Friday, April 05, 2013
Glenn Rosenstein Captures Legendary Performance With PreSonus Preamps
From Livingston Taylor to Ziggy Marley, U2 to The Red Clay Ramblers, Grammy-winning producer Glenn Rosenstein's multi-decade discography is both lengthy and delightfully eclectic. So it's hardly surprising that Rosenstein jumped at the opportunity to take on a project unlike anything he'd done before.
From Livingston Taylor to Ziggy Marley, U2 to The Red Clay Ramblers, Grammy-winning producer Glenn Rosenstein’s multi-decade discography is both lengthy and delightfully eclectic. So it’s hardly surprising that Rosenstein jumped at the opportunity to take on a project unlike anything he’d done before.
“I had no expectations other than wanting to do something completely different - to enjoy a new experience,” Rosenstein says.
Despite those limited expectations, Advent at Ephesus, his on-location recording of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles at their monastery near St. Joseph, Missouri, has become a runaway smash.
It spent several weeks at number one on the Billboard Classical chart and was number one in sales on the Barnes & Noble site.
Rosenstein brought in respected classical engineer David Schober to help design a high-performance system that would stand up to the challenge.
“We had to effectively design our own remote studio for a place we had never seen before. And it was truly remote - a couple of miles down a dirt road - so we had to get it right the first time.” Not surprisingly, the system’s front end included a complement of PreSonus ADL 600 preamps.
“We needed something that was transparent, was reliable, was not going to add noise, and had a broad enough sonic palette to faithfully capture the material. The ADL 600 met all those objectives and more,” Rosenstein explains.
Using a Decca tree, along with several matched pairs of Sony, Neumann, and Miktek microphones to record the performance, Rosenstein and Schober recorded multiple redundant takes on a Pro Tools HDX system. “We kept the signal flow pretty simple,” Rosenstein says. “We used the ADL 600s with Miktek C5s and Neumann KM84s, and it sounded fantastic.”
With limited time and limited access to the artists, the need for redundant systems was clear. “These are cloistered nuns,” noted Rosenstein. “We were likely the only ‘outsiders’ they’d interacted with, other than priests, in perhaps a year or two. We had to be very respectful - get set up quickly and be as unobtrusive as possible.”
The room’s acoustics presented a different set of challenges. “We had to figure out the acoustics pretty quickly,” Rosenstein explains. “It was important to know that what we were hearing was accurate. The good news is, we came in with A-level gear and were able to capture a great sounding recording the first time. The ADL 600 has a nice, transparent sound, and really made a difference in the quality of these recordings.”
For Rosenstein, the project was one of the most rewarding in more than 34 years of making records. “The best part of this project was the tremendous talent of the sisters,” he concludes. “They’re just phenomenal singers. We were documentarians - we brought the right gear, and thankfully it turned out great.”
TELEFUNKEN Introducing New M82 Cardioid Microphone At Musikmesse
New Telefunken M82 Mic is engineered for kick drum and broadcast applications
TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik of South Windsor, CT is introducing the new M82 dynamic cardioid microphone for the first time at Muzikmesse 2013.
Following the same design approach as TELEFUNKEN’s other popular Dynamic Series microphones, the new M82 was created to provide a superior alternative to familiar kick drum large diaphragm dynamic microphones.
Hand-assembled and tested in the company facility in Connecticut, the M82 is a robust dynamic microphone that features a large 35mm diaphragm with superb low frequency capabilities.
The M82 is an end-address microphone, meaning that the top portion of the headgrille is pointed at the sound source, and features two separate EQ switches: KICK EQ and HIGH BOOST. These two switches function independently of each other, providing four unique settings. The M82 makes it simple to tailor the microphone’s response to the source.
The M82’s KICK EQ switch engages a passive filter that reduces some of the lower mid-range frequencies (centered around 350Hz) commonly cut when processing a kick drum. This helps to keep the kick drum from sounding “boxy” and allows the low end to remain strong. This particular setting is tailored specifically for kick drum use.
The HIGH BOOST switch tilts the upper mid-range and high frequencies (starting around 2kHz with a 6dB boost by 10kHz). For kick drum use, this allows for more beater attack when placed inside a kick drum. This gives the option of either a vintage-style kick drum sound, or a more modern sound. For a source such as vocals or guitar amps, the high boost provides further articulation and airiness in the upper register.
Though it was designed with the kick drum as a primary application, the two EQ switches make the M82 equally suited for a multitude of sources such as vocals, percussion, broadcast voice, guitar and bass amplifiers, organ, and brass instruments.
On kick drum, the M82 is both fat and punchy. When placed just inside the hole of the resonant head, the M82’s tailored frequency response captures both the beater attack and shell resonance without the need for multiple microphones.
Construction wise, the M82 borrows heavily from the U47 body style by employing a headgrille of similar architecture. Finished in a durable smooth black finish on the headgrille and body, the M82 was rigorously tested to ensure it could handle the rugged role of a kick drum microphone for both studio and live environments.
The TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik M82 is delivered with a stand mount adapter and protective zipper case. An optional elastic suspension mount is available. The microphone has a MSRP of $399 USD.
SurgeX International Offering Global AC Power & Grounding White Paper
Audio Systems Group's Jim Brown authors essential guide for consultants and integrators
SurgeX International has announced the free availability of a new white paper, Power and Grounding for Audio and Video Systems: A White Paper for the Real World - International Edition.
Authored by Jim Brown of Chicago’s Audio Systems Group, the 43-page document was commissioned by SurgeX International to serve consultants and IT/AV system integrators as a core guide on the proper implementation of 120/230-volt AC power platforms with correct connection, distribution and grounding practices.
The document has been published for complimentary distribution on the SurgeX International website here (pdf).
“The implementation of proper AC power and grounding practices for integrated systems is commonly overlooked,” says SurgeX international director of engineering Andy Benton. “So we asked Jim Brown to help enlighten our consultant and integrator base with a definitive white paper on the subject. There are only a handful of IT/AV consultants on the planet that understand these issues at the level that Jim does, and his course at InfoComm has become a requisite for professionals looking to secure CTS status and beyond.”
Brown adds, “I’m very pleased that SurgeX International saw a need for a global AC power and grounding white paper and commissioned our consulting group to write this document. To me, this demonstrates their commitment to the industry well beyond simply selling power protection and will ultimately help customers design trouble-free AC power platforms for complex integrated systems.”
Again, the free white paper is available for download here.
SSL Is Choice For Studio Sound Engineering Program At Alchemea College
Duality provides students with unique and powerful performance and feature benefits to help them understand the creative nuances of sound production
Alchemea College, one of the world’s leading creative media training colleges, specializing in full-time and short audio engineering, music production, live sound and video courses, has installed a Solid State Logic Duality SE for its Studio Sound Engineering program.
The aim of the audio program is to give students a wide variety of skills in order to prepare them for the real world. Alchemea chose Duality to give students the very best educational experience working with a recognized, industry-leading console.
“When the time came to get a new console, we wanted a desk that was analog, had full 5.1 mixing capabilities and offered in-depth DAW control,” says Neil Pickles, director of short courses for Alchemea. “Looking at the current available analogue consoles, Duality has the most exciting and advanced implementation of DAW control over any other console.
“Duality offers an industry-standard channel configuration with mic pre, EQ and dynamics, along with extremely flexible routing and real 5.1 mixing. The brilliant A-FADA (Analogue Fader Accesses DAW Automation) system, which allows the DAW automation to drive the faders on the console, makes Duality the perfect teaching tool for advanced students.”
The console lives in the SSL Duality Control Room, Alchemea’s flagship studio, and is used for mixing and tracking. Capture is through a Pro Tools HD system and a two-inch 24-track analogue tape recorder.
The control room enjoys natural light during the day with complete climate control to promote a relaxed creative environment for working on Duality. Students also have access to a plethora of high-quality plug-ins and racks of outboard dynamics and effects units that are brought together through Duality.
“We have had a very good experience with our SSL G-Series that was put into service 20 years ago and it’s still going strong to this day,” states Pickles. “Back then, tape was still the recording medium and the G-Series set the standard for that medium.
“SSL is clearly setting the standard for DAW integration with Duality, effectively carrying on its renowned legacy. Duality has all the sonic bases covered, so if you want to have a clean and open sound you can, but the VHD mic pres allow students to fatten up the sound as well.
“The console also offers the classic RMS-style E/G compression and peak mode compression. Duality provides students with a unique and powerful performance, and feature benefits to help them understand the creative nuances of sound production.”
In the final analysis, Alchemea wanted an industry-leading console that would be around in the business for a long time, while maintaining its relevancy over the years.
“We felt there was an interesting teaching element with Duality in supplying our students with a console that is part of a family of consoles and that these are the consoles you’re going to find all over the world,” concludes Pickles. “The SSL people were brilliant from our meeting at the head office to installation and commissioning, and that’s also a part of the confidence we have in SSL.
“Essentially, we wanted a console from a company we could trust to be around in 15 years, and the only console that could satisfactorily answer that condition was the Solid State Logic Duality SE.”
Andrea Perry Relies On Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle
Notable singer, producer and engineer Andrea Perry relies on her Lexicon Native Reverb Bundle.
For over 15 years Andrea Perry has had a varied musical career, she’s contributed the music for dozens of video games, TV shows, movies and more. She currently runs Andrea Perry Productions, which has released three solo albums (with a fourth in the making) and along with Sarah Sharp is one half of indie pop music duo Kaliyo, whose songs have been licensed worldwide for TV, commercials and Internet marketing videos.
After using countless other reverb software programs Perry was looking for something new and ultimately discovered Harman’s Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle.
“I was using other reverb software for a while but found myself looking for a change,” said Perry, “so I started reading reviews and doing research on various music and recording websites. “The Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle seemed to be highly respected by a lot of people doing a lot of different styles of music.
“I downloaded the demo version and fell in love with it right away when I heard it on Sarah’s voice. When the demo expired, the tracks I had used the PCM Native Reverb Bundle plug-ins on suddenly sounded very dull! It didn’t take long before I felt like I couldn’t function without the plug-ins.”
Although the PCM Native Reverb Bundle offers 7 exclusive Lexicon reverbs and effects and hundreds of studio presets, Perry finds herself drawn to the Vintage Plate and Hall settings the most.
“I don’t know how to elaborate on this except to say that I just really like the way the Lexicon plug-ins improve the tracks, especially vocals, percussion and acoustic guitars. But when you come down to it, the plug-ins flatter pretty much everything.”
“The Lexicon reverbs add dimension and sound smooth and lush. They just make things sound better. The presets are also very helpful as starting points towards getting the sounds I want as I consider myself a non-technical person. If I’m working on a vocal, for example, I’ll grab a vintage plate reverb preset and then tweak that. If I had to start from nothing I’d be lost.”
“We are very lucky to work with artists of Andrea’s talent,” stated Noel Larson Market Manager for Recording, Tour and Portable PA at Harman Signal Processing. “Her ability to seamlessly cross from popular to commercial works with the same plug-ins shows the power of our reverbs. She exemplifies our brand motto, When you hear music, you hear Lexicon.”
Perry continues to collaborate with Sarah Sharp in Kaliyo and is currently working on her fourth solo album, “Four,” doing production work for 21-year-old singer/songwriter Ariel Abshire and composing for more commercials and videos.
Through it all, Perry notes there’s one constant in her variegated musical career: “I now use the Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle on every session.”
Massenburg & Jaczko Test New Sanken Mics At Berklee
Working with Berklee's Rob Jaczko, Chair of the Dept., Massenburg teaches in real recording sessions with students and shares his vast knowledge of recording, as well as bringing new technology and gear.
Renowned producer/engineer George Massenburg visits Boston’s Berklee College of Music twice a year as an Artist in Residence in the Music Production and Engineering Department.
Working with Berklee’s Rob Jaczko, Chair of the Dept., Massenburg teaches in real recording sessions with students and shares his vast knowledge of recording, as well as bringing new technology and gear.
“Allison Brown was also in residence, with our string department,” explained Rob Jaczko. “She is a gifted banjo maestra from Nashville, so we set up to record a student bluegrass ensemble she is producing. We are very familiar with Sanken mics here at Berklee and when I heard about this new CU-55 mic, it was a great opportunity to try them out during George’s visit to our studios.”
Berklee is in the midst of a massive studio expansion project, building ten new facilities in Boston with designer John Storyk, who also designed Berklee’s new facilities in Valencia Spain.
The new spaces includes a scoring stage, two additional large tracking rooms, a 7.1 Euphonix mix-to-picture room, a mastering suite and a series of production studios.
The college currently has 13 studios operating 22 hours/day, 7 days/week including two SSL tracking rooms, an SSL Duality mix room, three API Legacy studios and an Avid Icon console already in operation.
“When George arrived, we first used the CU-55’s on piano,” Jaczko explained. “Then we moved to drum overheads and percussion. We loved the sound of acoustic guitar with this mic, and because they are small and side-address, they work very favorably when getting them into tight spots.”
The CU-55 houses a side-firing 16mm capsule with a resonant chamber like the top of the line Sanken CU-44x, which has been tuned to create a perfect cardioid pattern and is omnidirectional below 50 kHz. This new generation microphone is flat at 90 degrees, flat on axis, with very little proximity effect.
“The CU-55s really excel when recording piano,” added Jaczko. They give you a really solid, warm image of the piano, with a nice clear midrange. The sound is very articulate, yet the top end was very pleasant, very extended. It’s an overall superior music microphone.”
The CU—55 uses the same diaphragm material as Sanken’s remarkable CU-100 and CUW-180 mics. Ideal for acoustic instruments like guitars, cello, harp and piano, the CU-55 can also handle the explosive levels of big brass and pounding tympani’s.
“We have a number of Sanken mics in our locker,” said Jaczko,” including the amazing CO-100K omnis. “What we really like about the company is that they have a very musical approach to their microphone design.”
EQ tips that can easily be applied across your entire workflow.
Having some trouble getting the bass to sit just right in your mix? Veteran Mastering Engineer Bob Katz is here with a brief video tutorial demonstrating bass eq technique that can easily be applied across your entire workflow.
Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock Includes Four USB 3.0 Ports, Four SATA Ports, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, Pass-Through Thunderbolt Port, Optical Disc Drive, and 2.5/3.5-Inch Internal Drive Bay
Sonnet has announced the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock, a fully featured docking station for Mac and Windows computers with Thunderbolt ports.
Sonnet’s latest Thunderbolt technology product features 15 ports: four USB 3.0, one Gigabit Ethernet, one FireWire 800, one headphone, one microphone, one speaker, one audio in, one pass-through Thunderbolt (for either another Thunderbolt device or an external display), two eSATA, and two internal SATA (one port for included optical disc drive and one 6 Gb/s port for a user-installable 2.5-inch SSD or 3.5-inch hard drive).
In addition, the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock includes an 8x DVD±RW drive, or optionally, a Blu-ray BD-ROM/8x DVD±RW drive with Blu-ray player software for OS X.
“Today’s portable computers deliver great performance, enabling people to work and play almost anywhere,” said Robert Farnsworth, CEO, Sonnet Technologies. “Moving between work or school and home can frequently mean attaching and disconnecting multiple devices such as hard drives, printers, keyboards, iPhone/iPod docks, mice, networks, speakers, headsets, optical disc drives, and external displays.
“The Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock gives users a simple way to attach to and disconnect from all these peripherals and more, using a single cable.”
With the introduction of new, thinner, lighter computers, manufacturers continue to remove interfaces and optical drives that were once standard. The Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock offers a simple way to restore FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, eSATA, audio, and add additional USB 3.0 connectivity plus an optical drive to load software, import CDs, burn CDs and DVD-ROMs, and play DVDs and even Blu-ray movies.
Peripherals are left connected to the dock using standard cables, while the dock connects to the computer with a single Thunderbolt cable. When it is time to take the computer and go, the user needs only to disconnect the Thunderbolt cable.
With the purchase of the Sonnet dock with Blu-ray drive option, software to enable Blu-ray disc playback on Mac computers is included. All models support the installation of a standard SSD or hard drive for backing up data or hosting a media library. For Mac users, this means their Time Machine backup drive can be installed inside the dock.
Sonnet designed the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock for maximum flexibility in use. The case may be set horizontally or vertically to save space on the desktop. Both the front and back of the enclosure include USB 3.0, audio input, and audio output connections to support the handy connection of devices such as a microphone, thumb drives, headphones, or a cell phone for synching and rapid charging.
The internal drive bay supports the installation of either a 6 Gb/s SATA 2.5-inch SSD or 3.5-inch HDD, providing an ideal solution for adding storage capacity without having to connect another external drive and its power brick.
Dual Thunderbolt ports enable the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock to support daisy-chaining of Thunderbolt peripherals, and to be placed anywhere in a Thunderbolt device chain. The Echo dock also supports the connection of a Thunderbolt or display port monitor, or other display interface type with an appropriate adapter.
“The call for more mainstream Thunderbolt peripherals continues to grow louder every day,” added Farnsworth. “While ordinary docking stations are a handy solution for attaching and disconnecting common peripherals on a frequent basis, we saw an opportunity to improve upon the basic concept and deliver better value to users.
“In addition to the most-requested interfaces, the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock adds an optical drive and the space and connectors to install an HDD or SSD — all in the same case.”
The Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock with DVD Drive (part number ECHO-TBD-CD-0TB) has a suggested retail price of $399.95.
The Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock with Blu-ray Drive (part number ECHO-TBD-BL-0TB) has a suggested retail price of $449.95.
The Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock with DVD Drive Plus 2TB HDD (part number ECHO-TBD-CD-2TB) has a suggested retail price of $499.95.
The Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock with Blu-ray Drive Plus 2TB HDD (part number ECHO-TBD-BL-2TB) has a suggested retail price of $549.95.
Compatible with OS X 10.8.2+, Windows 8, and Windows 7, all models are expected to be available by summer. Models without an HDD will be available from Sonnet and its resellers, while models with an HDD will be sold exclusively through Sonnet’s online store.
RADAR 6 Software Update From iZ Technology Includes Support For USB 3.0 Drives And Blu-ray
RADAR 6 now available with USB 3.0 Drives, Blu-ray, and updated software
iZ Technology Corporation announces the launch of their updated software v4.0.1 for RADAR 6.
Key features of 4.0.1 software include support for RADAR 6 Solid State record drives with integral USB 3.0 port and RADAR 6 Blu-ray combo drives. Storage device handling has also been opitmized along with minor bug fixes.
The solid state record drives in the new RADAR 6 now come with a built in SuperSpeed USB 3.0 device port housed in a rugged, all metal removable key lock enclosure with a rating of 25,000+ insertions.
The SATA drive can be removed from RADAR and used as a stand-alone portable drive that can be connected to any computer with a standard USB 3.0 cable for file transfer at blazing speeds. The drive is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0.
Software 4.0.1 now supports Blu-ray slot load combo drives that can burn the latest dual layer Blu-ray disks up to 100 GB, red book audio CDs, data CDs and DVDs, and DVD-RAM disks.
By now you’ve all heard that the legendary producer Phil Ramone has passed. If you read any of the obituaries, you’ll notice that they all quote his many Grammys and the superstars he worked with, which indeed placed him above the majority of his contemporaries.
Phil was more than that though. He was a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker on the technical side as well, always eager to embrace new technology.
Phil started as a musician (piano and violin), but before long became interested in the technical aspects of making music, and became a Grammy-winning engineer (with the groundbreaking bossa nova record Getz/Gilberto in 1964). He soon opened up A&R Studios in New York, which for years was one of the premier indie facilities on the East Coast and a place where a host of engineering legends got their start (Elliot Scheiner, Shelly Yakus, Don Hahn, Roy Cicala, to name a few). Just to show how into the tech side of things Phil was, he personally tuned his plate reverbs, and they became part of the signature sound of the studio and a big reason why people wanted to work there.
In 1966 Phil made the decision to install the first solid-state console in a mainline studio, then he was always the first to use any version of Dolby that they released. He was the first to use an early version of what today is an ISDN line to record an artist from a different location, and one of the first to eagerly switch to digital tape machines when they became available.
As if that wasn’t enough, he was the first producer to embrace the CD, with Billy Joel’s 52nd Street (named after the location of A&R) becoming the first commercially available release in that format.
Phil was an engineer with big technical chops, and he never was afraid to get down in the dirt of engineering if he had to, despite being one of the most successful producers ever. And he was never afraid to try something new if he thought that it might help the final product in any way.
I never worked with Phil, but I did get a chance to spend a full week with him on a Caribbean “Home Theater” cruise in 2003 where we were both speaking on the same panel. The entire week was nothing but great stories from him and Al Schmitt day and night. One of the best was about Howard Stern’s father, who was actually the maintenance engineer at A&R for a time. For as loud and boisterous as Howard is, apparently his father was as quiet as a church mouse, mostly seen and never heard. Of course, the stories about the music mafia were priceless (probably best left unprinted).
Perhaps the best of my memories with him is of just he and I watching a Monday Night Football game together in the lounge one night as we sailed just off the coast of Cuba. He was a regular guy, and as into sports as any Joe Sixpack.
I had always hoped I’d get the chance to hang with Phil more and really felt that it would happen someday, but alas, that’s not to be, at least in this lifetime. Pleasant journeys, my friend. You were a giant in the music business in so many ways.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.
Nashville Recording Workshop + Expo 2013 Hosting AES Events In May
Events will cover topics including acoustics, home studio issues, songwriting, and common production techniques
The Nashville Recording Workshop + Expo is set to take place on May 14 and 15 at the Rocketown Event Center in downtown Nashville.
Presented by the AES Nashville Section, the 2-day event provides an in-depth look at professional production tools and techniques for the everyday user through informative workshops and presentations.
An open exhibitor area also offers attendees hands-on product showcases and demos, along with networking opportunities with audio professionals from around the country.
The week will conclude with AES Nashville’s annual AudioMasters golf tournament, now in it’s 16th year in Music City.
This 4th edition of the Nashville Recording Workshop + Expo will feature Sugarland’s Kristian Bush as this year’s keynote speaker to kick off the event. Along with long-time collaborator, producer/engineer Tom Tapley, Bush will highlight the role of technology in the creative process as it pertains to his experience as a singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and personal studio owner.
Events over the next 2 days will cover topics ranging from acoustics and home studio issues, to business and songwriting, and common production techniques for getting the most out of a selective studio budget.
Regarding previous NRW+E events, Nashville Recording Workshop + Expo event chair Jim Kaiser states, “The insights detailed in the Production, Engineering and Songwriting/Publishing tracks last year provided ample learning opportunities for every attendee, whatever their primary interests. Last year’s NRW+E truly jelled, and Rocketown proved itself an outstanding venue, and our attendees were informed, entertained and inspired.
“Our special focus on live presentations, including in-depth, project profiles by Keb Mo and Beth Neilsen Chapman, was particularly well received, and this year’s presenters are equally exciting”
Kaiser adds, “Many attendees and exhibitors already participate in the AudioMasters golf tournament. Tying AES Nashville’s events together in the same week makes sense for the audio production community as a whole. We look forward to working with all of our presenters, exhibitors and sponsors, to make this the best-ever event in the Nashville Recording Workshop +Expo series.”
Presented by the AES Nashville Section in conjunction with the AES, and designed to share the expertise of audio pros with home studio owners, musicians, songwriters, producers and engineers, NRW+E 2013 will feature presentations by industry pros, exhibits by audio gear manufacturers and an opening night reception. This year’s panelist slated to appear include Jonell Polansky, Chris Mara, Chris Estes, Bil Vorndick, Richard Adler, Lynn Fuston, Glenn Meadows, Kristian Bush, Tom Tapely, and Steve Marcantonio, among others.
RTW Appoints Christopher Spahr U.S. Director Of Sales/Operations
Spahr Will Oversee and Develop U.S.-Based Sales and Marketing Strategies for RTW
RTW is pleased to announce the appointment of Christopher Spahr as the company’s new U.S. Director of Sales and Operations in the United States.
Spahr, who began his new role on March 1, 2013, will be based out of RTW’s new U.S. facility, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He will work along with Group One, RTW’s exclusive U.S. distributor, to support the company’s dealer base in the United States.
In his new position, Spahr will draw upon his extensive professional background in audio sales and engineering to establish the new sales and service protocols at the U.S. facility.
“The opening of our new U.S. facility marks quite a milestone for RTW,” says Andreas Tweitmann, CEO, RTW. “Our customers in the United States are very important to us.
“With his expertise in sales and business development and his years spent as a recording engineer, Christopher has the background and passion necessary to support our customers and dealers and to help expand RTW’s brand further. We are thrilled to have Christopher join our team!”
Spahr joins RTW from Sennheiser, where he served as that company’s market development manager. Prior to this, he held sales positions at various companies, including Richard S. Pass Associates, Inc., Peirce-Phelps, Inc. and Swank Audio Visual.
In addition, he has spent time as a recording engineer, providing audio engineering and production services to a roster of top-tier record companies and artists, including a Grammy-winning Latin jazz CD with Arturo Sandoval. Spahr holds a Recording Arts Specialized Associate’s Degree from Full Sail University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Barry University.
Having Spahr in place to head up the U.S. sales force will be a key factor in the company’s continued success and future international expansion.
With the experience he has gained in different segments of the pro audio market in the U.S. over the past 20 years, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this position. Chris Spahr will stay in close contact with RTW’s U.S. customers and navigate their needs, especially since the demand for RTW products has increased in the U.S. over the last years.
“I am honored to join RTW as part of its U.S. expansion plans,” says Spahr. “With its portfolio of innovative audio solutions, team of expert engineers and commitment to value, RTW is a wonderful fit for the pro audio industry here in the United States. “I look forward to working with my new colleagues to build up RTW’s stellar reputation further and ensure the company continues to maintain that success.”
Basics Of Digital Recording: Converting Sound Into Numbers
The most exciting thing is that any numbers can be converted into sound
In a digital recording system, sound is stored and manipulated as a stream of discrete numbers, each number representing the air pressure at a particular time.
The numbers are generated by a microphone connected to a circuit called an analog to digital converter, or ADC. Each number is called a sample, and the number of samples taken per second is the sample rate.
Ultimately, the numbers will be converted back into sound by a digital to analog converter, or DAC, connected to a loudspeaker.
Figure 1 (below) shows the components of a digital system.
Notice that the output of the ADC and the input of the DAC consists of a bundle of wires. These wires carry the numbers that are the result of the analog to digital conversion.
The numbers are in the binary number system in which only two characters are used, 1 and 0. (The circuitry is actually built around switches which are either on or off.)
The value of a character depends on its place in the number, just as in the familiar decimal system. Here are a few equivalents:
Each digit in a number is called a bit, so that last number is 16 bits long in its binary form. If we wrote the second number as 0000000000000001, it would be sixteen bits long and have a value of 1.
The number of bits in the number has a direct bearing on the fidelity of the signal. Figure 2 illustrates how this works. The number of possible voltage levels at the output is simply the number of values that may be represented by the largest possible number (no “in between” values are allowed).
If there were only one bit in the number, the ultimate output would be a pulse wave with a fixed amplitude and more or less the frequency of the input signal. If there are more bits in the number the waveform is more accurately traced, because each added bit doubles the number of possible values.
The distortion is roughly the percentage that the least significant bit represents out of the average value. Distortion in digital systems increases as signal levels decrease, which is the opposite of the behavior of analog systems.
The number of bits in the number also determines the dynamic range. Moving a binary number one space to the left multiplies the value by two (just as moving a decimal number one space to the left multiplies the value by 10), so each bit doubles the voltage that may be represented.
Doubling the voltage increases the power available by 6 dB, so we can see the dynamic range available is about the number of bits times 6 dB.
The rate at which the numbers are generated is even more important than the number of bits used. Figure 3 illustrates this.
If the sampling rate is lower than the frequency we are trying to capture, entire cycles will be missed, and the decoded result would be too low in frequency and might not resemble the proper waveform at all.
This kind of mistake is called aliasing. If the sampling rate were exactly the frequency of the input, the result would be a straight line, because the same spot on the waveform would be measured each time. This can happen even if the sampling rate is twice the frequency of the input if the input is a sine or similar waveform.
The sampling rate must be greater than twice the frequency measured for accurate results. (The mathematical statement of this is the Nyquist Theorem.) This implies that if we are dealing with sound, we should sample at least 40,000 times per second.
The Nyquist rate (twice the frequency of interest) is the lowest allowable sampling rate. For best results, sampling rates twice or four times this should be used. Figure 4 shows how the waveform improves as the sampling rate is increased.
Even at high sample rates, the output of the system is a series of steps. A Fourier analysis of this would show that everything belonging in the signal would be there along with a healthy dose of the sampling rate and its harmonics.
The extra junk must be removed with a low pass filter that cuts off a little higher than the highest desired frequency. (An identical filter should be placed before the ADC to prevent aliasing of any unsuspected ultrasonic content, such as radio frequency interference.)
If the sampling rate is only twice the frequency of interest, the filters must have a very steep characteristic to allow proper frequency response and satisfactorily reject the sampling clock. Such filters are difficult and expensive to build.
Many systems now use a very high sample rate at the output in order to simplify the filters. The extra samples needed to produce a super high rate are interpolated from the recorded samples.
By the way, the circuits that generate the sample rate must be exceedingly accurate. Any difference between the sample rate used for recording and the rate used at playback will change the pitch of the music, just like an off speed analog tape. Also, any unsteadiness or jitter in the sample clock will distort the signal as it is being converted from or to analog form.
Recording Digital Data
Once the waveform is faithfully transformed into bits, it is not easy to record. The major problem is finding a scheme that will record the bits fast enough.
If we sample at 44,100 Hz, with a 16-bit word size, in stereo, we have to accommodate 1,411,200 bits per second. This seems like a lot, but it is within the capabilities of techniques developed for video recording. (In fact, the first digital audio systems were built around VCRs. 44.1 KHz was chosen as a sample rate because it worked well with them.)
To record on tape, a very high speed is required to keep the wavelength of a bit at manageable dimensions. This is accomplished by moving the head as well as the tape, resulting in a series of short tracks across the tape at a diagonal.
On a compact disc, the bits are microscopic pits burned into the plastic by a laser.The stream of pits spirals just like the groove on a record, but is played from the inside out. To read the data, light from a gentler laser is reflected off the surface of the plastic (from the back: the plastic is clear.) into a light detector. The pits disrupt this reflection and yield up the data.
In either case, the process is helped by avoiding numbers that are hard to detect, like 00001000. That example is difficult because it will give just a single very short electrical spike. If some numbers are unusable, a larger maximum (more bits) must be available to allow recording the entire set. On tape, twenty bits are used to record each sixteen bit sample, on CDs, 28 bits are used.
Even with these techniques, the bits are going to be physically very small, and it must be assumed that some will be lost in the process. A single bit can be very important (suppose it represents the sign of a large number!), so there has to be a way of recovering lost data. Error correction is really two problems; how to detect an error, and what to do about it (Figure 5).
The most common error detection method is parity computation. An extra bit is added to each number which indicates whether the number is even or odd. When the data is read off the tape, if the parity bit is inappropriate, something has gone wrong. This works well enough for telephone conversations and the like, but does not detect serious errors very well.
In digital recording, large chunks of data are often wiped out by a tape dropout or a scratch on the disk. Catching these problems with parity would be a matter of luck. To help deal with large scale data loss, some mathematical computation is run on the numbers, and the result is merged with the data from time to time. This is known as a Cyclical Redundancy Check Code or CRCC. If a mistake turns up in this number, an error has occurred since the last correct CRCC was received.
Once an error is detected, the system must deal gracefully with the problem. To make this possible, the data is recorded in a complex order. Instead of word two following word one, as you might expect, the data is interleaved, following a pattern like:
words 1, 5, 9,13,17, 21, 25, 29, 2, 6,10,14,18, 22, 26, 30, 3, 7,15,19, 27, etc.
With this scheme, you could lose eight words, but they would represent several isolated parts of the data stream, rather than a large continuous chunk of waveform. When a CRC indicates a problem, the signal can be fixed.
For minor errors, the CRCC can be used to replace the missing numbers exactly. If the problem is more extensive, the system can use the previous and following words to reconstruct a passable imitation of the missing one. One of the factors that makes up the price difference in various digital systems is the sophistication available to reconstruct missing data.
The Benefits Of Being Digital
You may be wondering about the point of all of this, if it turns out that a digital system is more complex than the equivalent analog circuit. Digital circuits are complex, but very few of the components must be precise; most of the circuitry merely responds to the presence or absence of current.
Improving performance is usually only a matter of increasing the word size or the sample rate, which is achieved by duplicating elements of the circuit. It is possible to build analog circuits that match digital performance levels, but they are very expensive and require constant maintenance. The bottom line is that good digital systems are cheaper than good analog systems.
Digital devices usually require less maintenance than analog equipment. The electrical characteristics of most circuit elements change with time and temperature, and minor changes slowly degrade the performance of analog circuits. Digital components either work or don’t, and it is much easier to find a chip that has failed entirely than one that is merely 10 percent off spec.
Many analog systems are mechanical in nature, and simple wear can soon cause problems. Digital systems have few moving parts, and such parts are usually designed so that a little vibration or speed variation is not important.
In addition, digitally encoded information is more durable than analog information, again because circuits are responding only to the presence or absence of something rather than to the precise characteristics of anything. As you have seen, it is possible to design digital systems so that they can actually reconstruct missing or incorrect data. You can hear every little imperfection on an LP, but minor damage is not audible with a CD.
The aspect of digital sound that is most exciting is that any numbers can be converted into sound, whether they originated at a microphone or not. This opens up the possibility of creating sounds that have never existed before, and of controlling those sounds with a precision that is simply not possible with any other technique.
Appointment helps position company for next phase of growth
Aphex has announced the appointment of Jim Bailey to the position of general manager, with the announcement made by Aphex chairman/CEO David Wiener.
Bailey’s offers extensive experience in product development, illustrated by the recent debuts of Aphex models such as the USB 500 Rack and USB Microphone X, as well as management talent.
“Aphex is firing on all cylinders. We have worked really hard over the last two years, adapting, evolving and expanding our Burbank and Salt Lake City operations to position us for the next phase of growth,” Wiener states. “A key step is putting Jim in the position of General Manager, where we can fully utilize his unique skill set in leading the product and operations teams.”
After many years as a engineer, producer and studio operator in Los Angeles, riding the transition from analog to digital, Bailey ultimately came into pro audio manufacturing to put that experience into new products.
Prior to joining Aphex as director of product development, Bailey held product management positions at TASCAM and Avid, where he acted as the interface between the customer, sales force, marketing team, and engineering.
In The Studio: Keeping Fresh The Art Form Of Recording
The privilege of being a "bricklayer"
I saw Pink Floyd’s epic film “The Wall” for the first time when I was 12 years old. It was quite possibly, at that time, that I first realized that recorded music held a certain “power.”
The music of that film, coupled with the vibrant, yet bleak imagery, “forced” me to confront a whole range of emotions.
Shortly after, when I heard the album by itself, I found that the music alone still moved me in the same ways. Certain songs were beautiful and soaring and brought a sense of comfort, others evoked confusion and even fear, and I began to wonder how such emotions could be “captured” within a recording.
Like all good little junior rock stars, I started a band with some schoolmates at age 14. At the time I really wanted to play the drums, but didn’t have the money for a drum kit.
I did, however, own a cheap Japanese “sort of guitar shaped thing”, and I had some experience making it sound like syncopated duck farts, so naturally I was elected to the position of rhythm guitarist. We wrote all the songs we could with the three chords we knew, and practiced our little hearts out, dreaming of the day we’d “make it big.”
The thing I remember most about those days is that no matter what we were doing, whether it was rehearsing, playing talent shows or backyard parties, we ALWAYS had a little tape recording running.
I loved taking those tapes home and listening to them over and over. This was proof that I was in a real band, and it became my greatest goal in life to record an album.
Playing live is great fun, and for many musicians, the thrill of playing live is what motivates them to hone their craft. On the other hand, recording, while appealing to some, can often be the biggest burden and source of stress to many great players.
But I have always seen making recordings as the best part of the gig. A piece of recorded music is a permanent mark on the artistic world, and I became determined to make records that would effect people the way that “The Wall” effected me.
After a year or so of “boom box recording 101,” we graduated to four-track recording, thanks to our lead guitarist’s weekly allowance and a little invention called the TASCAM Porta One Ministudio. If recording my own personal version of “The Wall” was my ultimate goal, what I saw before me now was the first brick.
The possibilities seemed endless, and we got to work right away, recording anything and everything, including our symphony of animal flatulence, and hours of Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix cover tunes. We figured if those guys could make great recordings with limited a limited number of tracks, so could we!
As the years went by. I saw my buddy’s 4-track and Radio Shack microphone-filled bedroom progress to an eight-track project studio, and finally a professional recording facility equipped with a 16-track tape machine with a 24-channel DA7 and a Mac-based DAW. I’ve had the pleasure of making hundreds of recordings within those walls before building a studio of my own.
I’ve recorded as a solo artist, a band member, a session musician (in many different studios), and a few years ago permanently moved to the “other side of the glass” full time. I can honestly say that the “magic” of recording has never eluded me, and I still feel a sense of wonder and adventure every time the tape is rolling.
I’m a few years past 30 - not at all old by any stretch of the imagination. However, I sometimes feel that the days when recording music was something special were 100 years ago.
Too often I see those who just don’t understand the magic of recording; young musicians who take the studio experience for granted, older musicians and recordists who are too burned out and bitter to enjoy recording anymore, beginning engineers who don’t know what it means to make your gear “bleed for you,” or those with such severe cases of gear lust that they are never productive with the equipment they currently have.
Advances in home recording and project studio gear have been so great in the last 20 years that many fail to see exactly what a privilege it is to practice the recording arts. We must not forget that recording IS an art form, and that our main goal as recordists should always be to help create music that will touch someone emotionally.
I may not ever create “The Wall,” but today I feel privileged to be a bricklayer.
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