Recording

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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Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 NAMM Show Reports Significant Increases In Attendees, Exhibitors

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

The music product industry returns to businesses in every corner of the globe following the 2014 NAMM Show held last week 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.

Retailers large and small return to their businesses with new product lines and categories that will hit shelves in a matter of months. “I’m most focused on meeting up with major suppliers that I’ve done business with or do business with and seeing what they’ve got––new products in particular,” states Richard Ash, CEO of Sam Ash Music. “We are also looking for new companies that come out of the woodwork and have a product that will break through to the marketplace. If you’re a musician, it’s the ultimate kid in a candy store thing.”

In addition to products, retailers search for ideas gleaned from five days of educational offerings. “I come for inspiration and I always find it,” notes Rob Kittle of Kittle’s Music in North Platte, NE. “I find products I never knew were out there. The buying I do and the things I see at the NAMM Show definitely influence my business for the year.”

Rob Joseph, president of the manufacturers’ rep firm the R. Joseph group, saw a renewed interest in buying across the diverse categories they represent. “I saw more traffic on Thursday and Friday than any year that I can remember in a decade. Buyers and manufacturers are substantially more optimistic and that is reflected in the overall tone of the 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 perent increase in international attendees.

Kevin Ross of C.B.I. Professional Wiring Systems exhibited at NAMM specifically to connect with international distributors. “It’s one of the main reasons why we come to NAMM, and we do realize a significant return on our investment.”

The global scope of the NAMM Show is most clear walking the show floor. This year 636 exhibitors from outside of the United States made up more than one-third of the total exhibiting companies. These companies come from 49 different countries to unveil their brands’ new products at the show.

“People have this passion and belief in helping people make music, and it all comes from NAMM,” says Jon Gold of Music Force Distribution, The Academy of Sound and The Music Store in the U.K. “It’s a must-do in the calendar for the year. We’re living in very challenging times, however when you come here on the show floor and you look at people with the passion they have for it, we’ve just got to communicate—we’ve got great products, it’s a great industry, it’s exciting. And so coming to NAMM gives you what you need to get back on the treadmill and do it.”

The Grand Plaza, unveiled in 2013, was reimagined this year as a more intimate networking area by turning the stage around to face the Convention Center. NAMM Members made good use of the area, soaking in the southern California sunshine and meeting with friends old and new.

After dark, performances by Jonny Lang, Sheila E., and Robby Krieger’s Jam Kitchen brought attendees together with live music. Friday’s TEC Awards ceremony welcomed industry insiders to honor sound production and performance pros, while DJ performances, acoustic artists, drum circles and more rounded out the entertaining diversions.

Educational sessions primed attendees for success. “It’s always good to come see what’s new, but it’s also fun to put a face with a name or voice,” says Bob Williamson, owner of Symphony Music Shop in Dartmouth, MA. “We saw some friends at the breakfast sessions we did not expect to see, which was a delight. I’m going home with some new ideas, and some good friendships.”

Summer NAMM returns to the Music City Center in Nashville this July 17-19. International opportunities include NAMM Musikmesse Russia (Sept. 11-14, 2014) and ProLight + Sound NAMM Russia (Sept. 11-13, 2014). The NAMM Show returns to Anaheim January 22-25, 2015.

NAMM

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 05:53 PM
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API Adds Two New 500-Series Modules: The 505 DI And The 565 Bank

API introduced two new members of its acclaimed 500-series modular signal processing line at the 2014 NAMM Show: the 505 DI direct input and the 565 filter bank.

API introduced two new members of its acclaimed 500-series modular signal processing line at the 2014 NAMM Show: the 505 DI direct input and the 565 filter bank.

Both modules possess API’s legendary sound and fit all 500-series chassis, including the API Lunchbox and the API 1608 small-format analog console.

The 505 DI includes gain control, adjustable tone control, a bright switch, a 20dB pad, switchable 100/400k Ohm load impedance, and Thru connectivity.

Like the console-based API 205L, the 505 DI is specifically designed to accept a guitar, bass or keyboard direct input while minimizing any loading effect on Hi-Z instrument pickups

The 565 Filter Bank includes a sweepable low-pass filter (500Hz to 20kHz, -12 or -18dB slope), a sweepable high-pass filter (20Hz to 400Hz, -6 or -12dB slope), and a variable notch filter (fully sweepable between 20Hz and 20kHz).  The 565 circuits are true to the musical filters of the famed 215 module found in large format API consoles.

Noted Larry Droppa, president of API Audio, “Since it’s inception, the API 500 Series has dominated the ever-growing group of 500 Series products. At API, we innovate by design and keep delivering modules that outperform the competition and continue to give our end users the sound and performance they’ve come to expect from API.

“Both of these new modules address a specific need while keeping the integrity of the API module product line.”

MSRPs:  505 DI and the 565 Filter Bank $595.00 each

API

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Posted by Julie Clark on 01/27 at 02:48 PM
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Universal Audio Introduces Apollo Twin High-Resolution Desktop Interface

Now shipping worldwide, Apollo Twin delivers class-leading sound quality, Realtime UAD Processing, and breakthrough Unison mic preamp technology to the desktop studio.

Universal Audio is proud to introduce the Apollo Twin High-Resolution Desktop Interface with Realtime UAD Processing.

This sleek 2x6 Thunderbolt audio interface for Mac combines the same high-quality 24/192 kHz audio conversion of Universal Audio’s acclaimed Apollo series with onboard Realtime UAD SOLO or DUO Processing.

With its ergonomic desktop design, rugged aluminum construction, and front panel headphone and instrument connections, Apollo Twin allows Mac users to record in real time (at near-zero latency) through the full range of UAD Powered Plug-Ins available in the UA Online Store, including titles from Neve, Studer, Manley, Lexicon, API and more.

Apollo Twin also introduces new Unison technology.* Built on an integration between Apollo’s mic preamps and its onboard UAD plug-in processing, Unison unlocks the authentic tone of the most sought-after tube and solid state mic preamps — including their all-important impedance, gain stage “sweet spots,” and component-level circuit behaviors.

Apollo Twin will ship with Universal Audio’s “Realtime Analog Classics” UAD plug-in bundle, featuring legacy editions of the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN Limiting Amplifier, and Pultec EQP-1A Program Equalizer, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, the all-new 610-B Tube Preamp plug-in, and more.

Available in both SOLO and DUO models (with either one or two Analog Devices SHARC processors, respectively), Apollo Twin is now shipping worldwide with estimated street prices of $699 (SOLO) and $899 (DUO).

* Unison Technology coming to Apollo DUO and Apollo QUAD in early 2014.

Apollo Twin Features

  Desktop 2x6 Thunderbolt audio interface with world-class 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
  Realtime UAD Processing for tracking through vintage Compressors, EQs, Tape Machines, Mic Preamps, and Guitar Amp plug-ins with near-zero (sub-2ms) latency
  Thunderbolt connection for blazing-fast PCIe speed and rock-solid performance on modern Macs
  New Unison technology offers stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps
  2 premium mic/line preamps; 2 line outputs; front-panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone output
  2 digitally controlled analog monitor outputs for full resolution at all listening levels
  Up to 8 channels of additional digital input via Optical connection
  Includes “Realtime Analog Classics” UAD plug-in bundle, featuring Legacy editions of the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN Limiting Amplifier, and Pultec EQP-1A Program Equalizer, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, 610-B Tube Preamp, and more
  Runs UAD Powered Plug-Ins via Audio Units, VST, RTAS & AAX 64
  Available with either UAD-2 SOLO or UAD-2 DUO DSP processing onboard

Universal Audio

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Posted by Julie Clark on 01/27 at 02:03 PM
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Aphex Announces Two New 500 Series Modules

Based on our popular designs but with modern features and more affordability

Aphex has announced two new additions to its 500 Series module line, the CX 500 and Project 500.

The new CX 500 is based on the Aphex CX-1 compressor/gate unit – one of the first 500 Series modules from the early 80s. It provides the company’s patented EasyRider compressor and logic-assisted gate, a Jensen output transformer, and multi-function meter for gain reduction, gating and output level.

The new Project 500 is a module-sized version of Aphex’s Project Channel rack unit. A full channel strip, it includes a Class A mic preamp, optical compressor, and dual-band semi parametric EQ. This full-featured channel strip will be aggressively priced to be part of complete solutions with 500 Series racks.

“These new 500 Series modules are based on our legendary designs,” says Aphex chairman David Wiener, “but we’ve added modern features – and more affordability – to make the CX 500 and Project 500 home run products.”

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 08:52 AM
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Soundcraft Integrates Universal Audio UAD Plug-Ins With Vi Series Consoles

Integrates plug-ins with low latency and with full snapshot store and recall within the console's CUE/Snapshot system

The new Soundcraft Realtime Rack is a library of Universal Audio UAD plug-ins from Universal Audio compatible with all Soundcraft Vi Series digital consoles.

The Realtime Rack is a 1RU enclosure capable of processing up to 16 channels of a MADI stream, while additional units can be added for 32, 48 or 64 channels.

Realtime Rack hardware and software allows users of Soundcraft Vi consoles to integrate Universal Audio UAD powered plug-ins with low latency and have full snapshot store and recall within the console’s CUE/Snapshot system.

There are two versions of the Soundcraft Realtime Rack: the Core comes preloaded with 14 classic Harman and UAD plug-ins, while the Ultimate comes fully loaded with 72 plug-ins, including emulations of analog hardware from industry-leading brands such as Neve, Studer, Lexicon, Manley, and more.

The Realtime Rack software runs on a separate Mac computer and gives the operator all the control needed to insert UAD plug-ins on individual channels, auxiliary channels, and master buses as easily as real hardware. A comprehensive snapshot system allows total recall of all plug-ins and their settings.

Tight network integration with Vi Series consoles ensures that all settings of the plug-ins are stored inside a Soundcraft Vi console.

One Realtime Rack can run 16 channel strips each with up to eight plug-ins inserted. Realtime Racks can also be daisy-chained to up to four units processing 64 channels simultaneously.

image

 

Soundcraft
Harman Professional

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 08:37 AM
AVLive SoundRecordingChurch SoundNewsProductAVConsolesDigitalMixerProcessorSoftwareSound ReinforcementStudioPermalink

Massenburg DesignWorks MDW Hi-Res Parametric EQ 5 Plug-In Now Compatible With Pro Tools 11

Plug-in targets frequencies with precision and refines the human interface, interoperability, and automation integration

Avid and Massenburg DesignWorks announce the MDW Hi-Res Parametric EQ 5 plug-in is now compatible with Pro Tools 11.

The Massenburg DesignWorks Hi-Res Parametric EQ plug-in, developed by the creator of the parametric equalizer George Massenburg, targets frequencies with precision and refines the human interface, interoperability, and automation integration.

Version 5 offers new AAX Native 64 and AAX DSP 64 formats for compatibility with Pro Tools 11.1 and above, providing the flexibility to use the EQ across the entire Pro Tools 10-based product line, including Pro Tools|HDX systems, for the highest possible sound quality.

Massenburg, who has spent a lot of time refining this AAX 64-bit version, says, “The latest MDW EQ5-AAX DSP continues the MDW tradition of highest-quality, double-precision math, resulting in the highest measurable performance–the lowest artifacts–of any commercially available digital equalizer. The MDW EQ user interface presents a finely tuned EQ human interface, with controls that reflect a deep understanding of the ergonomics of EQ control and use, and the expectations of what an engineer expects to hear when a knob is turned.

“MDW EQ controls are always easily readable and controls are easily settable,” he contrinues. “The MDW EQ and the MDW EQ5-AAX continue to be the standard against which all other EQ plug-ins are measured.”

MDW Hi-Res Parametric EQ 5 plug-in, compatible with Pro Tools 11 and Pro Tools|HDX, is now available worldwide. It can be purchased at the Avid Store here.

image

 

Massenburg DesignWorks
Avid

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 07:54 AM
Live SoundRecordingNewsProductDigital Audio WorkstationsProcessorSoftwareStudioPermalink

Waves Audio Announces SoundGrid Studio System

Open platform that seamlessly integrates with all DAWs and SoundGrid-compatible I/O

Waves Audio introduced the new SoundGrid Studio System at the 2014 NAMM show, an open platform that seamlessly integrates with all DAWs and SoundGrid-compatible I/Os.

With the SoundGrid Studio System, users can run a nearly unlimited amount of plug-ins; track and rehearse with full-on effects and near-zero latency; connect everything and everyone through a centralized hub; and network with multiple DAWs.

Further, the system is compatible with both Waves and third-party plug-ins.

The SoundGrid Studio System includes the following components:

SoundGrid Studio Application – Smoothly integrates with all DAWs and SoundGrid-compatible I/Os, providing endless possibilities for setups of every size, from a single DAW with one SoundGrid I/O, to a whole network of host computers, I/Os and SoundGrid DSP servers.

eMotion ST – The mixer component of the SoundGrid System. Integrates with StudioRack and lets users run SoundGrid plugins for low-latency monitoring and rehearsing outside of their DAW.
—8 input channels, 64 inputs from StudioRack
—2 stereo FX, 6 stereo aux bus/return, and a main mix buss
—8 insert slots per channel for SoundGrid plugins
—Connect multiple SoundGrid-compatible devices and hosts

StudioRack Virtual Plug-in Rack – A virtual plug-in rack designed to run plugin chains and offload plugin processing to a SoundGrid DSP server. The StudioRack plug-in opens as an insert on any channel, letting users run chains of up to eight plug-ins per rack, with the option of directing the processing to a host computer CPU or a SoundGrid DSP server.
—Compatible with Waves and third-party plug-ins
—Bridges Pro Tools HDX DSP and the SoundGrid DSP server in order to process plug-ins in low latency while recording
—Intuitive MIDI and quick-access controls
—Monitor mix integration with eMotion ST

Waves Audio

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 07:39 AM
Live SoundRecordingNewsProductDigital Audio WorkstationsInterconnectMixerProcessorSoftwareStudioPermalink

Audio-Technica Introduces System 10 Wireless Guitar Stompbox

Pedalboard-mounted wireless system streamlines signal flow and reduces stage clutter, and provides an A/B switcher for multiple signal options

Audio-Technica introduced the new System 10 2.4-GHz digital guitar stompbox wireless system (ATW-1501) at the 2014 NAMM show.

The System 10 Stompbox streamlines onstage signal flow by making the wireless receiver part of the pedalboard, and provides an A/B switcher for multiple signal/amp options.

The system combines the advanced 24-bit operation, easy setup and clear, natural sound quality of other System 10 wireless configurations with unique functionality for guitarists, bassists and other instrumentalists.

Operating in the 2.4 GHz range, far from TV and DTV interference, the System 10 Stompbox offers a rugged, metal, pedal board-mountable receiver with foot switch, two switched TRS balanced 1/4-inch outputs and an output mode selector. With the tap of a foot, musicians can toggle between outputs (e.g., for switching amps) or mute and unmute one output without muting the other (e.g., for tuners without a self-muting feature).

A single receiver can be paired with up to eight UniPak® body-pack transmitters, allowing users to easily switch between instruments without having to move a body-pack from one instrument to the next. 

System 10 wireless ensures clear communications by providing three levels of diversity assurance: frequency, time, and space: Frequency Diversity sends the signal on two dynamically allocated frequencies for interference-free communication. Time Diversity sends the signal in multiple time slots to maximize immunity to multipath interference. Space Diversity uses two antennas on each transmitter and receiver to maximize signal integrity.

Each ATW-1501 Stompbox system includes an ATW-R1500 Stompbox receiver, an ATW-T1001 UniPak body-pack transmitter with an AT-GcW guitar cable, and Velcro strips for adding receiver to an effects pedal board. The ATW-R1500 is a digital receiver with sturdy, metal-body construction, easy-to-read digital ID and transmitter battery level displays, and AF Peak and Pair indicator lights.

The System 10 Stompbox system will be available spring 2014 with a U.S. MSRP of $614.95.

Audio-Technica

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 07:22 AM
Live SoundRecordingChurch SoundNewsProductDigitalInterconnectMicrophoneSignalSystemWirelessPermalink

Radial Unveils The Headload Guitar Amplifier Attenuator

Fosters reducing volume levels on stage while driving the amp hard for maximum tone

Radial Engineering has announced the new Headload, a guitar amplifier attenuator that allows the artist to reduce the volume levels on stage while driving the amp hard for maximum tone.

According to Radial president Peter Janis, “With the proliferation of in-ear monitors, there has come a tremendous need for reducing sound pressure levels on stage. Outside of drums, the next biggest culprit is the guitar amplifier. To get tone, guitarists like to drive their amps hard. This is particularly true for smaller amps that sound great when pushed to the max. 

“Having tried all kinds of load boxes - we have never been all that impressed with the ones currently on the market. Although they all reduce the sound level coming out of the amp, they fall short when it comes to producing a usable signal for the PA system. We felt that if we could leverage the incredible success we have enjoyed with the Radial JDX direct box and combine this with the Phazer phase adjustment tool, a new type of load box could be created. After a year of trial and error, we are pleased to announce the Headload—the culmination of our quest for great amp tone.”

The 100 percent discrete fan-cooled design begins with a series of high power cement-encrusted epoxy-coated copper coil resistors that are used in conjunction with a 6-position Grayhill rotary switch to dissipate the power generated by the amplifier.

A variable range control allows incremental power reduction at low levels if needed. This is augmented with separate high and low resonance switches to compensate with extra sparkle or bottom end. 

Power going to the speakers may also be turned off for quiet recording or to eliminate the speaker cabinet on stage. A front-panel 1/4-inch headphone jack with level control makes the Headload a great companion for quiet practicing.

In addition to the 8-ohm speaker cabinet outputs, the Headload comes with a built-in Radial JDX direct box, coupled with a 6-position voicing switch with that lets you choose the desired amp and cabinet emulation. This is supplemented with a 2-band EQ for fine tuning and a low-pass filter to eliminate overly harsh harmonics that are produced by some amplifiers.

Two JDX direct outputs offer the choice of pre- or post-EQ settings to allow the artist to control his wedge or in-ear monitors to suit while sending a non-equalized tone to the front of house mix position. 

For engineers who prefer to combine a microphone with a direct feed, the Headload has also been outfitted with a Radial Phazer phase alignment tool. This enables the stage tech to align the direct feed with the mic and dial-in the mix on stage. 

In the studio, the Phazer can also be used for creative equalization such as creating Boston-type out-of-phase rhythm tones or an ultra-thick wall-of-sound. A second set of 1/4-inch line outputs may be used to feed additional stage amps or effects if needed.

The Headload is made in Canada from 14-gauge steel, measures 5.06 x 19.15 x 7.44 (inches (h x w x d), and is supported with a 3-year transferable warranty. 

The Headload will start shipping in spring 2014. Estimated retail: $600 USD.

Radial Engineering

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Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 06:48 AM
Live SoundRecordingChurch SoundNewsProductInterconnectProcessorSignalSound ReinforcementStudioPermalink

API Takes 500-series Lunchbox To New Level With 500-8

Includes all of the features of the 500-6B plus two new slots

API introduced its new eight-slot 500-8 lunchbox at the 2014 NAMM. The new eight-slot model is priced the same as the six-slot 500-6 lunchbox, effectively giving new purchasers two free slots.

In addition, the new 500-8B includes all of the features of the 500-6B, including DB-25 (D-Sub) connectors for easy I/O, universal power supply (100- or 250-volt, 47 Hz to 63 Hz), phantom power, rack-mounting with optional rack-ear kit for robust performance, and new toggle switches for channel linking.

Notes Larry Droppa, president of API, “Listening to our end users is key to our product development. As we add new 500 series modules to our line, including the new 505-DI and 565 Filter Bank, it was only natural to add two more slots to the 500-6 lunchbox. And to make it even sweeter, we decided to offer the 500-8 lunchbox at the same price as the 6.”

The 500-8 lunchbox is now shipping.

MSRP: $499

API

{extended}
Posted by Keith Clark on 01/27 at 06:31 AM
Live SoundRecordingNewsProductInterconnectProcessorStudioPermalink

Friday, January 24, 2014

Blue Sky Launches Star System One 2.1 At NAMM 2014

New Star Systems One 2.1 monitoring system from Blue Sky features Sub 12D powered sub and two Sat 6D satellites.

Blue Sky is proud to announce the debut of its newest monitoring solution, the Star System One 2.1, comprised of a single Sub 12D digital powered subwoofer and two Sat 6D digital satellite speakers.

Designed and assembled in the United States, the new Sat 6D and Sub 12D can also serve as building blocks for systems of varying sizes and configurations, making them especially well-suited for broadcast, film post, and game sound design environments.

Chris Fichera, Blue Sky/Group One Ltd. VP of Sales , explains that Blue Sky CTO Rich Walborn was the driving force behind the new Sat 6D and Sub 12D systems, ensuring that they would meet the specific and unique needs of professional users.

“We knew that an advanced monitoring system had to be able to adapt to acoustical environments ranging from extremely good to quite poor, such as the typical audio area in a mobile production unit,” says Fichera. “Thanks to Rich’s efforts as the lead acoustical, electrical and software designer, we are confident that the Star System One will reliably provide significantly improved monitoring accuracy across a very broad range of environments.”

For the Sat 6D satellite speakers, Walborn’s research led him to identify an HF driver from Denmark with superb linearity, while the custom mid-bass driver is US-sourced and employs a unique radial neodymium magnet structure.

Integrated DSP permits optimization of the system’s inherent performance parameters, including correction for various baffle and driver characteristics and time-alignment of the drivers.

The system employs advanced-design Class D amplifiers that, according to Walborn, “maintain audio performance at levels that are equal or superior to high-quality – yet much less efficient – Class AB amplifier designs.” The Sat 6D is primarily designed to be used in a 2.1 or 5.1 system, but is also capable of being used very effectively as a full range system thanks to DSP and a unique sealed port design.

Walborn points out that Blue Sky’s new subwoofer,

“The Sub 12D, utilizes a new long-excursion driver that produces improved performance over its predecessor in an enclosure that is about 33 percent smaller and lighter,” Walborn point out.

Like the Sat 6D, the Sub 12D is equipped with DSP, parametric EQ, and Burr Brown converters. During the design and refinement stage, Fichera brought various prototypes of both Sats and Subs to end users to gather feedback, and this led to further refinements and changes.

At the heart of the Star System One 2.1 is the new Audio Management Controller (AMC), which optimizes and controls a wide array of functions across the entire monitoring system.

The AMC is a 5.1/7.1 digital processor with 31-band parametric EQ on each channel, time delays for channel alignment as well as lip-sync, sample rate conversion, and both analog and digital inputs and outputs.

The AMC’s hybrid touch/hardware remote control provides solo, mute, presets, master volume and other functions. Some setup functions, including room EQ, are accomplished in conjunction with a PC attached via the AMC’s USB port.

The measurement and room EQ program utilizes a proprietary equalization optimization system developed by Walborn called BOO (Binary Organic Optimization).

“This unique algorithm compares thousands of settings in a matter of seconds, achieving the target correction curve with linearity that would be very hard to achieve manually,” adds Walborn. 

Room measurement can be accomplished with the built-in measurement tools or imported from systems like Smaart.

Expected to ship in February 2014, the Blue Sky Star System One 2.1 will carry a list price of $5,385, with additional Sat 6D and Sub 12D units sold individually for $1,695 and $1,995, respectively.

Blue Sky

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Posted by Julie Clark on 01/24 at 01:47 PM
RecordingNewsProductLoudspeakerMonitoringStudioSubwooferPermalink

TransAudio Group Debuts Bock iFet Condenser Microphone At Winter NAMM

Bock iFet phantom-powered condenser microphone.

Engineer David Bock has yet again captured the unmistakable tone of a cherished vintage microphone. The newly introduced Bock iFet phantom-powered condenser microphone possesses the sonic signature of a classic fet47 mic plus deeper bass and higher highs.

The iFet also features two completely separate amplifier circuits. The first circuit uses one FET and four transformers to beautifully capture high-SPL sources, such as drums and electric guitar. The second circuit uses one FET only and is ideally suited for quieter sources, such as voice.

The two-circuit design effectively doubles the size of the Bock iFet’s sonic palette.

“There is a real art and science to designing and manufacturing a modern microphone with a specific sound, that embodies the sonic characteristics of a loved classic vintage microphone,” said Brad Lunde, president of TransAudio Group, the U.S. distributor of Bock’s entire line of high-end studio microphones. “David Bock understands the fundamentals and nuances of microphone design with tremendous depth, and he is passionate about building great microphones that will stand the test of time in the studio.

“With its dual-circuitry design, the Bock iFet is a great studio vocal mic – with all of the depth, character, and authenticity you would find in a vintage studio condenser many times the iFet’s price – and also a great studio high SPL input instrument and kick drum microphone.

“That should make it especially appealing to individuals who are on a budget yet are unwilling to fall short of perfection.”

The Bock iFet Microphone is now shipping and has a US-MSRP of $2,150.00.

TransAudio Group

{extended}
Posted by Julie Clark on 01/24 at 11:12 AM
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cerwin-Vega! Announces Expansion Of XD Desktop Speaker Series

Cerwin-Vega!is pleased to present the expansion of its popular XD Desktop Speaker Series at the 2014 NAMM Show (TASCAM Booth 6491).

The new four-inch XD4 and five-inch XD5 full range systems and eight-inch XD8 powered subwoofer join the company’s existing XD3 Powered Desktop Speaker. In keeping with the tradition of Cerwin-Vega! products, key design elements of the series include optimized frequency response, overall clarity, low distortion and the company’s trademark bass performance.

Each XD Series member is matched with low distortion, high output amplifiers and soft-dome tweeters for the best possible sound. Equipped with metal covers, the XD3 and XD4 feature 3/4-inch tweeters while the XD5 utilizes a one-inch tweeter.

The XD8 sub offers deep bass extension, allowing each system to go to a new level of performance. Unlike other desktop speaker systems, the Cerwin-Vega! XD Series is built with solid MDF wood enclosures, allowing it to deliver the same quality of sound as home speaker systems. 

“When setting out to create the Cerwin-Vega! XD Series, our engineers made it their goal to deliver optimal sound reproduction in a compact system,” says Gus Jursch, Director of Operations for Gibson Pro Audio. “Since versatility is the ultimate sign of a great desktop speaker, our designers also worked to ensure that the entire XD Series fully integrates with existing desktop equipment such as audio interfaces, audio mixers or DJ gear.”

The Cerwin-Vega! XD Series speakers are equipped with several front and rear inputs, including an 1/8-inch TRS, RCA pair and 1/4-inch TRS pair inputs, as well as a front panel 1/8-inch TRS headphone jack.

Additionally, the speakers feature an optimally designed bass port for proper low frequency phase alignment and minimal turbulence. Also included is Cerwin-Vega!’s signature Vega-Bass Boost Switch, which enables an enhanced bass EQ. 

The efficient XD8 Subwoofer offers an extended bass response, high SPL and an optimally designed port for proper low frequency phase alignment and minimal turbulence. In addition to the standard audio input and outputs, a volume knob, crossover switch and polarity switch can be found at the rear of the sub for aligning its audio to the desktop monitors.

A System Remote connection port is also on the sub for use with the included XD8 Remote Control, which allows for easy volume control of the entire system. Featuring a Volume knob and Mute/Bypass switch,  it is also outfitted with an audio input jack.

Cerwin-Vega!

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Posted by Julie Clark on 01/23 at 04:55 PM
RecordingNewsProductLoudspeakerSound ReinforcementSubwooferPermalink

iZotope and BT Release BreakTweaker

iZotope, Inc. and GRAMMY-nominated composer and technologist BT, have combined creative forces to bring you a drum sculpting and beat sequencing environment that blurs the line between rhythm and melody.

“We are a company that loves to make innovative products, taking the best of the past and forging into the future. We were able to collaborate with BT’s forward-thinking vision on BreakTweaker, and we’re proud to offer something incredibly unique and brand-new to the world of drum machines,” says iZotope Product Manager, Jack Cote.

Powered by three distinct modules, the Sequencer, the Generator, and a futuristic MicroEdit Engine, BreakTweaker is a creative rhythmic instrument that can be used with any DAW and MIDI controller. Perfect for anyone looking to create truly original and dynamic beats, it’s a new platform for rhythmic composition.

Key Features

  Manipulate audio at a molecular level: control pitch, rhythm, and texture at the finest resolution available
  Escape traditional drum grids: create complex polyrhythmic beats with unique isorhythm and playback speed settings
  Get over 2 GB of professional, royalty-free content: explore presets, drum samples, and wavetables designed by today’s top musicians and DJs, including BT
  Craft your own drum sounds: blend drum samples with robust synthesis features to generate compelling hybrid sounds
  Take control of your beats: Easily trigger and sequence complex patterns and samples using any MIDI controller

Following their joint release of the live re-mixing plug-in, Stutter Edit, BT and iZotope are now back again with BreakTweaker. Featuring BT’s patented micro edit technology based on pioneering rhythmic sound design research, BreakTweaker aims to change the way we think about rhythm and pitch.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the way humans perceive rhythm, particularly the threshold point of where the ear perceives rhythm as pitch,” describes BT,  “The idea of exploring and exploiting this threshold inspired BreakTweaker, a tool where I could finally realize rhythmic possibilities that I once imagined but had never before been able to hear.”

View the video demonstration:

iZotope
BreakTweaker

For more information, visit the BreakTweaker website:  http://www.izotope.com/breaktweaker and watch the BreakTweaker overview video: youtu.be/ErVxMz5tVek

{extended}
Posted by Julie Clark on 01/23 at 04:09 PM
Live SoundRecordingNewsEngineerSoftwareStudioPermalink
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