Studio

Thursday, August 29, 2013

23rd Annual Parsons Audio Expo Slated For This Coming November

Expo will include Yamaha Rolling Showroom with NUAGE, and more

Parsons Audio (Wellesley Hills, MA) will hold its 23rd annual EXPO this coming Thursday, November 14, from 10 am to 7 pm at the Dedham Holiday Inn in Dedham, MA.

Parsons Audio, a leader in offering professional audio products in the New England area, will begin the day with Professional Development Workshops taught by industry leaders and focusing on trends. At noon, the manufacturer exhibit floor opens with product representation from all of the professional audio manufacturers represented by Parsons Audio.

This year, the expo will include the Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems Rolling Showroom with the new NUAGE system. Yamaha staff will be on hand for presentations and demonstrations.

NUAGE, a joint collaboration between Yamaha and Steinberg, is a hardware and software system that adds the power of the Audinate Dante audio network to world-class recording, post production, live to tape broadcast, and house of worship recording for re-broadcast.

“We enjoy keeping our customers and potential customers up to date on what is new in the professional audio market,” states Roger Talkov, general manager, Parsons Audio. “The Professional Development seminars are extremely useful In providing the latest industry trends.”

For more information go to www.paudio.com/expo

Parsons Audio
Yamaha Commercial Audio

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/29 at 01:13 PM
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In The Studio: An Uncommon Cure For A Muddy Mix (Includes Video)

Addressing an element that can detract from clarity
Article provided by Home Studio Corner.

 

In this video, Joe Gilder shares an uncommon cure for a muddy mix. Of course, there are numerous cures for the problem—a lot of it depends upon the specific cause of the problem. There are so many variables.

But here’s one you might not be thinking of, and it can lead you on a “wild goose chase” if it’s not addressed early: reverb. As helpful as reverb can be in enhancing a mix in any number of ways—adding fullness and depth and so on—it can also cause some problems, detracting from the clarity of the track.

Joe provides a discussion of the problem and then some solutions to address it.

 

Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner. Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/29 at 10:54 AM
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3G Sounds Introduces Sample Delay Calculator iOS App For iPhone

Reference calculator for time-aligning loudspeakers and microphones in the free-field

3G Sounds has introduced its first iOS app for iPhone, the Sample Delay Calculator, a quick and easy reference calculator for time-aligning loudspeakers and microphones in the free-field, for both live sound and recording applications.

The app tackles problems caused by the difference in the propagation speed of sound through air and electricity down a copper cable when dealing with a coherent sound. This causes audible blurring of transients and comb filtering, or even a distinct echo in the instance where the time of arrival differences are greater than 50 ms.

The problem also effects recording, whereby microphones capturing a single source may have great distance variations between them, for example in orchestral applications. By delaying the spot mic on an instrument to the main array, the engineer can ensure that the sound will arrive time coherently when printed onto tape, thus improving the clarity of the mix.

Developed by Chris Kalcov and Grace Zarczynska, the app works based on the simple Speed = Distance/Time equation, but fully expanded using the most accurate derivations to compensate for other imperfections including air temperature. It specifies the required delay in milliseconds and samples, which can then be input into a digital mixer, DAW or loudspeaker management controller. More importantly it streamlines workflow and saves having to carry a scientific calculator to the next gig.


image


The Sample Delay Calculator app will be available for £1.49 beginning August 30 (tomorrow) at the Apple Store here. (direct link)

An Android version of the app will be available soon.

3G Sounds

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/29 at 09:36 AM
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Microphone Boom Stand From Strukture

Strukture has introduced a cost effective new mic boom stand SPRM1.

Leading music accessories manufacturer Strukture introduces new mic boom stand SPRM1.

Designed to be the highest value microphone boom stand on the market, SPRM1 is the latest in a series of new stands from Strukture, and a further expansion of the profit-focused Strukture product offering.

The SPRM1 mic boom stand is constructed using heavy duty steel, and skillfully crafted to provide optimal functionality at a customer-friendly price point.

Each stand features a convenient folding tripod base, standard threading and a generous 31 inch boom arm for maximum reach.

The sturdy design of the boom arm clutch is both reliable and easily adjustable, and all SPRM1 microphone boom stands are completed with a gloss finish for a durable, modern appearance.

With the perfect balance of value and function, Strukture mic boom stands drive profit, at a price every musician can afford.

Strukture

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/27 at 02:18 PM
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Film Composer John Powell Loyal To Lexicon PCM Total Bundle

British-born, Los Angeles-based John Powell utilizes the Lexicon PCM Total Bundle Plug-ins package.

British-born, Los Angeles-based John Powell has been an A-list film composer since the 1990s for his ability to perfectly set the musical tone of a movie whether dramatic, playful or any mood in between.

Powell has been a long-time Lexicon user, from the beginning of his career to his most recent use of the Lexicon PCM Total Bundle Plug-ins package.

His numerous credits include How to Train Your Dragon (1, 2 and 3), X-Men: The Last Stand, Happy Feet, The Bourne Identity and more than 50 other live-action and animated films.

“I’m much older than you’d think from looking at me,” Powell stated with typical humor. “When I first started working in recording studios the jewel in the crown for me was always the Lexicon reverb, way back to models like the 224, 224XL, 300, 480L and 960L.

“Back then many of these units were incredibly expensive and the idea of owning one was just a dream for me.”

Fast forward to 2013 and the Lexicon PCM Total Bundle Plug-ins package, which offers more than a dozen Lexicon reverbs and effects and hundreds of studio presets.

Thanks to the PCM Total Bundle, the equivalent of dozens of rack-mount hardware units are now available to composers, musicians, engineers and producers at the click of a mouse.

“Being able to have as many Lexicon reverbs as I want, right there inside both my Logic and Pro Tools rigs is an extraordinary turn of events,” Powell noted. “Their reverbs always add the most musical sheen, that, to me, makes everything sound more euphonic and even harmonically richer.”

The Lexicon PCM Total Bundle is designed to work with popular DAWs like Pro Tools and Logic, as well as with any other VST, Audio Unit or RTAS-compatible platform. Compatible with Windows Vista, XP and 7 and Macintosh computers, it offers 14 unique Lexicon reverbs and effects, and hundreds of finely crafted studio presets.

Its intuitive user interface provides control of key parameters with a graphical real-time full-color display and flexible sonic customization capabilities.

Lexicon

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/27 at 01:55 PM
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Full Compass Helps Bring Kennedy Center Arts Education Program To Madison

Full Compass owner and chairman Susan Lipp played vital role in securing the "Any Given Child" program sponsored by the Kennedy Center for the Arts to Madison, Wisconsin.

The Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. has selected Madison as the 12th U.S. city for its “Any Given Child” program.

The goal of the program is to establish a long-range arts education plan to reach every public school student in grades K-8.

The multi-year effort will enable experts from the Kennedy Center to work with a panel of local citizens as they audit the resources currently available in the schools and plan for increased access to arts programs for every school and every child.

Susan Lipp, owner and chairman of Full Compass Systems, played a major role on the committee that worked to achieve Madison’s selection for the program. 

Madison was chosen in part because of its “really wonderful proposal” said Darrell Ayres, Vice-President of Education for the Kennedy Center.

In selecting Madison, Kennedy Center staff members believe they have a great opportunity for success because they will be extending the reach and resources of the strong arts education that is already in place.

“Any Given Child” launches this fall. In addition to music and the visual arts, special emphasis will be devoted to dance and theater, which are not standard offerings in Madison schools.

Susan Lipp has said, “arts education is a critical part of any child’s development and a rich variety of art experiences should be a given for every child.

“Even in Madison schools, staffed with devoted educators, there are children who are underserved.  “Any Given Child” will provide us with expertise, leadership and a plan to see that the goals of the program are realized and every child will benefit.”

Full Compass Systems

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Posted by Julie Clark on 08/27 at 01:43 PM
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In The Studio: Getting Outside “The Box” – Hybrid Recording And Mixing

Options for getting electrons flowing through gear
This article is provided by Audio Geek Zine.

 
Plug-ins are great, they’re very close to the real hardware counterparts, sometimes better.

I don’t want to debate that. This article is all about options for getting electrons flowing through gear to get better mixes.

There are very few (if any) professional mixing engineers that work 100 percent ITB (in the box), at some point you’ll need to get outside.

Latency
One of the problems inherent with digital recording is latency. Today’s modern audio interfaces are way better than just a few years ago and we can get it to the point that it’s barely noticeable, but you can do better than that.

Most USB interfaces have a direct monitoring option or simply a mix knob to get around the problem of input latency.

By turning the mix knob to the left you are listening to just the inputs of the interface, latency free, and by turning it to the right, you hear the output of the software, with the latency. Most of the time you are probably just listening from the software outputs, which is fine, if you can deal with the latency.

If you use the direct monitoring function and put the mix knob in the middle you can get benefit of zero latency and still be able to hear the output of the software for the tracks you are playing along to. The trick here is to mute the track you are recording to.

For punching in on takes, you’ll have to record to a new track and comp the parts, it’s worth the extra effort.

Many firewire interfaces have a software mixer to route signals around before the DAW and you can use this for your direct monitoring.

Another way around the input latency problem is by using a small mixer and before the interface and monitor directly from that along with a stereo return from the DAW.

Unfortunately this only works when you are recording with mics, when recording direct guitars into Guitar Rig or Amplitube, you won’t be able to monitor the effect, so you have to reduce the buffer size to an acceptable latency.

Guitar Pedal Effects
Software effects are great, but there is something really cool about effects pedals, something that plugins can’t capture.

Hopefully you didn’t sell all your guitar gear to pay for your studio, you can use those stomp box effects for mixing too.

If you have a re-amp kit or a couple of passive DI boxes you can integrate your pedalboard into your software. Go out from your interface into the re-amp box, or passive DI box, going Low impedance to high impedance, then go into your effects. The output of the effects goes into any DI box, or an instrument input of your interface.

Again, latency can be a problem, so I would record the return of the pedals to a new track and then snap it into time to match the original track.

Master Bus Effects
We’re starting to get into a hybrid approach to mixing, combining hardware and software.

The next step would be to get a good master bus compressor to get some analog mojo back into your mix. Most console and compressor manufacturers make stereo compressors with some nice color and character. The SSL G-Series Compressor is a standard for rock mixers.

Summing Mixer
The next step would be to get an analog summing mixer. Essentially you take 8 stereo stems out of your interface, put them into this box, it combines the signals in the analog domain into a single stereo mix, which you’d then send to the bus compressor and back into the DAW.

Google “Summing Mixer shootout” to get an idea of what a summing mixer can do for your mixes. The Dangerous Music D-Box is one of many worth checking out.

Analog Console
If you don’t want to go the Summing mixer route, you can get a real mixer. There are a few great smaller format consoles like the Toft ATB that are great for a hybrid approach in the home studio.

Use the automation in your DAW and use the mixer for its EQ, integrate hardware insert effects easily, get the benefits of analog summing and when you’re tracking, latency free monitoring. Plus they take up a bunch of room on your desk and impress people when they walk in. 

Do you use a “hybrid” DAW system? Tell me how you do it and what you like about it.

Jon Tidey is a Producer / Engineer who runs his own studio, EPIC Sounds, and enjoys writing about audio on his blog AudioGeekZine.com. To comment or ask questions about this article go here.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/27 at 11:23 AM
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Harman Professional Promotes David McKinney To Senior Director, China Operations

Will lead the continued development of the China team and drive growth

Having successfully managed the establishment of Harman Professional’s direct distribution business in India and previously leading the company’s first Asia regional sales office, David McKinney has been appointed Harman senior director, China operations. 

According to Blake Augsburger, president of Harman Professional and EVP of Harman International, McKinney will lead the continued development of the China team and drive growth by providing specialized systems and technologies to suit all strata and all vertical markets of the Chinese professional entertainment and production markets.

“David McKinney will serve as a great asset to the entertainment and production communities in China,” Augsburger states. “He is an accomplished communicator with a strong understanding of the technology, the market and the people. I am confident he will apply his considerable skills and experience to provide our team with excellent leadership and our customers with excellent service.”

McKinney has a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Music & Electronics from Keele University in the United Kingdom. Since 2003, he has been based in Malaysia, initially as director of sales for the Harman Signal Processing Group, and more recently, he led the startup for the Professional Division regional sales office there.

David Jin, Harman International country manager, China and North East Asia, notes, “David McKinney is a proven performer. His capacity to understand a market, develop programs to address that market and provide value while driving growth is unmatched. I look forward to working with him to serve our customers and advance Harman’s business in China.”

McKinney adds, “Harman Professional is uniquely positioned to serve Chinese entertainment and production professionals with integrated, accessible and eminently powerful systems that will allow them to advance their craft and grow their businesses. Now is a phenomenal time for growth and I am very excited to lead Harman Professional’s business in China.”

Harman Professional

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Posted by Keith Clark on 08/26 at 12:02 PM
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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
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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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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
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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
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