 (48-pin) and W6 (84-pin) MicroMASS connectors were brought to market in early 1999 and have become a new standard for smaller snake systems and subsnakes. They are only made in replaceable pin versions and the design has proven highly durable.

State-of-the-art MASS connectors, the result of years of evolutionary improvement.

One unusual issue came up during the design. These connectors are exactly the same size, made that way on purpose so that they can share common parts.

However, it could be possible for someone to take a W6 and try to plug it into a W5 if they weren’t paying strict attention.

The solution was adding a “key” to the W6 connector face to eliminate the possibility of getting one type inserted into the other. Also, it was decided that the W6 insert be changed to white and its locking ring to blue so the W5 and W6 would be easier to identify when systems contained cables of both types.

While new methods of audio transmission, digital and otherwise, have made and will continue to make significant impacts on the way in which live sound is distributed, it’s valuable to have an understanding of where we’ve come from, and the MASS connector is clearly a part of that story.

Al Keltz is director of marketing for Whirlwind

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Posted by Keith Clark on 02/24 at 07:51 AM
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Allen & Heath GS-R24 Installed In SSR Teaching Studio In Jakarta

An Allen & Heath GS-R24 firewire recording mixer and Pro Tools 10 have been installed in SSR’s teaching studio in Jakarta, Indonesia.

An Allen & Heath GS-R24 firewire recording mixer and Pro Tools 10 have been installed in SSR’s teaching studio in Jakarta, Indonesia.

SSR was originally founded in 1984 in Manchester, England, and was the first audio engineering school in the UK. SSR Jakarta launched in 2011 and has built a reputation as one of Indonesia’s best audio training facilities, running courses including the flagship Audio Engineering Techniques & Technology course.

“Our GS-R24 Studio provides a good and comfortable environment with a great acoustic design. Students have an ideal environment to learn the fundamentals of analog signal flow, patching and digital recording,” Jason O Bryan, head of the Audio Engineering Technic and Technology (AETT) programme. “GS-R24 integrates with Pro Tools and it’s like having a dedicated HUI controller embedded in the analogue heart of desk. You press a channel Select button, and you get instant access to all key functions in the master section.”

In addition, SSR Jakarta also has an 80-capacity live venue exclusively used by SSR’s Live Sound Engineering, Live Sound for Worship, and Digital Film and Music Video Production Courses.

The facility is equipped with an Allen & Heath ML4000 VCA console, GL2400 dual function mixer and iLive-T80 with iDR-32 digital mixing system for students to experience both analogue and digital systems.

Allen & Heath

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Posted by Julie Clark on 02/20 at 07:30 AM
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Emerson College Adds 32-Channel API 1608 Analog Console With Automation

New console will be used to teach courses in advanced recording and introduction to sound design

Specializing in preparing students for careers in communications and the arts, Emerson College in Boston recently added a 32-channel API 1608 analog console with full automation to its studio facilities to provide high-end sonics and a transitional work-flow between its other studio facilities.

The new API 1608 will be used to teach courses in advanced recording and introduction to sound design. “We are a school of communications, not music or music engineering,” states Bruno Caruso, audio technical supervisor with Emerson College. “We use our studio facilities to teach sound design, mix to picture, ADR, Foley, sound for gaming, and voice-over.”

Emerson’s studio facility already contains an entry-level room, with a budget analog console, and a high-end post-production suite with a menu-driven Avid Icon system. The post-production suite already uses a collection of API 512c mic preamps and an API Channel Strip to handle any source recording.

“We were certainly very happy with that sound,” says Caruso. “That was a factor that moved us in the direction of API for our console purchase.”

The goal was to add a studio space that bridged the technological gap between the entry-level room and the post-production suite. “Of course the API sound was an important part of our decision to add a 1608, but there was more to it than that,” notes Caruso. “It’s an analog board with a great sound and a very teachable workflow. The students can stand around the board while the instructor demonstrates techniques. Moreover, including automation gave us a pedagogical bridge between the entry-level room and the post-production suite.”

Emerson College purchased its 32-channel API 1608 through nearby Parsons Audio (Wellesley, MA). “Everyone at Parsons was great,” said Caruso. “They gave us demos of everything we were considering and lots of other support besides. They were instrumental in pointing us in the right direction for our needs.”

API

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Posted by Keith Clark on 02/18 at 11:26 AM
Live SoundRecordingAnalogConsolesEducationInstallationMixerStudioPermalink

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rattle Room Rocks With SSL Hybrid Console/Controller

The Rattle Room owner/engineer Jaron Luksa recently installed a Solid State Logic AWS 948 Hybrid Console/Controller as the centrepiece of the Los Angeles facility.

Looking to leave engineering on the road for a new career path in a well-equipped studio, The Rattle Room owner/engineer Jaron Luksa recently installed a Solid State Logic AWS 948 Hybrid Console/Controller as the centrepiece of the Los Angeles facility.

The AWS 948 gives The Rattle Room’s up-and-coming clients the opportunity to work in a space that delivers the sound quality of a high-budget, major label project.

It also allows the studio to bridge the workflow gap between computer-based and live recordings to encourage musicians to use this creative, live space.

“When I first decided to hang up my travelling shoes, I began researching the equipment necessary to build a truly competitive recording studio and that process led me to the SSL AWS 948,” says Luksa. “I had good experiences with SSL consoles at Berklee School of Music where I was always taught to mix with your ears.

“In the age of recording to a laptop computer, people are now getting used to mixing with their eyes first. The AWS 948, with its excellent DAW controller, returns me to the turning-a-knob-and-listening-to-the-change days.

“With the AWS, I can start using my ear-to-think coordination to get the sound I need. This type of concentration is impossible to achieve with a mouse-based system.”

According to Luksa, the reasoning behind the AWS 948 selection was that the artists he has worked with over the years are beginning to get away from tracks comprised of sampled sounds knit together in a DAW program like Logic or Pro Tools.

While the resulting DAW tracks make good music, the same music played live by musicians in a studio delivers a musical interaction that cannot be accomplished by sequencing. The AWS makes those tracks sing.

“With the AWS, you get SSL’s extremely clean sound quality, which gives me high-end heaven, tight bass and punchy tracks,” explains Luksa. “The AWS doesn’t have some of the dirtier artifacts that other mic pres have, but if a client wants some dirt, I can go to outboard gear, or pull up a plug-in.

“While it’s really easy to dirty up your sound, it’s not easy to find equipment to do what the SSL does and that is deliver crystal clear audio. Everything always sounds great through the AWS.”

AWS gives Luksa the hybrid studio workflow he is looking for with a seamless transition between working in analog and inside the DAW.

“The thing that really drew me toward the AWS 948 is the ultimate blend of analogue workflow and DAW realities,” states Luksa. “I can’t believe other console designers haven’t thought this through, but with the flip of a button, I am jumping back into my DAW session to write automation, make adjustments, automate and then, flipping the button back to continue working in the analogue era. The AWS is the reason I can attract the best up-and-coming groups to The Rattle Room.”

Solid State Logic

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Posted by Julie Clark on 02/17 at 04:40 PM
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Berklee College Of Music To Add Fourth API Legacy Console

The Music Production and Engineering Department (MPED) at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music will add a fourth 32-channel analog API Legacy Plus console to its Studio A in early summer of 2014.

The Music Production and Engineering Department (MPED) at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music will add a fourth 32-channel analog API Legacy Plus console to its Studio A in early summer of 2014.

At that time, a John Storyk-led renovation will overhaul the space to create a fourth facility with nearly identical equipment to three existing facilities for the instruction of foundational tracking and mixing courses.

Because the MPED recognizes the importance of giving students abundant hands-on experience with definitive industry tools, it self-limits the number of Berklee students who can earn their degree in the department.

Thus, only half of the Berklee students who apply to the MPED are accepted, which allows the department to maintain a student body of approximately three hundred students. The new API Legacy Plus will help alleviate competition for space and bottlenecks in studio scheduling.

“The API Legacy Plus offers us several advantages,” said Rob Jaczko, chair of the MPED and recording engineer for Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, and countless others. “First and foremost, its sonics and musicality are an industry benchmark. Just running tracks through it flat is an experience that our students should appreciate.

“Second, the Legacy Plus has a classic in-line analog signal path, which is very useful for teaching signal flow and problem solving. Finally, we’ve enjoyed a great relationship with API. We’ve always been happy with API’s outboard gear, which is included in seventeen of our studios, and the support we received from the API staff during the purchase and installation of the first three Legacies was great.”

API Audio

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Posted by Julie Clark on 02/11 at 02:12 PM
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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Tech Tip Of The Day: Effectively Cleaning Analog Faders

Provided by Sweetwater.

 
Q: I have an old analog mixer with really dirty faders. I’ve tried deoxidizing cleaner on some of them, but now they feel much worse, yet seem to work okay. What’s wrong?

A: No doubt about it, your mixer is in need of a good cleaning! Here’s a rundown of the steps I normally take.

1. Vacuum and/or blow out faders with compressed air. Vacuuming gets the “dust bunnies” and larger chunks. Try to run the fader up and down while you do this.

2. Treat faders. My preference is CAIG DeoxIT. The reasoning for this is that many other lubricants are thicker, which stay greasy and seem to trap dirt, where the DeoxIT evaporates “almost” totally, leaving a conductive coating on the contacts.

3. After spraying with DeoxIT, blow out the faders once more to remove excess liquid and hopefully the remaining dirt. (Use goggles or take precautions… DeoxIT burns the eyes and tastes only slightly better than WD-40.

4. I’ve been fairly successful using this method. Sometimes though, faders “just flat wear out” and no amount of cleaning will revive them. These worn faders will be among the first to go “scratchy” following a cleaning.

5. One extra item… I’ve observed several instances where the knob was pushed onto the fader so hard that it scraped along the front panel and rare occasions where such downward force was applied to the knob that the fader itself was damaged. Take care replacing the knobs.

And, for more great information on cleanign consoles, check out Properly Cleaning Mixing Console Faders and Zen & The Art Of Mixing Console Cleaning & Maintenance.

 
For more tech tips go to Sweetwater.com

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Posted by Keith Clark on 02/05 at 05:16 PM
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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

QEII Conference Centre Invests In Allen & Heath Qu-16 Digital Mixers

The Qu-16s are installed in self-contained portable AV racks, which can be used in any of the event spaces in the venue.

London’s QEII Conference Centre recently added seven Allen & Heath Qu-16 digital rackmount mixers to its inventory of AV equipment.

An upgrade to existing analog mixers, the Qu-16s are installed in self-contained portable AV racks, which can be used in any of the event spaces in the venue.

“We needed a higher channel count for the mixers installed on our mobile AV racks,” explains AV production manager, Derek Chalmers. “We were looking around the analog market as we couldn’t believe there would be a digital mixer to fit a 19-inch rack, and then I saw the Qu-16 at Infocomm, where it won a Best In Show award.

“Qu-16 has everything we needed - 16 channels, built in processing, and recording facilities as we record all of our events. We’ve had them now for two months and they’ve been fantastic.”

The mixers were supplied by Hertfordshire-based Mercury AV. Director, Ian McDonald, commented:

“The QEII deals with exceptionally high profile events on a daily basis and often has several large conferences running simultaneously.  The sound equipment needs to be very flexible but it is also important that it can be setup fast and operated by a large number of different technicians.  QU-16 is therefore perfect for use by the QEII in their mobile PA racks.”

The Centre contains a total of 29 function rooms, running a variety of events ranging from conferences and meetings to banquets and receptions. The mobile racks provide a simple, flexible solution for the Centre’s smaller function rooms. In addition to 7 full time in-house AV technicians, the Centre also has a bank of 50 freelancers.

“The Qu-16 is new to the market, so many of our staff had not come across the mixer before. However, after some brief training I am pleased to say all of our engineers were really happy to use the Qu-16, and had very positive feedback about the mixer’s ease of use and ‘analog feel’,” says Chalmers.

“We have seen a lot of demand for QU-16. We placed a large stock order on the same day that the product release announcement was made, then placed further large orders when it became clear that demand was outstripping supply.  The exciting thing about QU-16 is that it makes all of the benefits of a digital mixer available for live sound applications where a digital mixer would previously have been too large or too expensive,” concludes Ian McDonald.

Allen & Heath

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Posted by Julie Clark on 02/04 at 01:03 PM
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Sunday, February 02, 2014

New Products & News Highlights From 2014 NAMM

The music product industry returns to businesses in every corner of the globe following the 2014 NAMM Show held in Anaheim, January 23-26. Expanding product categories such as technology-driven music products and emerging brands pushed the show to its one of its largest and most diverse editions yet.

“As the global platform for the music products industry, the NAMM Show is an annual checkup for what is happening in the music marketplace worldwide,” says Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM. “A focus on doing business reflected confidence among buyers and manufacturers alike. Fortified with NAMM U education, networking and fun opportunities that only occur at the NAMM Show, NAMM Members expressed to me a renewed spirit for the year ahead. I believe that the stage is set for growth in 2014.”

Emerging brands, growth in pro audio and the music technology category, and an increase in international exhibitors, converged for the second-highest exhibiting company number ever. There were 1,533 exhibiting companies representing 5,010 brands.

Meeting those brands was a 2 percent increase in buyers over 2013. Buyers arrived in Anaheim focused on rebuilding inventory after a strong school music season, and on building up categories currently experiencing strong consumer demand. In total, 96,129 members of the music product industry registered for the 2014 NAMM Show.

New entrepreneurs and categories entering the music market brought 303 new exhibiting companies to the show. NAMM membership and in turn the NAMM Show is increasingly global, as reflected in the 6 percent increase in international attendees.

Here’s the new pro audio (and related) product and news from the “big show.”

Take our Photo Gallery Tour of the 2014 NAMM Show

Consoles & Mixers
Yamaha Next-Generation MG Series Small-Format Mixing Consoles
QSC TouchMix Series Compact Digital Mixers
Soundcraft Si Performer 1 Digital Console
Allen & Heath Qu-24 Compact Digital Mixer
Roland Systems Group “All-In-One” VR-3EX AV Mixer
Midas M32 Digital Mixing Console
Soundcraft VI Console Integration With Universal Audio UAD Plug-Ins
Midas Mixtender 2 iPad App
Behringer X18 Digital Mixer For iPad, Other Tablet Devices
Aviom D800 and D800-Dante A-Net Distributors
Soundcraft Vi Version 4.8 Software For Vi2, Vi4 & Vi6 Consoles
Midas DL150 Series I/O Boxes
Waves Audio Dugan Automixer Plug-In
Allen & Heath Xone:23 DJ Mixer
SSL Matrix2 Studio Console

Line Arrays & Loudspeakers
JBL Professional VTX V20 Line Array And S25 Subwoofer
Electro-Voice ETX Portable Powered Loudspeakers
D.A.S. Audio Event Series Self-Powered Line Array
Turbosound Revamped Milan Series Loudspeakers
One Systems OPALine Vertical Line Array
Grund Audio Design GP Series Loudspeakers
Yorkville Returns Production Of YX Series Loudspeakers To Canada
Turbosound iQ Loudspeaker Systems With “Acoustic Integration”
HK Audio Elements Powered Subwoofer
Behringer B110D & B108D Active Loudspeakers
JBL VTX F Series For Accompanying VTX Line Arrays
Behringer Unveils Europort PPA Series Portable PA Systems
Yorkville Sound Parasource Series Powered Subwoofers
Turbosound TLX Compact Series Line Arrays
JBL Professional VRX Line Array Calculator

Microphones & Wireless Systems
Shure GLXD6 Guitar Pedal Receiver With Integrated Tuner
AKG WMS420 Wireless Microphone System
DPA Microphones d:fine 66 And 88 Miniature Headset Mics
Audio-Technica System 10 Wireless Guitar Stompbox
CAD Audio CADLive Microphones For Percussion & Guitar Cabinets
DPA Microphones Facelift For d:facto Vocal Mic
Behringer Expands ULM Series Wireless Systems
IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD
Morton Microphone Systems KickTone Bass Drum Microphone
Bock iFet Condenser Microphone From TransAudio Group
DPA Microphones d:vote Rock Touring Kits
CAD Audio 1600 Series UHF Wireless System
DPA Microphones d:dicate Series MMP-F Modular Active Boom

Networking & Interfaces
Audinate Dante Controller Version 3.5
Klark Teknik DN9680 With 192 Channels And 1,000-Meter Range
Behringer Expands Network Options For X32 Console
Aphex IN2 Desktop Audio Interface
Radial Engineering StageBug SB-7 EarMuff Headphone Interface
Apogee JAM 96k Professional Guitar Interface For iPad, iPhone & Mac
Universal Audio Announces Unison Technology
Behringer New Family Of Universal Control Surfaces
Steinberg UR44 Audio Interface
Universal Audio Apollo Twin High-Resolution Desktop Interface
Aviom D800 and D800-Dante A-Net Distributors
Focusrite iTrack Dock For iPad
Aphex D 500 Duo 2-Slot Rack Unit For 500 Series
Gepco Live Music Venue Solutions

Software
PreSonus Add-Ons For New Studio One 2.6.2
ADX TRAX Audio Separation Software
Waves Audio Scheps 73 Plug-In
New Midas PRO Series Software
Soundcraft VI Console Integration With Universal Audio UAD Plug-Ins
Waves Audio Morgan Page EMP Plug-In Toolbox

Recording Gear
Waves Audio SoundGrid Studio System
Radial Space Heater Tube Drive & Summing Mixer Combo
Rupert Neve Designs 551 Inductor EQ
API 500-8 Lunchbox For 500 Series
Waves Audio Morgan Page EMP Plug-In Toolbox
Chandler Limited TG2-500 Preamp For 500 Series Racks
Manley Labs CORE Reference Channel Strip
Aphex D 500 Duo 2-Slot Rack Unit For 500 Series
Sonodyne SRP Series Studio Monitors
API 505 DI And The 565 Ban 500 Series Modules
Genelec 8010 Active Studio Monitors
Waves Audio Scheps 73 Plug-In
Massenburg DesignWorks Parametric EQ 5 Plug-In Compatible With Pro Tools 11
Radial Engineering StageBug SB-7 EarMuff Headphone Interface
Audio-Technica Next-Generation M-Series Headphones
Aphex 500 Series Modules: CX 500 & Project 500
Blue Sky Star System One 2.1 Studio Monitors
Cerwin-Vega! Expands XD Desktop Loudspeaker Series
PreSonus Temblor T10 Studio Subwoofer
SSL Matrix2 Studio Console
Equator Audio FB/E Sound Abatement Panels
Focusrite iTrack Dock For iPad
Aphex IN2 Desktop Audio Interface
iZotope BreakTweaker Drum Sculpting & Beat Sequencing

Audio Tools
Audio-Technica Next-Generation M-Series Headphones
IsoAcoustics Custom Configurable Modular Acoustic Isolation Stands
JBL Professional VRX Line Array Calculator
CAD Audio Expands Acousti-Shield Line With AS22 & AS16
Radial Engineering Headload Guitar Amplifier Attenuator
Sensaphonics 3D AARO In-Ear Monitoring System
New Sennheiser DJ Headphones
Hosa Technology Edge Series Microphone, Loudspeaker & Guitar Cables
“Musical iPad: Performing, Creating & Learning Music On Your iPad” From Hal Leonard
Waves Audio Dugan Automixer Plug-In
Equator Audio FB/E Sound Abatement Panels

Show News
Meet The Winners Of The Fifth Annual Readers Choice Best Product Awards
Yorkville Returns Production Of YX Series Loudspeakers To Canada
Mr. Bonzai Hosts Bold “Producers” Panel At 2014 NAMM Show
Winners Of The 29th Annual TEC Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards
Harman Pro Components Make Up Concert System For Grand Plaza Main Stage
Furman Celebrates 40th Anniversary
SSL Establishes Live Console Distribution In Austria And Hungary
AM&S Names Evan MacKenzie To Lead Marketing Communications
Pivitec Appoints John Garbutt National Sales Manager
MUSIC Group Appoints Greg McLagan AVP, Business Development Professional Division
Furman Rejoins D-Tools Manufacturer Vantage Point (MVP) Program
More Than 100 Live Music Performances At 2014 NAMM Show
NAMM Foundation Inducts Breakthrough Inventions At TECnology Hall Of Fame Ceremony

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Posted by Keith Clark on 02/02 at 03:10 PM
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Behind The Glass: An Interview With Producer/Engineer Kevin Killen

Sharing insights into the industry and thoughts for aspiring engineers.

Sometimes a little humility—combined with tenacity—can go a long way.

Consider the career of engineer/producer Kevin Killen, who was willing to start at the bottom rung of the ladder not once, not twice, but three times before he finally broke through to the pinnacle of his profession, manning the board for the likes of U2, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Jewel, Lindsey Buckingham, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, and Paula Cole.

Rewind the tape to 1979, when a young Killen began working as an assistant engineer at a small demo studio in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland.

After six months of doing jingles and low-budget sessions for local artists, he worked his way up to engineer, and then moved on to the more prestigious Windmill Lane studios—despite the fact that he had to return to assisting.

There he met an up-and-coming Irish band called U2, working with producer Steve Lillywhite on their War album before engineering their 1984 release The Unforgettable Fire (with producer Brian Eno).

Later that same year he made the fateful—and gutsy—decision to relocate to New York, even though he knew hardly anyone in the Big Apple and had to essentially start from scratch, working as an assistant engineer once again.

It wasn’t long before Killen’s perseverance and self-confidence began paying dividends big time, garnering him production duties with the ’80s techno-pop band Mr. Mister and the first of a long series of engineering and co-production gigs with Elvis Costello.

We met up with Killen at New York’s famed Avatar studios. Articulate and thoughtful, Killen shared his philosophical approach towards making lasting records, focusing on both aesthetic and technical considerations.

How do you see the rise of the home studio as having had an impact on your career?

The way the industry has been going the past couple of years, I’ve been forced to be creative in stretching a budget and finding ways to make a $100,000 record sound like a $500,000 record.

Like a lot of people now, I’ll go in and track at a recognized studio for two or three weeks, and then for the vast majority of overdubs I’ll go to somebody’s house or a low-budget room with Pro Tools LE and a couple of reasonable-sounding microphones and mic pres—I’ve got a couple of friends who literally have little studios in their bedrooms. Then I’ll go back into a big room to mix.

If you’re on a limited budget, do you think it’s more important to have a good mic, or a good mic preamp?

In the home studio, it seems to me that the most critical thing is the chain from the micro-phone into the recording media, followed by the monitoring system.

A good mic pre. It will make a not-so-good sounding microphone sparkle a little bit more while a bad mic pre will diminish its response. Fortunately, there are many good mic pres out there that are affordable for the home recordist on a budget.

Do you tend to favor the straight-wire approach in a mic pre, or do you look for one that imparts a little character or color to the signal?

It depends upon the project. For home recordings, a mic pre that has less coloration is probably the one that I would advise using, if you’re trying to accurately represent what you’re hearing.

But if you’re trying to take a sound and morph it into something else, then the chain of processing doesn’t really matter because you’re going to seriously alter the sound anyway.

If you want to get an accurate representation, then you need to spend the time listening to the musician and moving the microphone around.

What if the microphone itself isn’t that great—perhaps because you’ve spent most of your budget on the mic preamp?

Wouldn’t you then want to use a preamp that enhances the sound of that not-so-great mic, as opposed to one that delivers the sound in an uncolored way?

No, I still think the straight-wire approach is the way to go. That brings to mind a project I did with producer Pat Leonard in Los Angeles; the artist was a classically trained pianist. We had a nine-foot Bosendorfer [piano] and a seven-foot Yamaha with the MIDI module.

We miked the Bosendorfer with a pair of B&Ks, but the Yamaha was miked up with a pair of [Shure SM] 57s, running through a pair of Neve mic pres. We were looking for the distinction between a very elegant piano sound and one that would really suit a pop recording, with a lot of elements surrounding the piano, so we didn’t want it to be all that broad-sounding.

So I do think the mic pre is the critical element, along with the placement of the mics and the touch of the player, and of course the quality of the instrument itself. It’s a combination of events that really articulate the sound.

Was the Yamaha piano miked in a standard stereo configuration?

Yes, just standard stereo, one 57 picking up the treble strings and the other picking up the bass strings, about a foot and a half apart.

No real trickery involved; again, I took the time to listen to what it sounded like in the room. Interestingly, on Elvis Costello’s North, I used an [AKG] C24 on the piano, just right down the middle of the soundboard, but I spotted a couple of [Neumann] KM 86s on the outside to see if I could add a little width to it.

On some songs they really helped, and on some songs they didn’t. So you pick and choose, depending on what kind of sonic landscape you’re trying to create.

You cut your teeth recording a lot of jingles. A lot of recording engineers say that they found the experience of doing jingles invaluable because it taught them to work quickly.

In a two- or three-hour jingle session, you may cut three or four different spots; plus you overdub them with voiceovers and additional information, mix down, edit, and copy, and they’re out the door with a whole neat package.

In comparison, making a record seems like a long drawn-out process that takes weeks or months, but as an engineer you still need to be able to work fast when the artist is ready to record. If you broke down how much time during those weeks the creative juices are actually flowing in terms of performances, it’s really a very small amount of time.

But you’re waiting for time to happen, and you’re trying to do everything you can to manipulate the environment so that when the artist feels they are ready, they can just fold into it and you’re recording. All the rest is just setting up for that moment.

It’s probably easier with home recording, because you’re in a very comfortable environment. Even for a lot of seasoned musicians, just the notion that they’re in a studio environment gives them red-light fever: “Okay, we’re putting it under the microscope.” Musicians often comment, “It was much easier in rehearsal,” and they’re right, it is easier because you’re not thinking about it.

I was just reading the other day about [famed jazz producer] Rudy Van Gelder’s first studio in Hackensack New Jersey, which was in his father’s house—the original home studio.

He’s quoted as saying that the reason a lot of the seminal Blue Note recordings were so great was because people just felt so comfortable in that studio—he even had home furniture there. The musicians would think, “We’re not recording,” but here were all of these classic recordings being created.

If a classic recording that stands the test of time can actually come out of a home studio, what is the role of the professional studio?

To provide the technical backup and a level of excellence that’s hard to match in a home studio.

In most top-line studios, the sound is just so superior, and if you have a problem there’s somebody there to fix it immediately.

You’re not questioning the wiring or the tape alignment, and usually the room you’re listening in is a more critical environment when you’re trying to make final decisions, especially during mixdown.

Any time I’ve spent weeks or months doing a home recording, I’ve always felt an enormous benefit as soon as I’ve come into a professional room to mix.

It’s not that I’ve been dissatisfied with what I’ve recorded; I just feel that the sound I visualize in my head can be more readily achieved in a professional studio when I get to the mixdown stage.

It seems that one of the popular myths of home recording today is that because the technology allows so many ways to manipulate or “fix” a signal, that it’s less important to start with a quality recording.

It is a myth. Why spend the time to fix something that’s basically subpar? Why not just get it right? If you think about a record as an emotional context in which a performance resides, then you should be willing to accept certain imperfections as long as it tells a story when it comes out of the speaker.

All of these elements combine to make the listener feel removed, or engaged. Personally, I’d much rather have somebody be engaged and accept the warts. If you try to fix it and you find that it’s better technically but not better emotionally, I’d sooner go with the more emotional performance.

I find that this kind of philosophy is common in engineers who come from having to record a lot of real musicians over a long period of time, and in different genres of music.

Many of the young engineers who are coming up are technologically savvy and are into the manipulation of sound, and they do amazing work—it’s really fascinating to see what they do with audio—but I couldn’t even remotely try and replicate it. Even though some of it’s not my aesthetic, I can certainly listen to it and go, “That sure as hell is cool.”

But it’s also unreal, and there’s no way they can recreate it live onstage. Of course, nobody says you should have to be able to do that—it is a different medium, after all.

If the performance is great, that’s the thing that’s going to come across, time and time again. As far as the notion of constantly correcting something, there’s a consequence to every correction. It might sound perfect—whatever your version of “perfect” means to you—but you’re going to remove a tangible ingredient.

The question with new technology is, how much do you leave and how much do you correct? It depends on the artist.

If you’re working with someone who has gotten away with masking their inabilities and you’re using technology to correct their imperfections, then it makes the job more difficult. Ideally, you want to go in, set the microphone, get a sound, hit Record, and get a wonderful reading of what they’re trying to do.

Of course, we all know that’s not necessarily the case—and you can only hide behind the technology for so long. Maybe that’s part of the reason why some new artists have an initial success with their first album release, but then when they go on the road, they can’t even come close to replicating those performances.

People see through that. Personally I feel cheated when an artist cannot deliver a credible performance onstage. As the saying goes: “In time. In tune. With feeling.” Is that too much to ask?

When you produce records, you engineer as well, which seems like quite a tall order.

It is a tall order, because it’s always good to have another set of ears in the room. It’s easy to convince yourself that something is working when you know instinctively it’s not—you just want to move the process along.

And then, in the cold, harsh light of day you come back and say, “What was I thinking??” Whereas if you had another set of trusted ears around, you might say, “Okay, we need to try something else here.”

When you’re starting a project, do you have an end goal that you’re working towards sonically?

It depends. If the artist has an identifiable sound that they just wish to expand upon, then I have an idea of what I think it can sound like at the end, so I’ll try and move towards that.

But I’m also willing to go with the flow, because the best-laid plans don’t necessarily materialize, so you’ve got to be flexible.

Sometimes it takes you a couple of songs to really identify the strength of the collective group of people in the room.

All of a sudden you go, “Okay, this is what these people really do exceptionally well,” and then you hone the sound towards that.

I still try to make it different enough from song to song so it doesn’t sound like I just repeated the same trick, but also sounding familiar enough that it feels cohesive from top to bottom.

I’ll try different drums, different drum kits; maybe instead of using a full-size drum kit, I’ll use a smaller-sized kit. Things like starting out with one sound in the verses and expanding on it in the choruses, or vice versa.

And so much of it is dependent on the lyrics. If it’s a lyrically intensive song, then I think so much of it is about space and not about the constant musical backing.

So you’re saying you actually shape the music to fit the lyrical content.

Oh, yeah. I love the musical backdrop, but I usually start my mix by pushing up the vocal fader so I’m building from that perspective.

At some point I’ll turn the voice off for a couple of minutes and listen to the musical balance, but I’m always thinking in terms of telling a story. The voice is the thing that’s leading the story; the other elements are supporting components.

What criteria do you use to determine whether you want to work with a new artist?

Good songs, the ability to perform, and a strong personality. I’m looking for somebody who’s got a vision and a passion.

I don’t want it to be so considered-sounding that they think, “I can be a musician and an artist because I’m smart and I’m technically able to do these things and my level of musicianship is high enough.”

I want people who are really passionate about music, because that’s what ultimately comes across. There are some artists out there who are really good, who may be very competent musicians, but they don’t have the desire to be incredibly successful.

Some producers try to avoid working with strong-willed artists, preferring instead to work with people who are willing to be shaped and molded.

Ultimately the artists who are most successful are the ones who are most driven. That doesn’t mean you have to butt heads with them; they can be incredibly affable people, even if that desire burns within them.

I distinctly remember working with U2 and thinking that the whole band was so driven, but it didn’t seem overt. They just wanted to be the best band in the world. They didn’t have to step over a lot of people to achieve it, either—they just let their music do it for them.

I was fortunate enough to do the first Paula Cole record and she had that same passion. She had the drive to want to succeed—same with most of the artists I’ve been fortunate to work with. Some have been more successful than others, but they all had that passion.

Often, an artist has a successful debut album working with an established producer and then they decide they can take over the production themselves on the second album and fall short.

Well, producing a record is not just about making the musical decisions. There are so many other things, from choosing the right musicians to choosing the right studio. Then there are all the intangibles, like figuring out how to work the budget.

You need to understand how all the decisions you’re making on a day-to-day basis affect the bottom line, and how that’s going to impact on how you finish the record.

Knowing how to coax the best performances out of people, having the ability to step back, keeping the overall vision. Some artists have that vision themselves, of course—Prince is a great example—but it’s a tough job.

Coming from where I sit, I think the best records are made in the collaborative process. Most artists will tell you that their record turned out sonically different and probably much better than they ever imagined because of that interaction of the collective in the room.

Some-times it happens by accident, sometimes it happens by design, but who cares as long as the net result is a compelling piece of music?

Perhaps it’s that lack of collaborative process that is the biggest negative about home recording.

Unfortunately, the same is true for musicians as it is for engineers—in a home studio they not only don’t get to work with one another, they don’t get to work with other people that might be floating around in a professional studio complex.

People that you admire are suddenly in the room next to you and you think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I had so-and-so come in and play on a track?” Those kinds of accidents can be wonderful things.

People doing all their own recording and mixing at home tend to work in isolation. They even try to do their own mastering—you give someone a [Waves] L1 and they think they’re a mastering engineer!

I would never even remotely think I was a mastering engineer; I don’t know anything about mastering, other than that I have a good sense of who the great mastering engineers are.

I learn every time I go into a mastering suite—watching the incredible clarity they get out of a recording just by making a tiny adjustment. It’s amazing, but they spend years training to do that, so why not take advantage of all that accumulated experience?

You’re known for not putting decisions off, for not giving yourself tons of options to deal with at the end of a project.

Absolutely. It’s a very simple philosophy: trust your instincts, decide on a course of action, and follow through on it. If that means printing a particular effect, don’t be afraid to make that decision.

You always have the option of saving the session in various different ways—one with a printed effect on a particular instrument, and another with just the raw data, so that if you decide at a later point that there’s something wrong, you can rebalance.

But there is something special that happens when you make a decision. For those of us who had to work on 16-track or 24-track analog, when you only had a certain number of tracks, you didn’t use 16 tracks on drums or even 8 tracks—you used 4 or 6 tracks.

So you committed to that sound early on, and that became the basis and foundation from which all your other judgements were made.

By the time you got to mix, you felt that the record was already pretty much done—you just pushed the faders up. It wasn’t that you were trying to achieve the sound [in the mix]—you’d already established the sound beforehand.

So at that point you were just trying to correct some minor imperfections that you perceived. There’s nothing wrong with making a commitment to the sound; that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, after all.

Why put it off until later? You might lose the sound—you might be monitoring through a particular delay or reverb but when you come back the next day it doesn’t sound the same anymore, and that affects how you view the performance.

Just print it. If you don’t like it at a later point, just erase it. But if you at least print it, there will be no question as to what it was. That’s definitely still my philosophy.

But if you print every effect you try, you’ll end up with lots and lots of tracks, hence lots of decisions to make at mix time.

I don’t necessarily print the effects separately, though. Let’s say I’m recording a guitar and the musician has some effects of his or her own and I add some more effects to make a nice stereo spread. I would then print it as a single stereo track, rather than doing individual tracks for each effect.

If I feel—and if the musician agrees—that’s a great sound and that’s what we want to hear every time we come into the control room, then I’m going to commit to it.

I find a lot of artists are reticent about doing that: “Oh, let’s make the decision later on.” No, I say let’s make the decision now, so that your future decisions are based upon something that you’re actually going to use, as opposed to something you think you may want to use.

You make those decisions and then the mix doesn’t take five days to do; the basic mix should be done in about five or six hours. With the overall tone and shape of the recording already set, you can take the luxury of time to step back and get into the details.

What advice can you give the young reader who wants to be the next Kevin Killen?

Well, corny as it sounds, I would just say follow your dreams, wherever they take you. My dream was to take what I learned in Dublin and to see if it would work on a bigger stage.

I was heartened by the fact that it seemed to, and I take incredible comfort from the knowledge that I’ve worked on some great records, but it was pure luck. Yes, I had the aptitude and I had the talent, but it was also being in the right place at the right time.

So it’s about not giving up, and like so many things in this business, it’s also about your personality. There are a lot of people out there who are incredibly gifted, but their personalities don’t necessarily lend themselves to being embraced by a lot of people.

You just have to keep remembering that the person that you met today who you think is of no consequence could be somebody of consequence tomorrow.

That doesn’t mean you have to brown-nose them all the time; it just means you have to treat them as you want to be treated. Ultimately, if you’re good enough, you’ll get there.

The final piece of advice is to respect your hearing. Be safety conscious when you go to shows and monitor at reasonable levels. Remember that your mix has to sound good at any level. Do not be afraid to protect your most valuable commodity.

Suggested Listening:
Peter Gabriel: So, Geffen, 1986

U2: War, Island, 1983; The Unforgettable Fire, Island, 1984; Rattle and Hum, Island, 1988

Elvis Costello: Spike, Warner Bros., 1989; The Juliet Letters, Warner Bros., 1993; Kojak Variety, Warner Bros., 1995; North, Deutsche Grammophon, 2003

Shakira: Oral Fixation, Volume One, 2005; Oral Fixation, Volume Two, Epic, 2005

Shawn Colvin: Steady On, 1989

Paula Cole: Harbinger, Imago, 1994

To acquire “Behind The Glass: Volume II” from Backbeat Books, click over to www.musicdispatch.com. NOTE: ProSoundWeb readers can enter promotional code NY9 when checking out to receive an additional 20% off the retail price plus free shipping (offer valid to U.S. residents, applies only to media mail shipping, additional charges may apply for expedited mailing services).

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/28 at 06:30 AM
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Manley Debuts CORE Reference Channel Strip

Manley Labs today announced the CORE, an analog channel strip.

Manley Labs announced the CORE, an analog channel strip.  CORE is an innovative and affordable mic preamplifier, compressor, equalizer, and limiter combo-unit that combines the greatest hits of the Manley product line with fresh technology. 

The intuitive design incorporates musical and forgiving circuitry that allows the user to concentrate on performance rather than be lost in a sea of knobs.  No other channel strip at this price point offers higher headroom or higher end sound than the CORE, which is, like all Manley products, handcrafted in Southern California.

“As more musicians are contributing to a project remotely, coached by the recording engineer over the telephone, we saw the need to provide an affordable and easy-to-use, excellent sounding recording channel for these guys. They aren’t engineers, they are musicians!” commented EveAnna Manley, president of Manley Labs.  “The CORE is feature-laden without being confusing. Its whole purpose is to give the musician the tools he needs to turn in a great sounding track.”

Front panel controls include 48V Phantom power switch, 120Hz High Pass Filter switch, Phase Invert switch. Input Attenuator (Variable Pad), Mic Pre Selectable Gain 40 dB or 60 dB (Total Gain >70 dB) and Line Amp Selectable Gain 20 dB or 40 dB,

The Mic-Line preamplifier features a hand-wound Manley IRON® input transformer with nickel laminations in a mu-metal can, Class A tube amplifying stage circuit topology (similar to the Manley VOXBOX® and Manley Dual Mono & Mono Microphone Preamplifiers), all-triode high voltage vacuum tube circuit and regulated 300 Volt B+ supply.

A quarter-inch direct input is similar to the DI in the Manley SLAM! with all-discrete solid-state circuit and 10 Meg Ohm input impedance (ideal for guitars, bass, keyboards, etc.).

The on-board compressor utilizes the ELOP technology also found in the Manley VOXBOX and is placed before the mic preamp making it virtually impossible to clip. It offers a ratio of 3:1, continuously variable Attack, Release, and Threshold controls and a silent bypass switch.

The equalizer has low and high Baxandall shelves (80 Hz and 12 kHz) with ± 12dB range and a sweepable midrange bell EQ (100 Hz – 1 kHz) or (1–10 kHz) with ±10dB range.

A fast attack FET brickwall limiter offers continuously variable threshold and release controls, a Peak Limit LED indicator and 10dB range output gain control.

A large illuminated analog display provides a 3-way meter select to read Compressor gain reduction, Mic Preamp Output level, and Main Output audio levels.

Inputs and outputs include balanced XLR mic inputs and line inputs, a front panel direct instrument 1/4” input, insert point between Mic Preamp/Compressor and EQ/Limiter via 1/4” TRS jack, balanced XLR direct output (after Preamp/Compressor section) and balanced XLR main output.

Availability and Pricing: The Manley Core is available Q2 2014 at a MSRP of US $2250.00.

Manley Labs

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Posted by Julie Clark on 01/23 at 06:41 AM
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rupert Neve Designs Launching 551 Inductor EQ At 2014 NAMM Show

Includes three bands of EQ inspired by Neve’s most prized vintage designs

At the 2014 NAMM Show, Rupert Neve Designs is launching the 551 Inductor EQ, the first and only equalizer for the 500-series designed by Rupert Neve.

The 551 includes three bands of EQ inspired by Neve’s most prized vintage designs, along with custom-wound inductors, transformers and class-A gain blocks, it brings the thick, powerful lows and sweet highs of Rupert’s classics to the 500-series format.

The 551 echoes Neve’s classic 3-band EQ feature set, with a custom inductor, switched frequencies and a HPF. Traditional transformer-coupled inputs and outputs designed specifically for the 500-series are used for both technical performance reasons and optimum musical reproduction.

The 551 will begin shipping in late January 2014 with a U.S. list price of $950.

The 3-band, custom-tapped inductor EQ on the 551 was inspired by RND’s favorite portions of Rupert’s vintage EQ designs. The low frequency band is designed to produce a creamy, resonant bass response – however, unlike the vintage modules that inspired it, the LF band on the 551 can be used as either a shelf or a peak filter, adding punch, dimension, and control to your low end.

The 551’s inductor midrange band is ideal for sweetening vocals and instruments while bringing them forward in a mix, and its proportional “Q” response makes it well-suited for minimizing problematic frequencies.

The high-frequency band is a hybrid vintage/modern design, blending inductor circuitry with capacitor-based topologies to achieve vintage tones with enhanced control.

The high-pass filter is a 12 dB/octave design with a fixed 80 Hz frequency, and can be used in tandem with the low frequency EQ to add low-end presence without clouding the source material.

As Neve originally intended with his most prized classic designs, each EQ section uses low-feedback, class-A discrete electronics to prevent low-level artifacts and harshness from detracting from the tonal shaping.

However, the updated EQ circuit of the 551 is a decidedly modern design using techniques and components that were simply not available 35 years ago, and should not be considered a “clone”.

Both the high and low band can be switched from shelf to peak curves and offer 15 dB of boost or cut. The high band can be switched from 8 kHz to 16 kHz, and the low band can be selected at 35 Hz, 60 Hz, 100 Hz or 220 Hz.

The inductor-based mid band offers six center frequencies; 200 Hz, 350 Hz, 700 Hz, 1.5 kHz, 3 kHz and 6 kHz. The mid band also has a “Mid Hi Q” switch to narrow the bandwidth (increase the Q) of the filter.

“While creating functional 500-series modules is relatively simple,” Neve states, “designing those modules to equal their non-500-series counterparts with the current, voltage and space restraints is quite challenging. In creating our own 500-Series modules, we experimented with a number of different transformer and circuit designs to achieve the same presence and sweetness found in the Portico Series of modules.

“The result of these efforts is that outside of the slightly lowered headroom, our 500-series modules are nearly indistinguishable from standard Portico Series modules, and are perfectly suited for studios of the highest caliber.”

Another element unique to the 551 is the custom-wound inductor in the EQ circuitry. Inductors are wires wound around a coil that provide a form of frequency-dependent resistance. When they saturate, they bring out beautifully musical harmonics that give tracks the smooth, polished sound that has made Neve’s consoles and equipment so desirable for over 50 years.

With an extreme attention to detail towards variables like the winding and core materials in relation to the surrounding EQ circuitry, the 551’s custom inductor helps the EQ capture the vitality of Neve’s vintage modules, while still retaining its own sonic signature.

Rupert Neve Designs

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/21 at 05:51 AM
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Monday, January 20, 2014

Church Sound: The Basics Of Mixing Console Channel Inserts

One of the features often found on the rear panel of a mixing console is the channel insert. The insert serves simultaneously as both an input and an output for either a single channel or for some other signal path, such as a submix or main output bus.

It is a point in the signal path at which the signal can be detoured — sent out of the mixer — and then returned to its normally scheduled programming, creating what is called an effects loop. In other words, it allows you to “insert” an outboard device into the signal path.

On many mixers, a single 1/4-inch three-conductor jack provides connections for both an input and an output. What would you do with such a strange jack?

1. Apply effects to a channel or submix. Because an insert is both an input and an output, you can route the signal from the channel out to a reverb, compressor, limiter, etc., and then back into the channel. You might send the signal to a noise gate to automatically “turn off” a mic when it’s not in use.

Reducing the number of mics that are on, or “open”, reduces the risk of feedback and improves your signal-to-noise ratio.

2. Use it as a direct output, like a post-mic preamp, but pre low-cut filter, mute, EQ, fader, etc. Just because you’re sending something out doesn’t mean you have to bring it back. You can use each insert to send a “direct out” signal to a line-level input of a tape recorder, or to another mixer for a broadcast or recording feed.

At the mixer end of your direct out cable, you’ll want a standard 1/4-inch mono (or TS, tip/sleeve) phone plug. Push the phone plug part way into the insert jack, just to the first click. This will route the direct out signal via the cable, without interrupting the signal flow in the mixer.

If you insert the plug all the way to the second click, you will still get a direct out signal, but the signal in the channel will be interrupted at that point — removed from the mix.

3. Insert a signal through a “Y” cable — using the insert as both a direct out and an effects loop. As an alternate approach, create your effects loop as described earlier, then insert a “Y” adapter after the processor to affect (compress, for example) both the direct out and the individual channel in the mix.

A good application for this might be to compress a pastor’s lapel mic or a pulpit mic, in both the house mix and a recording or broadcast.

Whether you use them as part of your normal setup every week, or just to solve an occasional routing problem, inserts add tremendously to the versatility of your mixing console.

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Article provided by Mackie.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/20 at 02:01 PM
Church SoundFeatureBlogStudy HallAnalogConsolesInterconnectMixerSound ReinforcementPermalink

Harrison Consoles Unveils 950mx Analog Console (Includes Video)

For facilities that need an analog monitoring, mixing, and summing solution when working with a DAW

Harrison Consoles has introduced the 950mx analog console, intended for facilities that need an analog monitoring, mixing, and summing solution when working with a DAW. 

The 950mx provides large-format console sound and construction while forgoing the expensive multitrack buses and inline monitoring features that have become less necessary with modern DAW workflows. It can act as a centerpiece for a commercial recording studio, live 2-track recording rig, or project studio.

Harrison has been building consoles since 1975, and the 950mx incorporates design elements found across a wide range of console models such as the 32 Series, MR Series (2, 3, 4, 5 and 7), SeriesTen, SeriesTwelve, MPC and LPC.

The 950mx offers a robust ground plane, gold module connectors, gold-plated switches, conductive plastic knobs, and fully-differential balanced I/O at every point.  The summing buses are carried via PCBs, not ribbon cables. A custom-designed linear power supply provides rock-steady voltage for clean sound, robust EQs, and generous headroom.

All 950mx mono input modules now feature individually switchable, sweepable high-and-low pass filters, and 3-band sweepable EQ - featuring the same circuitry as the original Harrison 32-series consoles. 

Mono input channels also feature switchable inserts, a mic pre (switchable to a line input), four aux sends, 100mm P+G faders, two mix bus assignments, and a post-fader direct output. 

Stereo input modules feature switchable high-and-low pass filters, 3-band tone controls, balance, channel reverse, mono-sum, input trim, four aux sends, 100mm P+G faders, and two mix bus assignments.  Another user-requested feature was the addition of an alternate speaker output.

The mono and stereo modules of the 950m and 950mx are interchangable, and, 950m users can arrange to have their mono channels updated to the reflect the new features of the 950mx.

The 950mx console also includes discrete mix buses, each offering a different flavor at mixdown. Mix Bus 1 features a transformer-balanced output, while Mix Bus 2 is electronically-balanced. The buses can be used separately or may be summed to achieve effects like parallel compression.

The 24-module version is now available in a stand-alone format with optional legs. For customers with existing analog gear, Harrison has designed a matching line of studio furniture to complement the 950mx console. These pieces include a “sidecar” which provides 10 rack spaces at the desk surface, and a 16-space standalone rack. Both pieces use the same laser-cut and powder-coated aluminum framing as the 950mx - providing a professional and cohesive look for any 950mx user.

 

Harrison Consoles

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/20 at 07:57 AM
Live SoundRecordingNewsVideoProductAnalogConsolesDigital Audio WorkstationsMixerStudioPermalink

Unit Audio Debuts New 16-Channel Analog Summing Mixer With Panning

Addition of two pan switches allows placement of channels 1 and 2 in monaural (center), or hard left (ch 1) or hard right (ch 2)

Unit Audio has introduced the Unit 16 x 2, the latest addition to the company’s line of passive analog summing mixers.

It offers the same panning flexibility as the 8 x 2 Micro-Unit with the addition of two pan switches that allows placement of channels 1 and 2 in monaural (center), or hard left (ch 1) or hard right (ch 2). 

Unit Audio analog summing mixers are designed to add back some of the “sparkle and punch” of analog recording that can go missing in a purely “in the box” mix. (Sound samples are available on the company website here.)

“With modern DAW software, mixing within the computer has resulted in some great sounding recordings, but I have long been intrigued by the concept of analog summing to get my DAW mixes out of the box,” explains Unit Audio design engineer Terry Auger. “I was not prepared to pay $800 or more to find out for myself, so I engineered and built my own.

“Then to test the theory,” he continues, “I set out to see if there was any difference in the mixed sound. Much to my amazement and pleasure, I did notice a subtle but very pleasing difference in the stereo separation and placement of the instruments compared to my “in the box” mixes. If you’re mixing on an analog console or through outboard analog gear, you have no use for these mixers, but if all of your mixing is done in the box, you will be surprised at the difference they make”

Unit Audio mixers are built hand-wired, point-to-point in Nashville, TN, using top-quality components like Neutrik connectors and Xicon resistors.

Pricing for the new Unit 16 x 2 starts at $299 (plus shipping), with further information, options and purchase available here.

Unit Audio

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/20 at 05:24 AM
Live SoundRecordingNewsProductAnalogDigital Audio WorkstationsInterconnectMixerSignalStudioPermalink

Thursday, January 16, 2014

DAD AX32 From NTP Technology Now Supports 48 Analog Channels

The DAD AX32 is now available with version 1.3 firmware which accommodates up to a total of 48 channels of analogue inputs or analogue outputs or a combination thereof.

NTP Technology announces a major addition to the capabilities of its DAD AX32 ultra-high-quality digital/analogue/digital converter.

The AX32 is now available with version 1.3 firmware which accommodates up to a total of 48 channels of analogue inputs or analogue outputs or a combination thereof.

As a result, the AX32 can have 48 microphone preamplifier and converter inputs or a combination of 32 input channels and 16 output channels.

A total of six analog cards can be housed in the AX32. Each card slot accepts an eight-channel line-level A/D converter, eight-channel microphone input or eight-channel D/A converter with analogue line output. The cards can be combined in any permutation.

Version 1.3 also adds the ability to control the sampling rate of the IP audio interface powered by Dante (TM), and full support for redundant IP audio connection plus a word clock output feature supporting all the sample rate frequencies (44.1 to 192 kilohertz) or just the base sample rate of 44.1 or 48 kilohertz.

All the functionality is controlled from the DADman 4.0 with new comprehensive features for channel strip management of all the channels, as well as an improved router matrix configuration.

Existing AX32 units can be upgraded with the new firmware and DADman control software. New firmware for the Dante Brooklyn II IP Audio card is also available. System configuration is highly flexible and includes IP Layer 3 Ethernet-based audio networking powered by Dante.

Up to 48 full-bandwidth channels can be forwarded via the AX32 along a single Category 5 cable using IP. This ensures flexible and cost-efficient cabling from a recording studio to a control room. The connections can be part of a standard Gigabit Ethernet local area network.

The optional microphone preamplifier incorporates analogue gain control in 0.5 decibel steps as well as digital gain control with 0.1 decibel precision. Dynamic range of analogue to digital and digital to analogue conversion is 126 decibels. The preamplifier’s equivalent noise floor is -132 decibels.

The AX32 is equipped with AES/EBU and MADI inputs and outputs plus a Dante interface for use with compatible third-party products as well as audio workstations running on Apple OS X or Windows platforms.

A versatile interface structure allows the analogue-to-digital, digital-to-digital and digital-to-analogue converters to be assigned to any digital interface, as well as patching between the interfaces on a channel-to-channel basis.

The AX32 can be controlled from the front panel which interacts with four adjacent pushbuttons to allow adjustment of key converter parameters. Full remote control can be accomplished using NTP Technology’s DADman software or via Ethernet.

Existing users of DAD audio converters include Abbey Road Studios, Alchemy Mastering, Bauer Studios, Benny Andersson’s RMV Studio, Classic Sound, CMC Studios, Collegium Records, Danish Radio, DEX Mastering, DPA Microphones, Echopark Studios, Galaxy Studios, Hana Music Montreux, Helsinki Music Centre, Lindberg lyd, Magne Furuholmen, Master Touch, McGill University, Moscow Music Conservatory, NDR Hamburg, NHK, NRK, Opéra de Dijon, QVC shopping channel, Real Sound, Royal Danish Opera House, Royal Opera House London, Sidney Opera House, SK Works, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, SoundWorks/Jeff Sheridan, Spanish Radio, St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Stock Fish Records, Swedish Radio, Telarc International, Timbre Music, Ultimo Productions and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra.

NTP Technology

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Posted by Julie Clark on 01/16 at 10:41 AM
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