Recording

Monday, August 26, 2013

In The Studio: Pros And Cons Of M-S Recording

A very good way to get stereo imaging in certain situations
This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

 
My pal and reader Gian Nicola asked about the pros and cons of M-S stereo recording, so I thought I’d respond with a passage from the upcoming 3rd edition of The Recording Engineer’s Handbook (due to be released in October).

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M-S stands for Mid-Side and consists again of two microphones; a directional mic (an omni can be substituted as well) pointed towards the sound source and a figure 8 mic pointed towards the sides. The mics are positioned so their capsules are as close to touching as possible (see the graphic above/ left).

M-S is great for stereo imaging, especially when most of the sound is coming from the center of the ensemble. Because of this, it’s less effective on large groups, favoring the middle voices that the mics are closest to.

M-S doesn’t have many phase problems in stereo, and has excellent mono compatibility which can make it the best way to record room and ambience under the right circumstances. In many cases it can sound more natural than a spaced pair, which is covered later in the chapter.

If the source is extra large, sometimes using M-S alone will require too much distance away from the ensemble to get the whole section or choir into perspective, so multiple mic locations must be used.

If a narrower pickup pattern is required to attenuate the hall sound, then a directional mic such as a cardioid, or even a hypercardioid, will work for the “M” mic. Just be aware that you may be sacrificing low end response as a result.

For best placement, walk around the room and listen to where the instrument or sound source sounds best. Note the balance of instrument to room, and the stereo image of the room as well. Once you have found a location, set up the directional mic where the middle of your head was.

M-S Decoding
Listening to either of these mics alone may sound OK, or may even sound horribly bad. That’s because in order to make this system work, the mic’s output signals need an additional decoding step to reproduce a faithful stereo image.

The directional creates a “positive” voltage from any signal it captures, and the bi-directional mic creates a positive voltage from anything coming from the left, and a negative voltage from anything coming from the right. As a result, you need to decode the two signals to create the proper stereo effect.

While you can buy an M-S decoder, you can easily emulate one with 3 channels on your console or DAW. On one channel, bring up the cardioid (M) forward-facing mic. Copy the figure 8 mic (S) to two additional channels in your DAW.

Pan both channels to one side (like hard left), then flip the phase of the second ‘S’ channel and bring up the level until the two channels cancel 100 percent.

Now pan the first ‘S’ channel hard left, the second “S” channel hard right, balance the cardioid (M) channel with your pair of “S” channels and you have your M-S decode matrix.

A nice additional feature of this method is that you’re able to vary the amount of room sound (or change the “focus”) by varying the level of the bi-directional “S” mic.”

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 blogs. Get the 3rd edition of The Recording Engineer’s Handbook here.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/26 at 07:50 AM
RecordingFeatureBlogStudy HallDigital Audio WorkstationsMicrophoneProcessorSignalStudioPermalink

Friday, August 23, 2013

Radial Introduces The USB-Pro High-Resolution Stereo Direct Box

The Radial USB-Pro is a serious digital to analog interface that effortlessly delivers great audio for the most demanding audio engineer.

Radial Engineering Ltd is pleased to announce the USB-Pro, a high-resolution stereo direct box designed to convert sound files from a laptop computer and seamlessly transfer them to a pair of balanced audio outputs to feed a PA, recording or broadcast mixing console.

According to Radial President Peter Janis: “For years, Radial customers have been asking us to get into the digital world. We have hesitated due to lack of clear standards and challenges with respect to interfacing with computers. But with the recent advent of self-configuring USB ports, we feel the time is right to finally get involved and the USB-Pro is the first Radial product to sport digital connectivity.”

Made to be plug & play easy to use, the USB-Pro automatically configures itself for use with all popular operating systems including Mac OSX, Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, thus eliminating the need to load special drivers.

Unlike devices that are limited with 16 bit, 44.1 kHz conversion rates, the USB-Pro elevates the performance with true 24 bit, 96 kHz stereo converters to deliver more headroom and greater detail.  This eliminates the need for additional sound cards or separate converters when transferring files, further streamlining production in busy work environments.

Connection from the laptop is done via the pro-audio standard USB type-B port. Digital-to-analog conversion is monitored with the built-in headphone amplifier to ensure the signal is being properly downloaded and converted.

A mono-sum switch may be engaged to check for phasing or facilitate signal distribution to two outputs should this be preferred. One simply sets the output volume control to suit. Should hum or buzz caused by ground loops be encountered, two set & forget side-access switches let you insert isolation transformers into the signal path to block stray DC voltage offsets. To further reduce susceptibility to noise, this is augmented with a ground lift switch that lifts pin-1 on the two XLRs.

As with all Radial products, the USB-Pro is designed to handle the rigors of professional touring. The unique book-end design creates protective zones around the switches, connectors and controls to keep them out of harm’s way.

Inside, our time-tested I beam construction assures the sensitive internal PC board will not torque which could otherwise cause premature part failure. Finally, a full bottom no-slip pad provides mechanical isolation and electrical insulation, further advantaging the user.

The Radial USB-Pro is a serious digital to analog interface that effortlessly delivers great audio for the most demanding audio engineer.

The USB-Pro is now shipping and retails for $220.

Radial Engineering

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/23 at 11:26 AM
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PreSonus RC 500 Channel Strip Features New Solid State Preamp

The PreSonus RC 500 is a top-of-the-line channel strip for professional recording engineers and recording musicians.

PreSonus has unveiled the RC 500, a top-of-the-line channel strip for professional recording engineers and recording musicians.

The RC 500 combines an ultra-low-distortion, high-gain, solid-state Class A preamplifier with the same custom-designed FET compressor and semi-parametric EQ circuitry found in the highly lauded PreSonus ADL 700 tube channel strip.

The result is consistent, transparent, detailed audio, suitable for a wide variety of applications, and reminiscent of classic, vintage solid-state preamp designs.

The newest member of the PreSonus family of preamps/processors, the RC 500 was designed by PreSonus engineering ace Robert Creel (hence, “RC”), who also designed the PreSonus XMAX preamp, the ADL 700, and many other favoite PreSonus analog circuits.

Creel’s new microphone preamp features a Class A hybrid input stage with discrete transistors and the latest-generation, low-distortion operational amplifiers. The design maintains the sonic qualities of Class A and benefits from the repeatability in performance of the operational amplifier.

Compared to a tube preamp, this solid-state preamp offers better definition at the edges of its frequency response range. High frequencies are crisper and low frequencies are tighter, producing a transparent, musical signal that retains the “airiness” of a room and provides a more three-dimensional result than a tube mic preamp can deliver.

Of course, the preamp sports 48V phantom power, polarity invert, and a -20 dB pad. In addition, it includes a 12 dB/octave highpass filter set at 80 Hz.

The RC 500’s FET compressor perfectly complements the new solid-state preamp. Controls include fully variable attack (0.5 to 10 ms), release (30 to 500 ms), and threshold (-25 to +20 dBu), as well as hardware bypass. Ratio is fixed at 3:1.

FET (Field-Effect Transistor) compressors use transistors to emulate a triode-tube sound. This type of compressor generally provides a faster attack time and better repeatability than the optical compressors that are more commonly found in channel strips in this price class. Combined with the consistent repeatability of the RC 500’s solid-state preamp, this is sure to make the new channel strip a favorite in pro studios.

The 3-band semi-parametric EQ was designed with musicality in mind, combining isolated filters and optimized, per-band Q to provide subtler signal shaping without harsh artifacts. All bands have Gain (±16 dB) and Frequency controls, with overlapping frequency ranges between the mid and high bands and fixed Q (0.5). The low and high bands are switchable between shelving and peak.

Both the Compressor and EQ sections feature a relay bypass.

Rear-panel XLR mic and line inputs (with front-panel Input Select switch) and a front-panel ¼” TS instrument input accept a variety of sound sources. Dual-mode analog VU metering enables monitoring of output and gain-reduction levels. A master level control adjusts the overall output from -80 to +10 dB.

With its extensive feature set, ultra-low noise (-102 dB S/N ratio), 50 dB gain (mic input, with the pad out), extended frequency response of 10 Hz to 25 kHz (±1 dB), and top-of-the-line, consistently repeatable sound, the RC 500 is a superb creative tool for serious recording engineers and musicians. It is expected to ship in September 2013 with an anticipated MAP/street price of $999.95.

image

PreSonus

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/23 at 08:56 AM
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Berklee College Of Music Partners With iZotope

Berklee chooses iZotope software for audio production facilities

Berklee College of Music has chosen iZotope to outfit its lab and studio facilities with industry leading software products.

In addition, iZotope will partner with Berklee for educational events and training opportunities.

iZotope’s award-winning products Ozone 5, RX 2, Alloy 2, Iris, Nectar,Trash 2, and Stutter Edit are now available in audio technology facilities accessible to both Electronic Production & Design and Music Production & Engineering major programs.

Designed with numerous audio production workflows in mind, these iZotope tools will aid students in their sound design, composition, mixing and mastering activities at the Boston, Massachusetts campus.

“Berklee is a leading educator in both music and audio technology and iZotope has a long standing history of supporting its software tools with additional educational materials such as the Mastering with Ozone and RX Audio Repair guides,” says Scott Simon, Business Development Manager at iZotope, Inc.

“It’s exciting to work with an organization whose attention and connection to technology aligns well with our own. To be able to offer our tools to such a diverse group of students is a wonderful opportunity that speaks to our own educational initiatives in audio.”

“Since its founding, Berklee College of Music’s mission has been to help students excel in music as a sustainable career,” says Anthony Marvuglio, Assistant VP for Academic Technology at Berklee College of Music. “We’re happy that iZotope is helping students and teachers at Berklee further their education in music technology fields through award winning software and educational initiatives.”

Izotope
Berklee College

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/22 at 09:58 AM
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Lectrosonics Captures Audio For Brooklyn Castle Documentary

Brooklyn Castle is a documentary that tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country.

To ensure every nuance of the dialog was faithfully captured, the production team relied on Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from Lectrosonics.

Brian Schulz served as Director of Photography and Producer for Brooklyn Castle and fully understand the challenges of field production. Because of that he opted to use Lectrosonics’ SM super miniature beltpack transmitter and the UCR411a compact receiver during the filming process.

“Brooklyn Castle follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard,” Schulz explained. “It is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about the anticipation of their victories.

“It was critical that we capture every nuance of the audio, as this was a huge factor in conveying the emotions these kids experience.

“The compact nature of the Lectrosonics SM transmitter made for great ease in ‘wiring’ our subjects. It was small and easy to hide. Typically, we would rotate the transmitter between many subjects and they were all very comfortable wearing it for hours at a time.”

When queried about those aspects of the Lectrosonics equipment that made the SM transmitter and the UCR411a receiver a good choice for the Brooklyn Castle project, Schulz offered the following thoughts.

The fact that the equipment is extremely reliable and dropout free was a big factor is using the gear. Schultz also noted how impressed he was with the system’s RF agility.

“The Lectrosonics spectrum analyzer is one of the more advanced yet easiest methods I have used to detect RF,” he adds. “Working in NYC can pose unique RF issues, but our UCR411a withstood the challenge and always provided us with a threshold for workable frequencies.

“The ease with which the system detects RF cannot be overstated. The three-key interface made for a simple learning curve and could be handled by anyone within our small crew.”

In his line of business, quality customer and technical support services are essential and, on that note, Schulz considers Lectrosonics best-in-class.

“Lectrosonics’ technical support is always stellar, especially when called upon for geographic sensitive block and RF recommendations. With Lectrosonics, I get through to a support representative quickly and they understand what I’m looking to accomplish.”

Since its release, Brooklyn Castle has garnered an impressive list of honors. The film won the Audience Award at SXSW in 2012 and screened at over two dozen film festivals including HotDocs, Silverdocs, and the Brooklyn International Film Festival, where director Katie Dellamaggiore won the award for Best New Director.

Brooklyn Castle will receive a national PBS broadcast on the acclaimed series POV (Point of View) in October 2013 and the remake rights have been acquired by Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures.

“We were elated with Lectrosonics’ SM transmitter and UCR411a receiver,” he said. “As indie filmmakers, we recognize the importance of high quality audio while also having an intuitive user interface.”

“We could not have been happier to have Lectrosonics in our audio corner. We’ll definitely be using Lectrosonics equipment on our future projects.”

Lectrosonics

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/22 at 09:33 AM
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In The Studio: Techniques To Get Great Sounding Vocals

Recording approaches for "the most important thing"

Someone once said: “A good music producer worries about the most important things” and a strong argument can be made that the most important things in pop music production are the vocals.

The singer is charged with artistically conveying the song’s lyric over a music track production that (hopefully) propels the song’s meaning and emotion across to the listener in an accessible and entertaining way.

Obviously the singer/artist/song are one of the main reasons engineers, producers, musicians and the studio personnel have jobs. They exist to facilitate the production of a song’s music and vocal performances. It is the focus of this article to deconstruct the process vocal recording in the studio. 

To better understand the process of recording vocals and for illustrative and tutorial purposes, I’ve divided it into activities in two spaces: what goes on in the studio area and what’s required in the control room.

In The Studio
Recording studios come in all shapes, sizes and décors. There are only a few basic requirements conducive to getting a good vocal performance.

It does not take a special or a big room to record vocals but the studio’s size, acoustic properties and construction are just as important as a recording space as they are for acoustically louder instruments like drum kits, brass or string sections.

Large Rooms
In the case of using a larger tracking room for overdubbing pop music vocals, engineers and producers prefer to “stop down” its size in order to record a dry vocal sound with little of the room’s ambient qualities included.

This, of course, allows them the freedom of adding whatever ambient effects they feel appropriate later in the final mix.

Gobos can help “stop down” the size of a studio. (click to enlarge)

Tall baffles or gobos are placed around the singer and mic to stop most of the room’s sound from being recorded along with the singer. If you are working in a large room with a pleasing decay time, there are plenty of reasons to record vocals sans any gobos.

The difference in ambience could work well to layer multiple tracks sung by the same person such as for double tracking or harmony stacking or for recording a singing group or choir.

You could capture a unique ambience possible only in that room instead of adding a simulation electronically from a commonly available digital reverb. I’m suggesting a high quality room like EMI’s Abbey Road Studio 2 — the Beatles’ playground!

Smaller Rooms
If you are working in a small room or vocal booth, then dry is what you’ll get but make sure the dryness is not more of a tonality — an actual comb filter EQ effect caused by close, highly-reflective parallel walls, floors and ceilings.

Again, the use of a few gobos with soft, non-reflective surfaces will help kill those reflections.

You might try a Se Electronics microphone Reflexion filter — it uses a small screen of highly absorbent materials to surrounds the mic itself and prevents sound reflections entering the back and sides of the mic.

Especially good for acoustically bad sounding spaces like bathrooms, closets and hallways, a microphone filter “separates” the mic’s pick-up of the singer completely from the coloration of the surrounding space.

If you’re working in an “all in one space” studio, the room sound issues expand. You’ll have to eliminate noises from you computer’s fan(s), poor acoustics at the mic’s position, and external noises from A/C equipment or the streets outside, etc.

VocalBooth.com makes portable vocal booths — these look like old-time “phone booths” with a window and door and come in different sizes depending on how big the vocal singing party is going to be.

My own Tones 4 $ Studios is a single space setup used mostly for mixing, and for recording I use a product by RealTraps called a portable vocal booth.

A portable vocal booth. (click to enlarge)

It’s a pair of 2- X 2-foot absorbent panels that mount to a mic stand and forms a right-angle corner behind the mic and singer. This configuration does much more than a mic filter.

The portable vocal booth removes the influence of the sound of the adjacent walls, provides isolation from the rest of the room’s sounds — be it other musicians or the racket coming from my Pro Tools rig (computer, drives, power amp fans) as well as reduces external street noises.

Singers appreciate it for the sound and also because they can pin the lyric sheets to the panels directly in front of them.

Singer’s Station
The singer’s “station” consists of a boom mic stand to hang the mic over and above the music stand, microphone, pop filter (if required), music stand with light, headphones and control box, stool, small table to hold tea, coffee or water etc.

Or, in the case of a female demo singer I once recorded (whose name I can’t remember), a plate of strips of raw meat.

A metal music stand must be covered with soft cloth material to prevent sound reflection and checked to see if it vibrates sympathetically to the singer’s voice. Make sure it does not.

The entire station should be placed on a rug to mute any foot tapping and stop sound reflections coming from the floor. All mic, headphone and power supply cables should be dressed away so nobody trips and pulls over a multi-thousand vintage condenser mic over.

I try to locate the station under dimmable studio lighting for this reason and also for reading lyrics and for seeing the singer’s hand gestures and signals from in the control room — even if the studio is darkened.

The “look” of this setup—rug style, gobo colors etc. is up to the producer and artist’s tastes and preferences.

It should look warm and inviting to the artist and help set up the vibe of the session. I think this all helps in subtle ways—it is more special treatment for the artist and transforms the space.

However, for some artists and producers, none of this matters, especially if scheduling, cost, budget and availability impinges on the optimum choice for a studio. At those places, you may have to do all this “remodeling and redecorating” yourself.

Two looks at a singer’s station. (click to enlarge)

Sightlines
With respect to the visual sightline to the control room, most of the time eye contact is wanted — remember, the producer is acting as the listening audience and the artist will look for reassurance or emotional “feedback” from him/her, the engineer and anybody else in the session in the form of facial gesturing or even body language.

I’ve worked in studios that used closed-circuit TV to see the artist singing who could not see us back in the booth. I can’t prove any connection, but I bet the quality and emotion of the performance will be different—but depending on the singer, maybe better or maybe worst.

Microphone Choices
There are three microphones choices for vocal recording: condenser, dynamic and ribbon. The differences are vast and the right choice can make or break the vocal sound and performance.

Most of the time, a large diaphragm condenser mic is used for vocals for its ability to capture the loudest to the softest of sound and nuance.

The large diaphragm offers a big surface area to pickup low frequencies and most modern condensers have huge dynamic range specs meaning it will be difficult to distort them with close, loud singing.

While old vintage condensers sound wonderful, I find them (depending on their condition and upkeep) a little more finicky, temperamental and a little unreliable compared to some of the newer mics coming from Germany.

So in the world of condenser mics there are a lot of great choices. I like the whole line of Brauner mics, Neumann (both new and vintage models), an AKG C12, Sony’s out of print C-800G and vintage C-37, Manley Reference, David Bock, and Dave Pearlman mics, and John Peluso remakes of classic vintage mics such as his 2247 SE or P12 models.

Dynamics in the studio work great for loud and brute force singers. There is nothing like the urgency of the sound brought on by a good dynamic mic. Some singers must physically hold the mic to “produce” their vocal sound because they are used to working it during live shows.

I’ve tried to let them sing their vocal that way if there is no handling noise and minimal P-popping. I’ve sometimes given the singer a handheld dynamic mic while standing in front of stand-mounted condenser mic. I would record both mics to two tracks and later go between them in the mix.

The list of good dynamics is long and here are a few worth using for studio vocals. I like Shure SM7A or B, Electro-Voice RE20 or RE27N/D, and Heil Sound PR 40, PR 22, PR 20 or PR 20 UT.

Ribbon mics have always been favorite vocal mics, dating back to the 1930s. Today the modern versions are better than ever with wide-open sound, more gain and rugged ribbons less prone to damage from close vocals like the old classic models.

In general, ribbons are great for harsh or bright sounding voices that need some mellowing. I like the AEA R84, Shure KSM353, and the Coles 4038 with its “brontosaurus bottom end.”

Microphone Positioning
The mounting, positioning, distance from the singer, and even the angle of the mic all weigh heavily on the finished vocal sound.

I like to use a heavy floor stand and boom. I try to position the boom’s counter-weight opposite the singer — out of the way. The counter-weight should be padded in case someone does not sufficiently tighten the stand’s height and it slips and comes crashing down.

I learned a lesson years ago when, in a hurry, I (or the other assistant) didn’t fully tighten a mic boom overhead of session drummer Earl Palmer’s kit.

Halfway through the session it came down and the counterweight hit him in the head. The producer nearly called the session while ol’ Earl stopped bleeding. (Sorry again Earl!) I prefer to use a good shock mount microphone holder and hang it so the mic’s capsule end is about eye level and aimed at the singer’s mouth.

Check with your singer(s), who will have a definite preference as to the way they like to project sound towards a studio mic. It is better to angle the mic down rather than allow the singer to sing straight into the mic’s capsule.

Microphone angled down toward the singer (above), and directed straight at the singer. (click to enlarge)

Windscreens — Pop Filters
With the mic angled and above the source, you may not need to use a pop filter, but your singer must keep from pointing upwards at the mic; this will defeat the whole purpose.

So if the singer can sing straight ahead just below the bottom of the mic without tilting up, then no windscreen is needed.

If the singer cannot keep straight ahead or wants to sing directly into the mic, you’ll have to use a screen. There are several great models out there and for the perfect popping storm — singers with an extreme popping problem try Pete’s Place Blast Filter.

Middle Atlantic has a more conventional two-stage nylon mesh type.

The Stedman filter is also a good choice because, like the Blast Filter, it’s metal and washable.

Pop filters change the sound slightly. There is a greater or lesser loss of super high frequencies depending on the particular filter. But there is another method to reduce plosives — an ordinary #2 pencil.

Although not as effective for big pops, this trick will kill most small pops.

Simply strap the pencil vertically in line with the mic body’s length (assuming you are hanging the mic vertically) using rubber bands (don’t use tape) so that the pencil bisects the face of the capsule.

The pencil will disturb the puff of air from a P pop and divert the impact from the capsule.

The pencil-on-the-mic “trick”. (click to enlarge)

Headphones
Headphones for you singer are very important. I have several different models I bring if the studio’s selection sucks.

All three of these models are closed-back, circumaural earphones that attenuate ambient noise and keep the cue mix from leaking out.

I like Shure SRH840 phones for their fat and loud sound. Ultrasone HFI-680 are bright phones your artist may prefer, and finally, AKG K271 phones or some variant offer the most unvarnished truth of the sound.

Try to get your singer to keep both ears covered with the phone cushions to prevent spill. The phones should fit well and make sure a powerful amp drives them.

Barry Rudolph is a veteran L.A.-based recording engineer as well as a noted writer on recording topics.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/22 at 07:47 AM
RecordingFeatureBlogStudy HallDigital Audio WorkstationsEducationMicrophoneStudioPermalink

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Flying Colors Flies With PreSonus ADL 700

Flying Colors uses a PreSonus ADL 700 for recording purposes.

The band Flying Colors—consisting of drummer Mike Portnoy, keyboardist Neal Morse, bassist Dave LaRue, and guitarists Steve Morse and Casey McPherson - boasts an astounding pedigree that includes a litany of highly acclaimed bands (Dream Theater, Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Alpha Rev, Deep Purple, Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard) and a seemingly endless list of stage and studio credits. 

The band members’ busy schedules created some challenges in recording their debut album, with only a scant few days available for the band and producer Peter Collins to compose, arrange, and track the songs.

From there, explains McPherson, “we all went back to our own studios and did a lot of the overdubbing and color parts.” 

Much of that tracking was recorded using a PreSonus ADL 700 channel strip.

“I used it a lot on acoustic guitars and on my lead and background vocals,” McPherson says.

Because of his busy touring schedule, most of guitarist Steve Morse’s overdubbing was done in hotel rooms. “I carry a portable rig with the ADL 700 and my FireStudio Mobile,” he says. “With those two boxes, I’m able to record almost anywhere.”

The band is just completing a triumphant world tour and is headed back into the studio to work on its second release.

PreSonus

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/21 at 11:24 AM
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Focusrite Releases Free Tape App For iPad

Tape. Classic style recording with contemporary functionality - for iPad.

Focusrite is pleased to announce that Tape for iPad is available free in the App Store.

Tape is a beautiful iPad recording solution with easy to use 2-track recording, instant mastering, customizable tape artwork and social media connectivity.

Record from the inbuilt iPad microphone, iTrack Solo, or even any Core Audio compliant audio interface - including interfaces from the Scarlett range - and instantly add polish with one button compression.

Then simply add a title and album artwork and share online with friends and fans via SoundCloud.

Key Features:
Record two separate inputs, or link them as a stereo pair

    Use a portable audio interface like the iPad powered iTrack Solo - or even a professional rack interface like the Scarlett 18i20 - to record two sources in excellent quality. Record your vocal with your instrument of choice, capture a beautiful duet, or pair the inputs for a perfect stereo take.

Use the meters to ensure input levels are just right

    Checking your input levels might just be the most important part of the recording process. Make sure you never ruin an otherwise perfect take with Tape’s visual level indicator meters - the perfect accompaniment to the gain level dials on Focusrite interfaces.

Plug and play support for the iTrack Solo and Scarlett range, plus Core Audio Compliant audio interfaces

    Tape is designed alongside Focusrite’s audio interfaces for the best in connectivity. Use an iTrack Solo (or the all in one bundle iTrack Studio) to connect directly to your iPad and record anywhere, or a mains powered Scarlett interface for amazingly simple home recording.
    Tape works with all iPad Core Audio Compatible audio interfaces, allowing you to base your set up around Focusrite even before you’ve got a Focusrite interface in the centre of your studio.

Low latency monitoring allows you to listen to your performance as you record

    Monitor your performance in your headphones to allow you to hear what’s going on at full volume, even when using the iPad as a direct input recording device for your guitar - perfect with the iTrack Studio package.

Keep time with an adjustable metronome

    Play a speed adjustable metronome - or click track - into your ear to ensure you keep perfect time and tempo when you record. It’s the little things that help you make a professional sounding recording with Tape.

Apply mastering effects to instantly improve your recording

    When you’ve recorded your performance, enhance it with simple, one button mastering. Focusrite multi-band compression makes your recording seem louder and more balanced across the frequency range no matter how it was recorded, and in a single press.

Apply a custom title and image to your music and share via Soundcloud

    Tape works with you at every stage of song creation; from recording your music to sharing a finished product with friends and fans, everything you need is within the app. When your performance is recorded and mastered, add sleeve artwork and a title and upload it to SoundCloud, the world’s largest community of music creators (free registration required). From there, share it with Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of your social world.

Focusrite

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/20 at 12:48 PM
RecordingConcertDigitalSoftwareStudioPermalink

Line 6 Releases Variax HD And Workbench HD For James Tyler Variax

With a huge collection of incredibly detailed HD guitars, the ability to customize instruments and more, James Tyler Variax is the ultimate recording guitar

Line 6, Inc. has released the Variax HD upgrade including Workbench HD software.

This free upgrade enhances the ultimate recording guitar with an entire collection of pristine HD instruments—plus the ability to customize instruments and capture unique tones.

The upgrade delivers a world-class collection of HD guitars rebuilt from the ground up using Line 6’s next-generation HD technology, resulting in unprecedented sonic character and a more natural playing experience.

From rare vintage electrics to classic acoustics and exotics, each HD instrument delivers superior articulation and exceptional feel—perfect for capturing inspired performances.

“Recording guitarists need to have a wide range of tones at their disposal,” said Max Gutnik, Vice President of Product Management, Line 6. “We took the world’s most revered guitars and applied our years of expertise to meticulously rebuild each and every model in HD.

“We’ve captured virtually every nuance of these priceless, historic instruments to deliver unmatched tone, sonic detail and versatility. In short, Variax HD is to guitar recording what POD HD is to amp recording.”

The all-new Workbench HD software makes it possible to build one-of-a-kind custom guitars by combining the HD body styles, HD pickups and components in unique ways.

Featuring an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, Workbench HD provides full control over scores of important instrument characteristics such as string pitch, string volume, pickup position and much more.

Workbench HD also lets guitarists select any Variax pickup model and use it with the natural tone and response of a physical James Tyler Variax guitar—or blend the Variax HD signal with the magnetic pickup sound to create hybrid instruments.

Recording guitarists have always had to contend with the challenges of miking acoustics, tuning/retuning issues, pickup noise in the studio, and more. James Tyler Variax guitars eliminate these problems so musicians can concentrate on performing. 
• Easily record acoustic guitar sounds. James Tyler Variax guitars feature 10 HD acoustic guitars and exotic instruments, enabling guitarists to directly record the world’s finest acoustics with pristine sound quality.
• Quickly switch between tunings. With 11 instant tunings and Virtual Capo, guitarists can easily switch between tunings while tracking.
• Stay in the creative flow. With a James Tyler Variax guitar, there’s no need to interrupt the creative flow by finding, tuning and acclimating to the feel of a new instrument. Guitarists can easily switch between HD guitars and tunings just by turning a knob—enabling them to stay in the moment. 
• Eliminate pickup noise. The HD guitar tones in the James Tyler Variax guitar are completely free of pickup noise, so guitarists can capture pristine takes without hum.

Available immediately, Variax HD and Workbench HD are compatible with all James Tyler Variax guitars. Download the upgrade from the Line 6 website.

Line 6

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/20 at 09:41 AM
RecordingNewsSoftwareStudioPermalink

In The Studio: How To Succeed As A Freelance Audio Engineer

It’s a slow climb, but you can turn a pursuit into a career
This article is provided by the Pro Audio Files.

 
Hi folks. This article is going to be a bit different. It’s not about compression, vocals, reverb, or something of a musical nature. It’s about creating a career in music.

While it may not be the most popular article I’ve ever written, I think it will be pretty valuable.

There are two types of people in the world: people who want to work in music, and people who work in music.

People often confuse the idea of getting paid to work in music with working in music. Music is a tough field, because in your first five to ten years in the business you don’t really make enough money to support yourself. Or in my case, you actually end up going into a bit of debt. Possibly a lot. Depends how good you are at kitchen work.

The point is, working in music (really in the arts in general) requires more motivation than your average job, because your first pay check doesn’t exist and there’s no promise that it ever will. However, I promise you it will come.

There are two basic principals to getting a career in a music going: The first is to get really f-ing good. The second is to get known. And the two go hand in hand.

Back In The Day
At the very beginning of my career there was a lit path. You worked as an intern at a studio, and worked your way up to assistant engineer or assistant producer, and eventually became a b-lister, and then eventually an a-lister with your own clients and assistants. Here, the process allowed you to become good and become known in the same movement. I’m lucky in the sense that I caught the tail end of this. Unfortunately those lights have faded.

Now
As these lights went out, and that path became enshrouded, I realized I needed a new way. I left my job at the studio and began to create my own world. I stopped expecting clients to come to me — rather, I had to figure a way to reach out to potential clients. I also had to start relying on myself alone for support and experience.

Inner Success
First, the success must be an inner success. If you aren’t succeeding in your own sense of self, you can’t show people how truly great you are. This isn’t something that can be faked. So you set your own bar high.

In terms of skill level, I consider the people who charge five times what I charge to be my competition. ‘Good for what I charge’ is never the goal — really, ‘great period’ is the goal. And on every record.

The second issue in this is being in competition with oneself. Making excuses is the equivalent of giving up. So what if the vocal is a cheaply tracked mp3 and the music is printed as a 2-track. The end listener wants to listen and enjoy it — so make it work.

Initial Clients
It’s important to walk in with this mindset, because your first clients will be your toughest.

Generally speaking, the guys with the smallest budgets are also the guys with the least experience — and those are going to be the first clients you start picking up. This is your boot camp. You spend the extra time it takes, even with very little (or no) pay to get great results from inexperienced artists.

Not only does this get you prepared for whatever the more demanding artists will throw at you when you start charging a lot more, but it also accelerates your career. That initial set of artists are the ones who will spread your name around. And in the absolute best case scenario, the music you worked on gets spread around as well.

Level Up
Eventually, more experienced and demanding artists start seeking you out and they force you to elevate your game — which in turn gets you even more experienced artists. All the while, the artists you’ve been working with are elevating themselves.

What’s important here is that at no point do you stop going the extra mile to put forth the absolute best results — even if it means working two days on a mix when you only get paid for one.

Outer Success
Second, the success must be an outer success. When you’re really good — let people know it. Put together a demo reel, a website, business cards. Go out to shows. Genuine confidence is very powerful.

But be wary, because false confidence is equally as powerful and works against you. Everyone is on tight budgets, tight schedules, and very nervous about who handles their art. It’s extremely personal. People literally invest their lives into their music.

Artists live in a world full of insecurities, so real confidence is extremely important for them. The important thing is to deliver the goods when all is said and done! Then let it be known. Make sure you get your credits and remind the artists you work with to pass your name along.

Humility
Lastly, success relies on humility.

Reading up on what others are doing, listening carefully to artists’ needs and criticisms, listening analytically to songs you like and songs you hate, nodding to other people in the field who have their success are all very important.

The Artist Is Right
Mostly you have to keep in mind that the artist is right. If you ask an artist “do you want your music to sound bad” the answer will assuredly be “no.” But that doesn’t mean that artists won’t ask you to do crazy stuff: squash, distort, make something sound strangely disproportionate, dub in a chicken squawk, whatever.

The trick is to embrace that, and find a way to make it work in a sonically pleasing way. There’s a thin line between a bad idea and foreword thinking. So be humble.

Take Chances
Two common scenarios I face all the time are: trying to make an artist’s/band’s record sound like it was tracked in a million dollar studio even though they tracked at home in the bedroom; and, doing something with an effect or making an arrangement change that I really like that the artist hates.

The answer here is: get over it. That’s why it’s a job. If someone isn’t asking you to do the impossible then you’re not going to break new ground. If someone doesn’t hate a choice you’ve made then you’re not taking enough chances.

It’s a slow climb, but with experience, exposure, and humility you can turn a pursuit into a career.

Matthew Weiss engineers from his private facility in Philadelphia, PA. A list of clients and credits are available at Weiss-Sound.com. He’s also the author of the Mixing Rap Vocals tutorials, available here.

Be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article go here.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/20 at 06:57 AM
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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Universal Audio Releases ENGL Amp Plug-Ins For UAD Platform & Apollo Audio Interface

Includes E765 RT and E646 VS amplifiers as well as the Brainworx bx_tuner

Universal Audio direct developer Brainworx has put ENGL amplifiers, synonymous with high-performance rock and metal guitar tones, into new ENGL Amp plug-Ins for the UAD Powered plug-ins platform and Apollo Audio Interface.

Comprised of E765 RT and E646 VS amplifiers as well as the Brainworx bx_tuner, the ENGL Amps bundle allows owners of UAD-2 DSP Accelerator hardware to re-amp their tracks with these new amp models, while Apollo Audio Interface users can re-amp as well as track in real time with near-zero latency.

Both amp models contain an onboard FX Rack with a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay. Also included is a unique Recording Chains feature that allows the user to audition their tones through 64 different high-end mics, ENGL cabinets, and outboard gear, including hardware emulations from Millennia, SPL, and elysia.

Available as UAD Software v7.2, the following plug-ins and bundles will be available for purchase via UA’s Online Store:

ENGL E765 RT Plug-In: $149
—Emulation of a 2-channel, EL34-powered, 100-watt tube amp for UAD-2 or Apollo
—Craft old school clean tones, gritty chunk textures, and aggressive distortions easily and intuitively with extensive EQ functionality, before or after mixdown
—Audition 64 different Recording Chains to match the tone to the part
—Fine-tune sounds with an onboard FX Rack that includes a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay

ENGL E646 VS Plug-In: $149
—Emulation of a 4-channel, 100-watt, 6L6-powered, high-gain tube amp
—Sculpt clean tones, muscular chunk, and high-gain textures with high string-to-string definition
—Audition 64 different high-end Recording Chains for unmatched flexibility when tracking or mixing
—Fine-tune sounds with an onboard FX Rack that includes a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay

Brainworx bx_tuner: $19
—Tune guitar or bass easily and accurately inside UAD-2 or an Apollo-equipped workstation
—Customize the tuning LED’s tracking with the Ballistics feature
—Quickly tune with reduced volume using the unique Output Dim feature
—Instantiate on multiple inputs to avoid plugging and unplugging of instruments

ENGL Amplifier Plug-Ins Bundle: $249
—ENGL E765 RT plug-in provides perfect emulation of a 2-channel, EL34-powered, 100-watt tube amp
—ENGL E646 VS plug-in provides exacting emulation of a 4-channel, 100-watt, 6L6-powered, high-gain tube amp
—Brainworx bx_tuner: Tune guitar or bass easily and accurately inside UAD-2 or an Apollo-equipped workstation.

Learn more about ENGL Amp Plug-Ins for the UAD Platform here.

Universal Audio
UA Online Store

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/17 at 10:39 AM
RecordingNewsProductAmplifierDigital Audio WorkstationsProcessorSoftwareStudioPermalink

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Denmark’s Flagship Movie/TV-Series Relies On Lectrosonics

The Danish docudrama “1864” is a docudrama about the war between Denmark and Germany that occurred in 1864. It is currently being filmed at various locations in the Czech Republic and Denmark.

The 22m recording of “1864” will be the foundation for both a movie and a TV-series to be released in 2014 to mark the 150th anniversary of the war.

Ministi Film and Martin Saabye Andersen (sound mixer) are spearheading the project. 

Andersen decided to utilize transmitters and receivers from Lectrosonics throughout the shoot for their trustworthiness and reliable operation. 

There are several challenges in handling sound recording in drama documentaries. The complex, historically correct costumes require careful concealment of the microphone in order to obtain the best possible recording while avoiding unwanted noise from the movement of the clothes.

Noise from the environment, such as cars passing on the street, crew, wind or animals, can be problematic. In addition, the large variation of the sound pressure from intimate dialogue to passionate arguments can make recording tricky.

Lastly is the potential for drop-outs on the wireless system caused by interference.

Andersen takes care of the varied conversation sound levels with the use of gain adjustment through the convenient LectroRM App for Apple and Android, and the sophisticated DSP-based limiter in the Lectrosonics transmitters.

The potential for drop-outs is handled with the reliable Lectrosonics wireless link. With optimized transmitters and highly sensitive receivers, the radio link is secure and reliable, and affords Andersen the ability to focus on the other challenges and reduce the risk of failures.

The use of the systems has been challenged with a random 250m tour in open terrain with steady cam. The Lectrosonics wireless equipment performed flawlessly with no dropouts and strong signal. This is one of the reasons Lectrosonics is Andersen’s preferred wireless system.

The equipment used on the set is Lectrosonics Octopack with 4 SRA/SRB receivers, 7 SMB transmitters, and 1 SMDB connected to an Ambient UMPII phantom power supply for boom with a DPA 4017 microphone.

For the talent, the choices were DPA 4060 and 4061 microphones. For recording, an Aaton Cantar X1 is deployed.

Ministi Film was forced to find a new solution for the wireless equipment, as Denmark previously used the 800-820 MHz band (from 2013 for LTE) for wireless microphones.

After various tests, the choice was Lectrosonics with its range of SR receivers in Octopacks and SM and SMD transmitters. The choice was clear with Lectrosonics’ emphasis on sound quality, ease of use, range, size, reliability and price. 

Ministi Film has played a major part in some of the recent successes of Danish Film—not only by supplying the on-location recording, but also with postproduction in a Dolby and THX certified cinema screening facility at their Lyngby Office.

Even as it seems popular to increase the bandwidth of the wireless systems, there has not been any problem to facilitate 8 simultaneous channels in block 24. In Prague, there are two adjacent TV channels in the upper 10 MHz of block 24.

If a channel needs to be moved, the handy LectroRM app makes it easy to change the channel on the transmitter, even when concealed in wardrobe. Further, the talent thinks it is cool to be reprogrammed, however; not too often!

Lectrosonics

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/15 at 01:27 PM
RecordingNewsMicrophoneMixerSound ReinforcementWirelessPermalink

Mix Engineer Ariel Borujow Expands Metric Halo Palette With Production Bundle

Engineer Ariel Borujow is finishing up projects with Modern Machines, Charlie Red, and Low Country Kingdom using the Metric Halo production bundle.

Ariel Borujow is chief engineer at New York City’s Stadiumred studios and a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated mix engineer who has worked with artist and producers such as Kanye West, Madonna, The Black Eyed Peas, P Diddy, J-Lo, Chiddy Bang, Just Blaze, and others.

His success stems from his passion for audio, which makes his typical ten-hour day (clocked seven days a week) the key ingredient in a life well lived. Indeed, when we caught up with him, Borujow was happy to be getting back into that groove after being sick for a few weeks.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he laughed. “I was just stuck there, roaming around in my apartment, which is usually just a place to sleep at the end of a long day. I guess the upside is that I got to know my apartment better?”

Now back in the studio, Borujow is finishing up projects with Modern Machines, Charlie Red, and Low Country Kingdom using the Metric Halo Production Bundle, which includes ChannelStrip 3, TransientControl, Multiband Expansion, Multiband Dynamics, Character, Precision DeEsser, and HaloVerb plug-ins.  Modern Machines is a pair of New York City producers who are making some of the most engaging and danceable electronic dance music on the planet, and Borujow recently mixed their single, “We Are the Night.”

“They come from an engineering background, so the tracks sounded good coming in,” he said. “Nevertheless, they gave it some grit on purpose, and the challenge was to keep that feel while making sure the music would still translate effectively at a dance club.”  Borujow was a longtime user of Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip 2, and he’s pleased that ChannelStrip 3 retains the same “out-of-the-box sound” while adding features that make it even more functional and flexible.

“The size is great and the interface is even more intuitive, but the most exciting improvement is the incorporation of a spectrum analyzer,” he said. “It’s a big deal and it’s on almost all of the Production Bundle plug-ins.”

As with all of his mixes, Modern Machines benefitted from plenty of ChannelStrip 3. For the all-important kick drum, he used ChannelStrip 3 to dial in the right timbre and dynamics and then used TransientControl to punch it up.

“I’ve used other manufacturers’ transient plug-ins,” Borujow said, “but Metric Halo has given TransientControl something that is noticeably better, but in a subtle and interesting way.

“I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but there’s no doubt that it really improves the dynamics without over-processing them.”  Borujow is using a slightly different part of his brain to mix Charlie Red, a duo that fuses hip-hop, blues, and rock to come up with a very unique style. The music is all live instruments and the band recorded the tracks at home.

“These guys are real artists and they go by feel,” Borujow said. “All of the tracks are masterfully performed, but some of the technical stuff needed polishing.”

Again, he used TransientControl to add shape and dynamics to the drums, and ChannelStrip 3 found use everywhere. The tracks were also noisy at times and Borujow used the Multiband Expander to carve out the noise.

The very accurate spectrum analysis feature allowed him to zero in and position the bands for maximum effect.  Because Charlie Red’s recordings weren’t made in a purpose-built live room there was a certain “boxiness” to the recordings. Rather than EQ out the room mode frequencies, Borujow used Multiband Dynamics to carve them out dynamically.

“Again, the spectrum analyzer was a tremendous help,” he said. “To lessen that boxy sound, Multiband Dynamics is preferable to EQ because EQ tends to lose something. Multiband Dynamics leaves the life in the recording.

“It’s a much more pleasing solution. Metric Halo’s version sounds great and is quick and easy to work with.”  With another “this meets that” description, Borujow finds Low Country Kingdom at the intersection of Gorillaz meets the Beastie Boys.

“These guys are just super musical! They produced all the music in Logic and sent me the stems,” he said. “To give it more of a ‘sound,’ I used Character. I especially like the ‘American Solid State’ algorithm.

“It’s subtle and not overboard, and it doesn’t sound digital. It sounds authentic. It’s been a go-to plug-in and setting for me lately. It’s all over the Low Country Kingdom album.”

He also used the Precision DeEsser quite a lot.

“I use it a lot of the time for vocals, sure, but I use it for a lot of other instruments as well,” he explained. “For example, the Low Country Kingdom snare sound was a little too bright at times.

“Rather than EQ it out, which kills those frequencies even when they’re not annoying, the Precision DeEsser allows me to keep them down only when they’re too much. I put the TransientControl behind it, and the snare sounded awesome.”  All three projects benefitted in roughly equal degrees by Borujow’s newfound access to HaloVerb.

“I’m a huge fan of the ‘Sizzly Plate’ preset,” he said. “I find that as I get older, I use reverb as much as I used to, but I want to hear it at the front of the mix less and less.

“It’s more effective as a subconscious thing – an element that puts instruments in a common space. I don’t want to hear it, I want to feel it.”

He used HaloVerb for Modern Machines’ synths, Charlie Red’s guitars and drums, and Low Country Kingdom’s vocals.

Metric Halo

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/15 at 01:09 PM
RecordingNewsDigitalSoftwareStudioPermalink

Upcoming 135th AES Convention Offers Expanded Broadcast and Streaming Sessions

Always at the cutting edge of key trends in broadcast sound and streaming audio, the Broadcast and Streaming Sessions at the 135th Audio Engineering Society Convention (Thursday, October 17, through Sunday, October 20, 2013, at the Javits Center in New York City) will bring an intense focus on key frontiers in professional audio.

Reprising his role for the 27th year as Chairman of Broadcast and Streaming Sessions, David Bialik has consistently developed meaningful and significant sessions that draw standing-room-only crowds.

This year’s broadcast/streaming sessions are the most exciting yet, offering a look at the implications of how new technologies will affect broadcast and streaming audio, such as “Audio For 4K TV,” and “Broadcasting During Disasters,” a look at how the close-to-home strike of Hurricane Sandy last year impacted news and other broadcast operations, as well as updated iterations of longstanding issues facing the industry, such as loudness and maintenance.

“As always, what we’re doing is taking key issues and technologies in the broadcast and streaming domains and looking at them closely and intensely, but in a way that’s as relevant and accessible as possible to the greatest number of people,” explains Bialik, who also works as the Project Manager for Streaming Operations at CBS Radio in New York City.

“We make a special effort to develop mini-tracks focused on topic-related issues,” he says. “For example, attendees will find groupings of events on Troubleshooting, Audio for TV, and Radio & Streaming, which are virtually crash courses on these issues. We strive to make them interesting and entertaining, but still keeping the information at the highest level.

“And we strongly emphasize that these events are discussions of technologies and techniques, not sales presentations. The AES Convention continues to serve as an essential destination for the serious audio professional.”

The sessions for this year’s AES Broadcast/Streaming series are a mix of cutting-edge new topics and updated familiar ones. Events include:
• “Broadcasting during Disaster” – “How Hurricane Sandy impacted the ability of broadcasters to quickly respond with accurate, timely life-safety information,” says Bialik.
• “Is it time to retire the MP3 protocol for Streaming?”—“The MP3 format has been around a long time now,” he says. “The key point we’re going to focus on is, is backwards compatibility holding up future progress?”
• “Audio for Mobile TV” and “Streaming and the Mobile Initiative,” which both look at the issues audio faces as it moves into the mobile landscape. “Today, cars are being designed to be compatible with mobile phones, not the other way around,” says Bialik. “The tail is wagging the dog.”
• Other sessions include timely and relevant topics, including focuses on “Audio for 4K TV,” “Listener Fatigue and Retention,” “Television Loudness and Metadata,” “HTML5 and Streaming,” “Modern Audio Transportation Techniques for Remote Broadcasts,” “Hardware Troubleshooting Basics,” “Technology and Storytelling: How Can We Best Use The Tools Available To Tell Our Stories,” “Facility Design” and “Loudness Control for Radio and Internet Streaming.”

“This year’s Broadcast/Streaming Sessions will be as good as any that David has assembled in over a quarter century of keeping these topics at the cutting edge, and then some,” observes Bob Moses, Executive Director of the Audio Engineering Society.

“Attendees will be drawn to these sessions by their compelling and timely topics and David’s elegant assemblage of technical talent on each carefully thought-out panel, and they will come away with new information about technologies and techniques that will help them take their own careers further.”

AES

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/15 at 06:58 AM
RecordingNewsEducationEngineerSound ReinforcementPermalink

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

SSL Matrix Console Takes Key Role In Depeche Mode’s ‘Delta Machine’

“The demo’s had this great sound to them — because he was using all these old synths and mixing them through the Solid State Logic Matrix.”

Producer Ben Hillier recently specified Solid State Logic’s Matrix SuperAnalogue mixing console with software controlled analogue patch system and multi-layer DAW control to anchor tracking on Depeche Mode’s eagerly-awaited thirteenth studio album, Delta Machine. 

The SSL Matrix has become a central hub of the Depeche Mode production process with frontman Dave Gahan, having set up a Matrix-based project studio at his New York City home, while Ivor Novello Award-winning principal songwriter, synthesist, and guitarist Martin Gore has added a Matrix to his home-based project studio in sunny Santa Barbara.

Having helmed the Depeche Mode production process so successfully for 2005’s Playing The Angel album and its Grammy-nominated Sounds Of The Universe follow-up in 2009, producer and Matrix owner Ben Hillier returned to the Depeche Mode production fold for Delta Machine.

The Matrix proved an invaluable element of the unusual Depeche Mode creative process as the central hub for a huge collection of analogue hardware and multi-DAW based workflow.

“At the end of ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ we’d encouraged Martin to shift his work method away from purely using soft synths,” says Hillier. “We really enjoyed using vintage analogue synths on that record.

“Martin didn’t have a massive collection to start with, but he collected a whole load more. As a result of that, he knew he needed to rebuild his home studio, so we set him up with an SSL Matrix.”

Fast forward to the genesis of Delta Machine and Gore was at it again, having assembled a monstrous modular synth system with well over 700 Eurorack modules.

According to Hillier, “One of the first things that [A&R] Daniel Miller said to me was, ‘The demos that Martin’s made this time are amazing!’ And he was right. They had this great sound to them — because he was using all these old synths and mixing them through the Matrix.”

Transforming those promising-sounding demos into a fully-fledged Depeche Mode album meant moving band, producer, and programming team into a self-built multi-DAW studio setup within the live room at Santa Barbara Sound Design.

“That studio has a great big live room, so we built a studio in there, because putting a band in a live room and me in a control room is not relevant to the way Depeche work.

“We had a Pro Tools rig with hardly any plug-ins as the main recording hub for our studio, which we sort of used like a multitrack, with a summing bus as a mix output, plus a load of laptop-based areas.

“We didn’t want to have everyone sitting around looking over other people’s shoulders at one computer screen while someone moved bass drums around, so it was a way of making programmed music in a slightly more sociable, slightly less navel-gazing way.

“We’d worked in a similar way on Sounds Of The Universe, but really missed having a mixing console, because it was quite difficult to reprocess stuff and doing things on the fly was harder, so that’s the reason why we got the Matrix.”

Next Depeche decamped to the East Coast to continue working in The Penthouse at the beautiful Jungle City Studios in NYC, with its SSL Duality equipped control room and inspiring live room.

“There’s really good monitoring in the main studio there, but we still rebuilt our own studio in the live room, so we could run both rooms simultaneously.”

The transportable Matrix-based workflow worked a treat, bringing several salient strengths to the tracking table.

“We were comp’ing everything on the master Pro Tools rig and running that through the Matrix, so we could just hit recall and get back to the same musical buzz every time, while the DAW control got us away from looking at the computer screen too much.

“We did all the summing in the Matrix — at least all the rough mixes on all the work-in-progress stuff, which worked well. The mix busses sound really great — there’s a gain pot on the top that’s especially handy when you’re setting up a mix and want to drive it a little bit more to make it glue together nicely.”

The key to mixing Depeche Mode’s successful sound arguably lies in balancing those copious quantities of synthesisers (and occasional guitar) alongside Dave Gahan’s distinctive baritone and Martin Gore’s more melodious backing (and occasional lead) vocals.

Here, too, the Matrix proved proficient when tracking the band’s most emotive elements.

“We had a large rack of outboard compressors and EQs — a few of my favourites and some choice pieces liberated from Martin’s studio — that were all patched into the Matrix’s software patch bay.

“Pretty much everything was put through some of them, and we had preset insert chains for things like Dave and Martin’s vocal sounds.”

Hillier must have been doing something right, for following another month-long stint in Santa Barbara Sound Design then an Autumnal return visit to Jungle City Studios tracking was complete. The Matrix proved to be the perfect production partner for Depeche Mode’s modus operandi.

“What’s most exciting about this record is that it seems like we’ve really managed to communicate what the band wanted,” Hillier concludes.

Solid State Logic

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/13 at 02:13 PM
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