Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Midas Releases New PRO1 And PRO2 Console Firmware
The G3.2.1 update brings with it a number of benefits including a spectrum analyzer and loudspeaker processor
Midas announce PRO1 and PRO2 digital console version G3.2.1 firmware is now available, and fully available to the public.
This update brings a whole host of new features, and a series of updates for a more satisfying user experience.
Complete with built in DSP and MIDAS mic preamps, both PRO consoles are lightweight and versatile.
The G3.2.1 update replaces G2.5.3, and brings with it a number of benefits.
For example, in VCA/POP group user mode, users can now reorder channels within a group, and there is now a spectrum analyzer and loudspeaker processor built in.
The DL231 MIDI ports are now active, and a new effects automation ‘safe button’ is in place (in GUI). Users can now easily connect second ports to DL151/DL153 devices, and turn off bulkhead fans with auto on for temperature-sensitive diagnostic purposes.
“Enhancing the user experience is – and always will be, our number one goal,” stated Music Group’s Pete Sadler, AVP, software.
“Our new version G3.2.1 firmware gives the audio engineer a powerful new set of tools, and provides a significant enhancement to the application’s already spectacular feature set – and this is just the beginning.”
To view all the new features and operational enhancements in the G3.2.1 firmware release or to download free of charge, please visit the Midas website.
In the world of recording there are numerous kinds of effects. However, often there are more terms and details specific to each device than the average engineer would care to learn before jumping in and using the new equipment.
Details are very important, though, and are critical to understanding the basic opperation of all equipment. So let’s take a look at threshold based effects and make sure we all have a good understand of how they work and just what everything means.
Some effects are triggered when a sound volume passes a specific point called a threshold. A good example of a threshold based effect is a gate. A gate will mute a sound (stop it from playing) until the sound reaches a loud enough volume to reach the threshold.
Then the gate will open and the sound will play. Quiet sounds that are below the threshold will not trigger the gate to open and loud sounds that are at or higher than the threshold will trigger the gate to open and the sound to be heard.
This makes a gate very handy if you wanted to be able to hear important loud sounds and automatically mute quiet sounds that are not supposed to be heard, such as low background sounds or noises.
Some effects will become more extreme when the sound passes beyond the threshold and keeps getting louder.
A ratio of 1:1.
For example a distortion effect that starts to sound dirty when a sound reaches a minimal threshold volume will get dirtier as the incoming sound gets louder.
Some effects use a ratio to set the amount of processing that happens once the threshold is passed. For example, an effect used to control volume (a compressor / limiter) can be set to a ratio of 1:1 (no change past the threshold), a low ratio such as 2:1 (for every 2 dB of volume increase the compressor only allows 1dB of change), a heavier ratio such as 8:1 (for every 8 dB of volume increase the compressor only allows 1 dB of change) or a very heavy compression ratio (called limiting) such as 10:1.
You can even limit sound using a ratio of infinity : 1, which means that no matter how much louder the incoming sound gets beyond the threshold everything will be squeezed into only 1 dB of change.
Although usually the sound that is being processed in the effect is used to judge if the threshold is reached and the effect is triggered, it is possible to use an external trigger (called an external key) to trigger the effect.
Imagine a long sustaining vocal note that is being processed with a gate that is using an external key from a drum beat. The gate would open when the drum beat reached the threshold and the vocal note would be heard with the timing of the drum beat.
It is possible to use a side chain to trigger the threshold, which often involves using the original sound for the trigger, but processed. A typical example of this would be if you have a snare drum recording with leakage from the kick that you want to remove. The snare will be much brighter sounding than the kick, which will sound more like a thud.
Multiple ratios demonstrating compression.
If you used a gate on the track, but instead of just using the track from the trigger you first used an EQ to remove low thud parts of the sound and accentuate the bright parts, then the trigger will have more snare sound than kick and more easily hit the threshold only when the snare is playing but not the kick.
Another example is to use a compressor on a vocal to reduce how loud sounds get, but to trigger that compressor using an EQ’d sidechain that has all the low sounds removed so you can only hear the SSS of the vocal.
Such a sidechain would compress only when the sss sound is heard, which will created something called a de-esser which is used to control sibilance in vocal performances.
Threshold effects sometimes use attack, hold and release settings. Attack refers to the speed with which the effect will begin to work after the threshold is crossed.
Release refers to the speed with which the effect settings will return to the original setting if the trigger goes down below the threshold level.
Hold (also called sustain) refers to a time that passes between when the trigger drops below the threshold level and when the process starts to release.
Bruce A. Miller is an acclaimed recording engineer who operates an independent recording studio and the BAM Audio School website.
Sample Tools by Cr2 Releases Deep House Megapack & Festival Anthems Sample Pack
Deep House contains 4.13 GB of content spread across high-quality audio, MIDI, presets and more; Festival Anthems provides 1.5 GB of festival-ready audio loops and one-shots, construction kits, MIDI loops
Sample Tools by Cr2 has just released the new Deep House Megapack as well as the new Festival Anthems Sample Pack.
The new Deep House Megapack contains 4.13 GB of content spread across high-quality audio, MIDI, presets, prod-cast video tutorials and tips and tricks booklet from the Deep House, Deep Analogue House and Classic House packs.
A large spectrum of Deep House is covered, ranging from summery beach party vibes to the darker, more analog flavors, and with an added bonus of being able to reach for classic house sounds that are popular right now.
These packs could also be used in Topical House, Future House, Tech House and Techno productions.
Nine prod-cast video tutorials provide information on the techniques used in the packs, with three booklets containing tips and tricks from the producers.
Meanwhile, the new Festival Anthems Sample Pack provides 1.5 GB of festival-ready audio loops and one-shots, construction kits, MIDI loops, synth presets, video tutorials and production tips and tricks.
This high quality audio is intended to slot seamlessly into any EDM, progressive or electro track. Users are provided with a choice of 15 Songstarter Construction Kits, a resource for getting releasable ideas together quickly. These contain a breakdown, build and drop and contain all the audio, MIDI and synth presets that were used to create them.
Also supplied are three prod-cast video tutorials shining a light on the techniques used in this pack, joined by a booklet containing tips and tricks from the producer.
Included in the Festival Anthems Sample Pack: —56 Kicks, Snares & Hats —35 Percussion & Claps —30 Bass Loops —98 Lead Sounds —9 Pads —83 FX —46 MIDI Files —25 Massive & Sylenth Presets —15 Songstarter Construction Kits —3 Prod-Cast Video Tutorials —Music Productivity Video With Mike Monday —Booklet Containing Tips & Tricks
The Festival Anthems Sample Pack can be purchased here.
There are times with a live mix when we outsmart ourselves. Too many knobs turned. Too many buttons pushed. The EQ looks like a crazy BMX track. Preamps and faders are well outside of the ideal range.
Sometimes the best thing to do is zero it all out and start over.
Several years ago, I had the honor of mixing a one-night show for a band that I absolutely love. Most of my gigs were as a hired gun, working for whoever showed up. This was different.
The show was at a venue with a great house system, a really solid setup. I was brought in to mix front of house and monitors for the headliner from the same console.
For whatever reason, the band was late, which left the opening act plenty of time for sound check. The crew had set up their board in front of me, joined by an abundance of outboard gear. As soon as they started playing, it was obvious that the guy at the console was struggling to dial in the mix.
After a while, I wandered down to help him with a few things and we got it better, mostly by pushing a lot of bypass buttons and adjusting more appropriate EQ frequencies. Within about 10 minutes or so, he seemed OK and I went back to my world.
Once my band finally showed up, we only had a few minutes for sound check. No problem. I knew the system, these guys were pros, it went fine.
When the opening act kicked off the show, their engineer returned to frantically adjusting his mix and processors. Eventually he settled down a bit but was still too jumpy to the end.
During my set, he stood next to me and observed for quite some time, finally asking rather desperately why my mix sounded considerably better. What magic toy did I posses in my rack that he didn’t? What form of sorcery was I using that he’d not yet acquired?
Nothing. Just a decent console, a few compressors and gates, one channel of reverb and one channel of delay. Two rack spaces of processors total. Plenty for an old school rock mix, stripped down with minimal EQ. The band was amazing, and the mix just fell into place. It was a spectacular night.
As delicately as possible, I mentioned that he seemed too dependent on the toys at the expense of listening to and appropriately crafting his mix. I asked (gently) if perhaps he was too concerned about the technology while losing touch with the sound – not to mention the accumulation of unnecessary, and possibly conflicting, issues from a serious tangle of patch cables and processors.
He’d reached the point of no return, which in my observation seems to happen more often to folks who mix the same group on the same system every week. There’s a tendency to keep building and adding to make things “different” and “better” – and it can lead to a confusing mess. Hired guns, on the other hand, don’t usually face this problem, mixing different bands with sometimes different gear every gig. They have to zero it out after every show. It’s not an option.
Once, early in my career while working in a studio, I got chewed out over one aux knob that didn’t make it back to absolute zero: “What if that aux brought in something we couldn’t fix? What if you cost us a client?” That was basically how the chewing out went.
I didn’t like the attack, but I understood the logic. We have to be in control of the mix. We don’t want random weirdness to interfere with the sound. We can’t become hoarders of frequencies and processors or the result is a sonic cesspool of unnecessary garbage.
The moral of the story? If you just can’t seem to get the mix where you want it, don’t be afraid to start over. Not five minutes before show time, but the next sound check or rehearsal. And keep firmly in mind that simple and clean is pretty amazing.
Just don’t be the last person to notice when you’ve reached the point of no return.
Timeline Television Selects Calrec Console For Europe’s First UHD OB Truck
The 40-fader Artemis console was selected to provide content for BT Sport, Europe's first live sports UHD channel.
Outside broadcast and post provider Timeline Television has installed a Calrec console in UHD1, Europe’s first 4K/UHD OB truck.
Timeline built the truck primarily to provide content for BT Sport, which launched Europe’s first live sports UHD channel on August 1st.
Timeline, who also coordinate with BT Sport on its broadcast facility in London, chose the 40-fader Artemis console in part because it has a large fader count in a small footprint. Also, the surface is familiar to many experienced OB audio mixers, which minimizes setup times.
“Our aim is to deliver high-quality, exciting, and engaging 5.1 surround sound for all of BT’s UHD and HD productions. But there are timing complications that go along with embedding audio and encoding/embedding Dolby E in 4K video that make it tricky,” said Will Underwood, Timeline’s lead sound engineer.
“We easily overcome those challenges with the Artemis console. Redundancy, Hydra2 routing, the flexible range of fixed-format and modular I/O — all of those are important. And the loudness metering and ‘look-ahead’ limiters are particularly useful in helping mix engineers meet EBU R128 requirements.”
Hydra2 enables integration with the truck infrastructure. More importantly, that integration extends to Timeline’s existing Hydra2 network at BT Sport in iCity, where there are three Artemis consoles networked to a central Hydra2 router core. Furthermore, the Artemis console processes 5.1 audio and offers redundancy.
When taken in aggregate, this combination of qualities is critical to addressing the unique audio challenges of a 4K production.
“It’s a real honor to have one of our consoles being used in this cutting-edge OB truck,” said Jim Green, international sales manager at Calrec Audio.
“We’ve enjoyed a long relationship with Timeline Television. Although I’m happy to say that Calrec is the console of choice for major sports broadcasters around the world, we’re focused on making sure the Apollo platform continues to grow and evolve so that it’s ready for whatever broadcasters need next.”
Timeline’s UHD1 is under contract with BT Sport to cover sporting events across the U.K. and Europe, including UEFA Champions League, Barclays Premier League Football, Aviva Premiership Rugby, and MotoGP. The truck’s first broadcast event was the FA Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on August 2nd.
Mission Critical: Mixing Console Protection And Maintenance
At the heart of virtually every PA system is a console. It might be a small analog mixer with only a few inputs and a limited number of mix buses, or it might be a big digital desk with hundreds of inputs and dozens of mix buses, but no matter the size of the console, it needs to be in proper working condition for the next gig.
A big part of this means storing and transporting consoles safely as well as performing maintenance to keep them in top shape.
Because of their critical mission, every console should have a case that it lives in to protect it when transported and stored. Cases come in many styles, including soft-sided bags, molded or formed plastic, wood, metal, and laminate-covered wood-sided cases that use metal edging and corners that are commonly referred to as ATA or “flight” cases.
ATA stands for the Air Transport Association of America, and more specifically, the organization’s Specification 300, which covers reusable transit and storage containers. The specification sets guidelines and testing standards that place a case into one of three category certifications.
A Category I rating means it can survive 100 airline shipments, a Category II rating refers to 10 airline shipments, and a Category III rating means a single airline shipment. It’s always best to check with the manufacturer to find out what level of protection a specific case really offers.
Many rugged plastic cases and even well-built shipping crates can pass ATA certification, but the type most of us refer to as flight cases are metal-edged laminated panel models. They’re available with wall thicknesses from 1/4-inch to 3/4-inch.
The padding in the case is important, providing added protection.(Credit: Power Case)
The wood panels are laminated with ABS, fiberglass or even metal to make them very strong and resistant to impact. Extruded metal edging is riveted to the panels, and metal corners are used to reinforce the case and give added protection.
Some of the more common styles of console cases include:
Gig Bags. Normally used with very small mixers, they offer basic protection but little else. They might be O.K. for gigging musicians who move around their own gear locally, but consoles are better protected with hard-sided cases.
Lift-Out. These cases are mostly used for small consoles, up to about 32 inputs in size. They can be made from molded or formed plastic, or can be of the flight case style, with the inside padded for added protection. In use, the mixer is removed from the case.
It’s important to ensure that doghouses have enough room for cabling. They can also serve as a handy shelf when closed. (Credit: Power Case)
Lift-Off With Tray. The most common style of cases for medium- to large-sized consoles. In use, the case is placed at the location where the console will be used, the lid is removed, and the console stays in the “tray” or bottom of the case while in use. It’s common for larger lift-off cases to have wheels attached to the back of the lid so that they can be rolled in an upright position. Caution should be exercised when rolling them because they can be top-heavy.
Doghouse. They’re similar to tray cases, but there’s an enclosed area behind the mixer that houses and hides the cabling. In use, the doghouse lid also serves as a handy shelf, holding items like intercom packs and signal lights as well as small monitor “cue” loudspeakers. When used with large analog mixers, it’s common to keep a snake fan —equipped with a multi-pin disconnect—hooked up to the console inside the doghouse. This way, during set-up only a single connection needs to be made to the snake, saving time as well as wear and tear on the individual channel connectors.
Slant-Top. These are used with mixers that have rack-mount ears. The mixer is bolted into the bottom half of the case and the lid of the case is simply removed for use. A variation called the “pop up” case offers rack rails that adjust to different angles, allowing the user to select the most comfortable operating position. This style allows for a more compact case because the mixer can be stowed in a lowered position.
A slant-top design to mount the mixer at an angle, with an equipment rack beneath.
Slant-Top Rack. The console can be mounted in operating position at the top of the rack, along with additional rack spaces below for processors and other gear. This style allows the gear in the rack to remain hooked up and connected to the mixer. Many of the larger slant top racks have wheels, and some also have large rack lids that can be used as tables to increase the work surface area.
Roll-Top. Not really a “road ” case, but houses of worship and higher end installs place the console on a table that has a rolling top that can be opened and closed. Some of these units are stationary, but quite a few are on wheels and allow for the console to be placed in different areas of the room or even a different room. Some of these units also offer racks below the mixer for processing or amplifiers.
Note that if a console is used in any enclosed unit, be it a case or a desk, make sure there’s enough airflow around the unit and that any ventilation holes are not blocked.
Heat can damage electronics, and many units have heat sensors built in that will turn it off if temperatures get too hot. Not exactly what we want to happen during a gig.
No matter the style or type of case, make sure it fits and supports the console during transport and use. And speaking of transport, take care to secure the case in the truck, especially if it’s got wheels. I strap mine to a truck wall.
Cases require preventative maintenance (PM) just like any other piece of gear. They should be inspected regularly for damage or other problems. Be sure to repair or replace defective parts, or the case might not be able to supply the proper level of protection. Lubricate parts like castors, hasps and hinges with manufacturer-recommended product at regular intervals to keep them working well.
Let’s move along to PM with consoles. At my shop, we go over our front-line consoles a minimum of four times a year. Boards that mostly sit on the shelf are still checked once or twice annually.
A factor to take into account is the environmental conditions the console has been exposed to. A mixer that’s been used at outdoor events that are both hot and dusty—a regular occurrence at my base of operations in Las Vegas—gets more PM scheduled than one used on indoors at corporate events in air conditioned ballrooms.
Logic dictates that newer consoles can get by with less attention than older ones, but only to a point. A good way for new equipment to age before it’s time is to ignore PM, and that not only jeopardizes performance at shows but overall return on investment.
Trays can also be modified to accommodate additional gear like outboard talkback mic interface and headphone jack. (Credit: Power Case)
Care & Feeding
I begin console PM by giving the surface a good cleaning. Dust and dirt can be removed with a vacuum and a dry cloth. You can also use compressed air in a “duster” can or from a compressor to blow away dust. Make sure if using a compressor that it’s of the oil-free variety so it’s not spraying a light film of oil on the console.
Take care to follow manufacturer recommendations on cleaning console display screens because some chemicals (even mild glass cleaners) may damage the screen surface. Check all ventilation holes and vacuum out the dust. Clean or replace any air filters per manufacturer instructions.
Board and gaff tape residue can be removed with a cleaner like Simple Green. If that doesn’t work, step up to a citrus-based solution like Goo Gone. Be sure to read the directions and warnings on the labels of cleaning fluids. While cleaning, give the console an overall evaluation, looking for damage. Also make sure any onboard option cards are installed correctly, and if no cards are used, check that the covers are still securely in place.
Next, check all the connectors to see if they’re loose or broken. A small soft-bristled brush and a vacuum work wonders for getting dirt and dust out of connectors. Electronic connectors can be cleaned with a contact cleaner like CAIG DeoxIT. Fiber optic connectors should only be cleaned with items made specifically for fiber, such as products from Sticklers, TechSpray and Chemtronics.
Examine the power cord for damage, and don’t overlook external power supplies. Clean out all ventilation ports and check the filters and connectors on external power supplies. Also check any power supply cables.
Be sure to follow specific manufacturer recommendations when cleaning digital console faders.
Faders on analog consoles can be addressed by blowing clean air into the fader slots. Move each fader to one end and blow air into the slot, aiming away from the fader handle so that dust can escape through the slot. Then move the handle to the opposite end and blow air aiming the opposite way.
Get all dust and dirt out before using a contact cleaner or lubricant, or else the chemicals might mix with the dust and gunk and turn into a sticky mess. At my shop, we use DeoxIT fader spray, working the fader back and forth a few times to get all surfaces wet with the cleaner. Also, let the faders dry before plugging in the console. With digital consoles, clean the faders per manufacturer instructions.
Once satisfied that the console and connectors are clean and in working order, plug in the console and turn it on. Check the firmware and software versions and visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there are any updates available for both the console and ancillary gear like computers and tablets.
Finally, connect the console to a system and provide input via a microphone and/or playback device. Test the onboard connectors as well as the surface knobs and faders. Go through functions and make sure they work and pass audio cleanly.
Console reliability is a must in our business, and a little investment in PM helps ensure smooth gigs with no surprises.
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.
Roland Announces New Software Version 1.101 Update For M-5000 Console
New integrated M-48 manager gives control and monitoring of musicians’ M-48 personal mixers to achieve better monitor mixes
Roland announces a new software update, version 1.101, for the M-5000 O.H.R.C.A. live mixing console.
This update equips the console with the latest M-48 Personal Mixing management and new GP I/O functions from the built-in 25-pin port on the rear of the console.
These new features, coupled with Roland’s O.H.R.C.A. platform, open up new possibilities in control for worship, theater, broadcast and live production markets.
Roland’s M-48 Personal Mixing System provides 40 channels that are mixed as 16 stereo groups to each musician on stage via a cat5/6e cable and allows each musician to control their own mix.
The new version 1.101 software allows the setup and control of each M-48 on the network directly from the M-5000.
Users can set up two monitor mix zones using REAC A and REAC B ports, which allows a separate set of 40 input sources that can be assigned in 16 stereo groups, providing multiple monitoring mix options without taking up any console resources.
The Engineer’s Monitor function allows the sound engineer at front of house to mirror a monitor mix to a local M-48 at the console from any M-48 on the network, listen to it, make adjustments, and send it back to the musician on stage.
Each M-48 can store up to 16 presets that can be recalled from the M-48, and those settings can be associated with scenes on the console, enabling automated memory preset recall of all personal mixers when a console scene is recalled. These new software features for M-48 personal monitoring ensure seamless integration and configuration from the console and sound engineer to each personal mixer and musician on the network.
Additional version 1.101 software features include GP I/O control using peripherals such as foot switches or touch panels from contact closure inputs. On outputs, the M-5000 can send up to twelve GP I/O commands for fader, scene recall and user button control, which is highly valued in theater, broadcast and live production applications.
The M-5000 has two built-in REAC ports, plus two expansion card slots with seven expansion card options including Dante, MADI, Waves SoundGrid, or more REAC ports, as well as audio embedded over video protocols. The back panel includes 16x16 analog I/O, 4x4 AES/EBU, a 16x16 USB audio interface, connection for control via an iPad connected or wireless, and control ports including footswitches, GP I/O, RS-232C and MIDI.
All of this capability enables the console to see up to 300 inputs and 296 outputs, all at 96kHz and even more at 48kHz.
The new version 1.101 software for Roland’s M-5000 is available for download from Roland’s Pro AV site.
Lonestar’s Keech Rainwater Mixes With The Mackie DL1608 (Video)
Band's drummer transitions from analog to digital for mixing his personal monitors on stage.
After more than 20 years, nine Number One hits, nine more Top 10 hits, three platinum albums, and countless tours, country band Lonestar is still packing houses.
On the band’s 2015 tour, Co-founder Keech Rainwater can hear every snare pop and cymbal ring in his kit more clearly than ever, thanks to his new Mackie DL1608 digital mixer with iPad control.
“A few years ago we decided to start running monitors from front of house, letting us control our own cue mixes,” Rainwater begins.
“But drums sound different from behind the kick, and although the monitor mix from front of house was fine for hearing guitars and vocals, I wanted a custom mix of my drums. So we used a splitter to send all of my drum mics to my personal mixer-two kick mics, two snare mics, each tom, the cymbals-and I started mixing my own drum monitors.”
For several years, Rainwater swore by his Mackie 1604VLZ mixer, which enabled him to create and EQ his custom drum mix. It sounded good, but he jumped at the chance to step up to the new DL1608 digital mixer, which delivered much more processing power and flexibility.
“The newer Onyx preamps sound even better than the previous generation; I really notice the quality difference, especially in the dynamics,” Rainwater explains. “With all the DSP in the DL1608, I can EQ my kit more precisely, so it’s snappier and brighter and cuts through the acoustic sound of the drums without affecting anyone else’s mix. I can add vintage EQs, I can pan each drum the way I want, use gates, and have some compression so I can hear the dynamics loud and clear. I can also add a bit of reverb, which I could never do before.”
Rainwater still gets a custom monitor mix of vocals, guitars, and so on, like the rest of the band.
“I set the band mix in soundcheck and rarely touch it during the show,” he notes. He routes his stereo band monitor mix to the DL1608’s channels 15 and 16, leaving the rest of the channel faders available to control his personal drum mix and a click track.
“We use a DAW to supply a click track. I take a feed of the click track straight to my DL1608, which lets me control it the way I want to,” says Rainwater. “With the DL1608, I can grab a fader to quickly bring the click up if I need it during the show.”
Rainwater loves the DL1608’s compact size, iPad control, and ability to save snapshots.
“The mixer fits in a suitcase or small Pelican case, so I easily can take it with me,” he notes. “The iPad saves every change I make in a snapshot, so I save multiple levels, gates, EQ settings, reverb, compression, and so on. If we go somewhere with a backline that includes a Mackie DL1608, I can just bring my iPad with my snapshots, plug in the iPad, and I’m good to go. The DL1608 isn’t just convenient, it’s fun too.”
Ash Touring With Allen & Heath Qu-Pac Digital Mixer (Video)
Irish rock band makes the jump to digital for latest tour supporting their new album.
Irish rock band Ash is currently on tour supporting the release of its latest album, Kablammo!, with Allen & Heath’s compact Qu-Pac digital mixer managing monitors.
For some time, the band had been considering the need to replace its analog mixer and existing multi-track recorder. “I told Tim the singer about the Qu-Pac mixer and that it did playback too, and he said it was a no brainer,” says front of house engineer Alan ‘Hagos’ Haggarty.
“Before this tour we were using an analogue mixer running a multitrack recorder for playback, all of which required a monster rack. Qu is basically doing the job of three different bits of kit as Tim also had a compressor in the old rack for his vocals but that’s no longer needed either,” explains drummer and monitor engineer Rick McMurray.
“Now that we have Qu-Pac, we can fit our in-ear monitor system in a flight case and take it with us everywhere,” McMurray continues. “The one thing you really miss at fly-in shows is having that part of the setup but now the band are really comfortable as we know our in-ears will be perfect.”
The Qu-Pac is mixing nine inputs from the band and four tracks, providing two sets of stereo in-ears and playback. The band are using Qu-Pac’s Qu-Drive playback for all of the backing tracks and running clicks for some songs. For future shows, there are plans to use the Qu app during live shows and install the rack off stage.
“I’m not really bothered that there’s no faders. It’s great to have one screen to control everything, providing a good visual input of what you’re hearing and what’s going on, with percentages so you can see how everything relates to each other,” McMurray says. “I have my and Tim’s in-ear mix set up so if he asks for something I can tap a couple of buttons and adjust things quickly rather than find faders. It is definitely user friendly for someone not technically minded like myself.”
“Qu-Pac has a lot of features. Every input channel has a compressor, gate, EQ, and every output has a compressor, EQ, and GEQ, so it’s a really powerful piece of kit and you don’t have to do a lot of configuration because it’s all built in. When I first sat down with the mixer I found it very straight forward,” concludes Haggarty.
Editor’s Note: In this article, famed Motown producer/engineers Dave Isaac and Reggie Dozier reflect on capturing some of the best-recorded vocal performances in history. As the men behind the boards for Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and many more, this dynamic duo has helped shape more than a few Motown hits.
There were many recording techniques used in my years as an engineer back in Detroit in the various recording studios around: Selah, Sound Suite, Vanguard, LaMonte’s, United Sound, Studio A, and more. I shared some of these memories with another fellow Detroiter, the great engineer Reggie Dozier (brother of Lamont Dozier from Holland-Dozier-Holland), over lunch to help me recall the analog days and to give you guys even more bang for your buck in this article.
Getting Started: Techniques
Recording vocals can be simple or scientific. It depends on how much time you have to try different microphones, gear, or techniques if you’re in a recording studio on the clock, or in the privacy of your own home studio. Of course, you hope that the vocalist coming through the door knows how to “work” a microphone.
Two of Detroit’s finest: Reggie Dozier and Dave Isaac.
For example, vocalists like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight will move in and away from a mic, depending on the intensity of thoughts they are singing. This technique provided us with incredible dynamics, and in most cases meant we did not have to heavily compress a vocal.
Next, the proximity of where the vocalist stood was key. When we did anything like doubling or background vocals, the proximity on one track may be closer than on another track, or if background vocalists were recorded together, the blend of the harmonies or levels were based on how close they stood to the mic. If you were loud, or if your harmony stood out, you had to stand back more.
Back in the days of analog tape, you might have one chance to get it right. Some vocalist would come in ready to go, do one or two takes and that’s it. They barely would allow you to get a level.
Usually, the first take was the best take or it might have the most creative moments in it, so your levels needed to be close immediately. We couldn’t assume that we had plenty of warm up time, and punching in to fix a distorted vocal was embarrassing to say the least!
The key was to make sure that you kept the dynamics of the vocal without overloading and distortion, to use a pop or wind screen, and having the mic at a good height and angle helped to eliminate plosives and kept you from having to de-ess later.
For the most part, there was no copying and pasting unless you transferred the information to another tape machine, then pressed Play at the right time to record it back to the multi-track. Later, in the ‘80s, units with short sampling times came along which made that much easier.
We made sure that the vocalist had a good headphone mix to prevent any distractions. The right headphones were used to keep out as much headphone leakage as possible in the recording.
The booth was usually dark or dim, in most cases to create the mood and allow the singer to see the music easier. This also kept them from feeling self conscious and gave them the ability to give an uninhibited performance. To see a room full of guests in the control room could sometimes be nerve wracking, so it helped to know that they couldn’t see you.
The producers had to know the art of what to say to the vocalist over the talk-back and in the studio, between takes, to motivate them and guide them to the promised land of the perfect take.
My first response was and still to this day is, “Use whatever you have that sounds the best!”
Typically, if you stand in the vocal booth and listen to the vocalist, then go into the control room, it should sound close to what you heard in the vocal booth to maintain the natural color of the vocalist, unless you want to add warmth or a color via the mic, mic pre, or compressor.
In other words, use a ribbon, dynamic, condenser, whatever works and fits the track. What good is a big fat vocal in a dance track if it’s not the main focus of the song, or a small vocal in a big lush ballad that calls for a big vocal because you did not choose the best mic?
Now with that being said, in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I used Sanken, AKG 414 EB or C 12, and Neumann U 87 mics a lot. Sometimes we would use the Electro-Voice RE20 dynamic mic. We used to call it the “Stevie Wonder” mic. This mic allowed you to not have to worry about the typical proximity problems if you were working with either a soft singer or a strong singer who was close to the mic, the low end didn’t change like it would using the typical dynamic mic.
We also used the Shure SM7. We called that one the “Michael Jackson” mic. If the singer was one to snap their fingers, stomp their feet, et cetera, and we wanted to hear that, we might set the mic pattern to omni to record everything, and heavily baffle the area behind the mic so as not to pick up anything in that area.
Choosing A Compressor
Now that we’re recording into computers, those of you who aren’t sure can always record an extra track simultaneously without compression to be safe and not lock yourself or a mix engineer into an over-compressed vocal. UREI 1176, dbx 160 and 160X, Drawmer 1960, LA-2As were used often. We would compress anywhere from 3:1 to 8:1, and only if needed and always using soft knee whenever available.
Since we’re in the age of recording digitally, it’s really important not to distort. In the days of analog, you could also hit a little bit of tape compression and that was okay too, but today some of those levels would sound nasty in the digital realm.
Pictured left to right behind Reggie Dozier: Michael Jackson, Susie Akita, unknown, Brenda Richie, and Lionel Richie
Typically, we used a plate reverb lightly on the vocal, just enough to give the vocal a good tail without being too thick. The choices of reverbs ranged from the EMT 140 and EMT 250, the newcomers from Yamaha at that time, the REV1 and REV7, as well as the Lexicon 224XL, and the AMS RMX 16. EQ was never used. We always got our sound via the best selection of mic, mic pre, and sometimes the best compressor based on what was available in the studio
If time permits, don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’re recording in your home studio, closet, et cetera, be sure to place sound dampening materials on low ceilings and close walls to avoid as many early reflections as possible.
So in closing, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Choose a mic/mic pre that work best for the color and power of the vocalist, unless purposely trying to change the sound.
2. Be prepared to get a great recording on the first take.
3. Make sure nothing will distract the vocalist from giving a great performance.
4. Only use a compressor if need be, and really try to steer clear of using EQ.
5. Make sure vocalists can hear themselves in the track as though listening back to a recording, unless they say otherwise.
6. If time permits, have fun and experiment.
Dave Isaac is a three-time Grammy Award winning producer and mix engineer, as well as an artist, author and educator. He sends a big thanks to Reggie Dozier for joining him in this article, which is courtesy of Universal Audio.
Are you a Lone Ranger of the audio world? I’ve been one for 20 years, working as an independent practitioner of live sound.
Lone Rangers face the common scenario of ever-increasing responsibilities from advancing the load in and out, to pinning the stage, handling musicians and tour managers, corporate clients and eager brides. All with no A2 or enough hands or help – just a steady schedule of shows ranging from music to corporate events to weddings to comedy shows, plus that children’s theater show thrown into the mix at the last moment (of course).
We strive to make the nearly impossible possible, all while flying solo as the promoter, client and entertainers put the squeeze on our time and patience. The aim of this column is to share what I’ve learned over the past two decades in hopes of helping fellow Lone Rangers better deal with the challenges that lay before us day after day. And while these challenges are unfortunately quite common, they also present a wonderful opportunity to learn some powerful fundamentals.
Future topics will range from gear and maintenance to troubleshooting and organization, as well as advancing shows, client relations, work flow strategies, wireless challenges and of course, mixing tips and tricks. But first let’s start with some workflow strategies for mixing monitors (wedges and in-ear monitors) from front of house, in addition to stage techniques to maximize monitoring success.
Stop The Hacking: Output EQ
Imagine this common scene: a singer is playing acoustic guitar through a direct box (DI) and a wedge, providing foldback for both her voice and guitar. The acoustic guitar is feeding back in the wedge and/or just plain sounds bad. You start hacking away at the mix graph, yet now her vocal in the wedge sounds horrible. The problem is that you’re trying to solve one problem while making another worse.
A classic Y-Split XLR cable splitter.
Look to the output EQ as the tool for making the wedge sound natural, not the input. This also serves as a quick test to know if something is wrong with the monitor, crossover or amplifier. Once comfortable, you now have a reference – when something doesn’t sound right, you know it’s the source.
Mixing For Two Bosses
A sole mix engineer is responsible for providing a mix to two important groups: the audience and the performers. The audience is hearing the house mix through the main PA. The performers hear the monitor mix through wedges and possibly IEMs, both of which are completely different from the PA.
When confronted with a single channel strip for the singer’s main vocal and another for her guitar, how do you manage making both sound good through two or three completely different loudspeakers? Split. Think of yourself as a hybrid engineer. In the traditional live audio world, both house and monitor engineers have a split of all inputs. But as a Lone Ranger, you’re not that fortunate; it’s all you.
Whirlwind IMP and Radial Engineering ProMS2 isolated splitters.
But why can’t there be the same flexibility and separation? There can be, by splitting inputs to separate channels on the console, one for the house mix and the other for the monitor mix. Be sure to un-assign the “monitor channels” from the stereo bus. The monitor sends will come from the “monitor channels” and not the house channels. The parametric nature of channel EQ and its accompanying high-pass filter are potent tools for monitor mixing.
This approach provides independent control over each input for each type of output/loudspeaker. It can be done at the desk or at the snake head using simple XLR “Y” cables or a proper isolated splitter such as a Radial Engineering ProMS2 or Whirlwind IMP splitter. (Both are available in 1 x 2 and 1 x 3 configurations). Another useful tool for this purpose is the Klark Teknik Square ONE, a unit providing a 8-in x 24-out split.
If the number of open channels is tight, prioritize the most important and challenging inputs, such as vocals and acoustic instruments.
In the digital world, physical splits may not be required, yet be aware that when “soft” splitting channels on a digital desk, sharing the head amp may be necessary. The use of physical splits provides the benefit of independent head amp control.
I tend to set up the monitor channels as post fader because they provide the benefit of the channel EQ and the fader, which makes it much easier to give everyone more or less of a single input by simply using the fader.
A trick with analog consoles is to take off the fader cap or exchange different colored caps for easy identification. If digital, label the monitor channels in lower case and/or a different color.
The cue wedge is essential to a monitor engineer, supplying a true reference of what the musicians are hearing through their monitors. This is especially useful when doing double-duty on house and monitor mixes. Try to borrow (from the stage) a wedge with the same drive quotient (crossover, amplification, etc.) as the monitors on stage and place it next to the console.
If mixing IEM, invest in decent buds (preferably molds), but I’ve found that the foamy Shure tips work well. In addition, a wired IEM pack such as a Shure P4HW or a wireless unit is a smart thing to have and use. In soloing the output for the mix, you hear the actual mix(another word for mix) as the musician hears it on stage, not just the description from the musician.
The polarity button, often incorrectly referred to as the “phase button,” simply flips the input polarity 180 degrees. This is especially useful in eliminating low end feedback from acoustic guitars and other instruments.
In addition, when mixing ears, flipping the polarity on a singer’s vocal and other inputs can yield incredible results without needing to pull out an excessive amount of EQ. Don’t be afraid to hit that button.
Polar patterns of the SM58 (above) and BETA 58A (below)—see the difference?
Wedge & Mic Placement
This one is a biggie, a bedrock fundamental that I teach others constantly. A mic and a wedge are always a compromise, and there’s always a limit to how loud a wedge can be. Feedback happens when the mic is picking up the output of itself in the monitor. Therefore it’s very important to know the pick-up patterns of the mics on stage. So if you’re at a gig and not sure, look it up!
For example, a standard (Shure) SM58 has a cardioid pattern, so it’s null (rejection zone) is in the rear. A Shure BETA 58, meanwhile, has a supercardioid pattern so the null is to the sides. The essential take-away is to make sure the null faces the wedge or wedges so the mic(s) avoid sound you don’t want to pick up. A great resource is an article on here on PSW by Mark Frink entitled “Monitor Mixing Tips & Tools Of The Trade For A Successful Show.”
Staying In Control
As a Lone Ranger, it’s important to be creative and able to adapt on the fly – while adhering to essential fundamentals of audio. There’s no other way to success. Give these techniques outlined here a try, and let me know your experiences and questions. Next time I’ll address advancing and handling multiple performances on the same bill with maximum efficiency. Good luck out there!
Nicholas Radina is an audio engineer and musician based in Cincinnati. In addition to keeping up with a busy freelance schedule, he’s currently touring as the monitor engineer with the band O.A.R. and smacking cowbells with Salsa bands. He invites your input via his website at NicholasRadina.com.
Soundcraft Partners With New Musical Talent At The 2015 London FolkFest
Theatre Main Stage and Ballroom Band Stage offered Si Performer 3 mixing consoles, while the Tavistock Stage included a Soundcraft Ui 16.
Held at The Bedford in South London, The London FolkFest recently took place for the fifth year, with Harman’s Soundcraft consoles once again deployed for front of house.
The Bedford continued its long relationship with Soundcraft by employing two Si Performer 3 mixing consoles for the front of house positions of the Theatre Main Stage and the Ballroom Band Stage.
A third and smaller stage, known as the Tavistock Stage, featured smaller acoustic acts.
For this 80-capacity room, a Soundcraft Ui 16 was used for remote mixing via a tablet.
Managing to squeeze 50 artists across four days on three different stages, The Bedford’s head of production Phil Davidson said, “The Si Performer is such a great desk for us, because all the engineers can quickly configure it to work the way they prefer to mix. It’s so intuitive to use that we can jump instantly from delicate solo performers to thundering folk ensembles with minimal changeover times whilst maintaining the sonic quality that we have such a reputation for.”
As is the case every year, festival director Tony Moore would not compromise on high audio quality and operational efficiency on any of the three stages.
Having worked with the Si Performer consoles on a daily basis at The Bedford for the last two years, he ensured that all the engineers were up to speed and comfortable with the extensive capabilities of the relatively small consoles. He also maximized the space around the third stage by relying on Soundcraft’s Ui Series.
“The small room has always been a challenge for us, because going with a traditional mix position would reduce capacity,” Moore noted. “It was so exciting to create a space where you couldn’t even see the engineer most of the time because he was able to mingle within the crowd, choosing different listening positions for fine-tuning the front of house sound.”
USA And World DMC Champion Chris Karns Joins Reloop At DJ Expo 2015
Karns will debut at his first event as Reloop endorsed artist joining DJ Dramadik, DJ Jay Ski, DJ Anthony Sojo, and Marvin Myers
USA and World DMC Champion Chris Karns will make his debut at DJ Expo 2015 for the first time as a Reloop endorsed artist.
Karns is looking forward to stirring up the crowd with his mixes.
“I’m excited to show people what Reloop products are capable of. It’s going to be a good opportunity to show off Reloop’s great qualities to my DJ friends and others that visit the (American Music & Sound) booth,” he exclaimed.
AM&S Trade Show manager, Juls Robinson, ensures products are in place and all DJ equipment arrives on time for scheduled performances.
“It always draws a bigger crowd when we have artists, like Karns, playing and presenting our gear upfront.”
Reloop provided Karns with an RMX-80 Digital mixer, two RP-8000 Straight turntables, and two Neons for his performance in the booth. He will use the same equipment when he performs on the Expo’s main platform, the DJ Times Square Stage.
“Best all-around turntables I have ever tried. Reloop’s turntables (RP-8000 Straight) have a stronger motor than the Technics table I used to use. Reloop has given me the freedom and flexibility to do more creative mixing,” said Karns.
Darren De Souza, national sales manager for DJ products, will be one of the experts demoing Reloop’s equipment while DJs perform. “I can’t wait to show off the BeatPad 2, it’s a cool new cross-platform controller we are launching that utilizes the DJAY2 mixing software from Algoriddim. We are also showcasing the new RMX-22I and RMX-33I DJ mixers, and of course the new RP-8000 Straight arm version.”
Other DJs playing in the AM&S booth include DJ Dramadik, DJ Jay Ski, DJ Anthony Sojo, and Marvin Myers.
For 25 years, the tradeshow presented by DJ Times has developed an association with top distributors, manufacturers and consumers alike. There are more than two-dozen educational seminars conducted by industry leaders, an exhibit hall dedicated to the latest in DJ gear, and three evenings of sponsored events.
DJ Expo takes place on August 10-13, 2015 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Please visit Booth #322 to experience Reloop products for yourself, listen to live entertainment brought to you by world-class DJs, and browse through other great Reloop products distributed by AM&S and more.
Mackie DL32R Out With Orgy’s Talk Sick And Sick Talk Tour (video)
Following a five-year hiatus and several side projects, lead singer Jay Gordon reformed the band in 2010 and began touring regularly.
For Orgy’s most recent Talk Sick and Sick Talk Tours, the band has been packing the new Mackie DL32R 32-channel digital mixer with iPad control.
Breaking through in 1998 with their hard driving remake of New Order’s “Blue Monday,” Orgy has established a dedicated fan base among Alternative and Industrial Metal fans.
Known for their unique mix of Hardcore, Electronic, and Industrial styles, the band has toured and shared the stage with the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Incubus, Ice Cube, and Rammstein.
Following a five-year hiatus and several side projects, lead singer Jay Gordon reformed the band in 2010. The new lineup has toured regularly, performing for audiences in the US and internationally.
As Gordon observes, the DL32R provides the band with more than enough power and flexibility.
“We took it out on tour with us, and it was really mind-blowing just how great it was,” says Gordon. “It’s got great mic preamps, great sound, and you can dial in all the EQ and effects you need. You can use it as a front of house console, or you can use it as a monitor console. We used it as both.”
“To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first about the idea of just mixing on an iPad,” adds Patrick Crisci, front of house and tour manager for the tour. “After I used it, I was really impressed. Just being able to walk around the venue, and not be confined to a traditional front of house spot, was awesome. I could go into the crowd, upstairs in the balcony, or anywhere in the venue and hear what the audience was hearing. And I could go up onstage and hear what the band’s mix sounded like. It was amazing.”
Crisci says the DL32R surprised a lot of local crew at various venues along their tour. “We’d show up at a club and the local sound guys would look and say ‘what’s this?’ but once they heard it, everyone wanted to get their hands on it.”
“Comparing it to a lot of larger consoles, I was just blown away,” says Gordon.
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