Mt. Marion, NY (May 7, 2020)—Marking its 45th anniversary this year, cabling and audio interface manufacturer Sescom has introduced a plethora of new products for use in live sound, installation and house of worship settings.
The new SES-RCA-LVL-ST Stereo Single RCA Volume Control provides volume control for any device, with a passive design that provides a single level control for left & right RCA I/Os, all housed in an anodized aluminum casing. Similarly, the SES-RCA-LVL-LR Stereo Dual RCA Left / Right Volume Control does the same thing, except for dual RCA inputs to dual RCA outputs.
The SES-TRRS-AB 3.5mm A/B Switch with Center Off Switch offers bidirectional, two-source audio switching or one-source audio splitting, based around three 3.5 mm female TRRS connections. The unit provides ground loop noise elimination and can be used to connect dual computers, smartphones or MP3 Players to a house system; switch line level inputs and/or outputs between amplifiers, mixers or PCs; and other uses.
Sescom’s SES-EZ-MIX-01 Two-Channel Stereo Audio Mixer with Separate Volume Control provides two 3.5 mm inputs and a single 3.5 mm output, allowing users to run multiple audio sources into one input.
Elsewhere, the SES-BUB-1206 Active 1-Channel Balanced XLR to Unbalanced RCA Audio Converter is self-explanatory, featuring an active design intended to reduce loss via its low noise, low distortion circuitry. The unit includes a power supply. For those going the other direction, there’s also the new SES-UBB-1646 Active 1-Channel Unbalanced RCA to Balanced XLR Audio Converter.
Lastly, there’s the company’s new SES-AUD-TRS-BAL Stereo Unbalanced Audio to Balanced Converter for 3.5mm TRS To Left & Right Male XLRs. The unit is not compatible with phantom powered devices.
Toronto, Canada (May 6, 2020) — Yorkville Sound is working with Starfish Medical on an open-source ventilator design project to increase the number of ventilators in Canada. The pro-audio manufacturer is providing its engineering and manufacturing expertise as it collaborates in an answer to the Government of Canada’s call to action to Canadian businesses and manufacturers to help deliver critical health supplies to fight the COVID 19 pandemic.
“Our design and manufacturing team is very excited to be part of the solution during this unprecedented time,” says Steve Long, Yorkville Sound’s president. “We’re providing circuit-board design and layout, as well as the assembly of the control panel for the ventilator project. Our capable facility is quite nimble, and we are able to produce finished results quickly and with accuracy. We are dedicated to help flatten the curve and provide much needed equipment for our country’s healthcare professionals.”
Located in the Toronto area like Yorkville Sound, StarFish Medical is a full service Medical Device Design company offering design, development, and manufacturing services. John Walmsley, EVP of Strategic Relationships at Starfish Medical, added; “What better contributor to a Canadian emergency ventilator program than Yorkville Sound, whose manufacturing and production ingenuity established them at the top of the music and professional sound industry. Like other industrial contributors, Yorkville stepped in and got us the parts we needed fast.”
The ventilator project is inspired by The Winnipeg Ventilator, a project designed for ICU use and among the easiest in the world to bring into high volume production.
Little Ferry, NJ (May 5, 2020)—An effect staple since Eventide introduced it in the 1970s, Eventide’s MicroPitch dual-voice pitch shifter has been introduced as a plug-in for use on a Mac or PC.
MicroPitch is a fine-resolution pitch shifter providing effects that range from subtle tone fattening to dramatic slap-back effects via longer delays. In addition to stereo spread effects, the plug-in also allows users to mix in detuned and delayed versions of a source, and expanded controls make possible deep pitch dives, echoes and chorus effects.
MicroPitch features two voices of pitch shifting, one from unison to -50 cents, the other from unison to +50 cents, each with up to 2 seconds of delay. The plug-in can produce a classic stereo-spreading effect, a chorusing effect on each voice by means of Modulation Depth and Rate controls, and slapback effects by means of longer delay times, and it can create pitch dive or rise effects by Feedback adjustment. The Mix Lock toggle lets users maintain a wet-dry mix constant while scrolling through the rich complement of presets, while the Pitch Mix allows for layering the two voices by setting the balance between each shifted delay. The Tempo function allows for synchronized and unique delay effects.
The plug-in also provides a Ribbon control, letting users set sweeping movements between two completely different settings of any combination of controls, such as turning sweetening shifts into a delay-throw and back, or changing delays from dark to bright for transitional effects. Desktop users can plug in a MIDI keyboard and gain control of the Ribbon via the mod wheel for tactile control as well.
Enhanced for experimentation and live performance and with a UI designed for desktop, laptop or iPad, MicroPitch includes a host of presets based on iconic uses of the effect over the years. Tone, Modulation and Feedback controls cover the ground for many uses, while deeper parameters let users discover repeating delays, modulations and Tempo-sync’ed special effects.
Joining the iOS version of the app (which works as a standalone app, AudioUnit v3 plug-in, or Inter-App Audio effect), MicroPitch for Mac and PC supports VST, AAX, and AU plug-in protocols for compatibility with every DAW.
The MicroPitch plug-in runs $99, but currently has an introductory price of $39 through May 31, 2020.
Vancouver, Canada (May 5, 2020)—Radial Engineering has shipped its new Radial HDI direct box and preamp intended for studio recording or live touring applications.
The HDI offers a variety of features, primary among them being its Color control, which allows blending of the signal from ultra-clean operation on one side to amp-like distortion and warm transformer saturation on the other. Also onboard are Level and Presence controls, each featuring extra-large chrome knobs for precise adjustment. The Level control allows the HDI to accommodate a variety of input sources, while also providing the means to drive the internal circuitry harder for more exaggerated coloration. The Presence control provides an emphasis on the high and high-mid frequencies, useful, for instance, if needing a signal to cut through a mix.
Aside from the three main controls, the Radial HDI also includes a Hi-Z switch that approximates the Hi and Lo inputs on a vintage amplifier, and a single-control Opto compressor which allows for peak reduction of the input signal. A 3-position high-pass filter can be used to roll off low end created when pushing the HDI into distortion, and a ground lift switch helps eliminate hum and buzz.
Inputs for the HDI are provided on front and rear panel ¼” jacks along with a Thru connection for an amplifier. A 3.5 mm mono Synth Input is included for connection to modular synthesizers. Transformer-isolated mic and line-level XLR outputs are provided for direct connection to mic preamps and recording interfaces, along with a ¼-inch Processed Output for feeding the affected signal to a guitar amp or instrument effects units.
The HDI features a ¼” milled gunmetal-anodized faceplate, ships with an included rack mounting kit for installation in a 2RU rack space, and can be mounted side-by-side with a second HDI for stereo applications.
Aarhus, Denmark (May 5, 2020)—If there was smoke rolling across the stage when Mads Langer recently played Aarhus, Denmark, it probably came from the audience’s cars. While the coronavirus has brought the concert business to a standstill worldwide, the city of Aarhus recently teamed with promoter Front of House for a drive-in concert series where audiences can see a show while socially distancing in their cars, listening via their FM car stereos. Langer kicked off the run, rocking a parking lot instead of a packed house.
Held at P-Scene, a newly created venue in one of the city’s public parks, Tangkrogen, the show was emceed by Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard, who noted, “It is an Aarhusian world premiere to hold a concert in this way.” He also asked the crowd to applaud the concert’s event staff, noting, “I think we should give applause or a honk—or no, you must not honk, I was told—to those who have made this arrangement work.”
There were numerous other rules that had to be followed beyond just ‘no honking.’ All attendees had to stay in their cars and were not allowed to open their car doors. Only left-side windows were allowed to be rolled down, and drivers had to turn off their engines once they were in their designated parking spot. Up to five people were allowed in each car and the city strongly recommended that concertgoers only share their vehicle with others “in your circle of infection.”
Langer took the stage joking, “I’ve played many concerts in my life, but this is really ‘a first time.’” It was likely a first for everyone involved. No PA was set up for the event, though LED screens graced the stage to provide a better experience for fans in the cheap seats, er, parking spots.
There was one relatively new technology employed for the concert—the increasingly ubiquitous Zoom video conferencing app. During most shows, the audience will scream out commentary or requests, but for Langer’s show, the crowd communicated via Zoom, which was visible on one of the video screens.
While it was an unusual show, at least one concert tradition was upheld during the show. For the final song, “Fact-Fiction,” Langer spontaneously invited an audience member, Signe Nygaard, who had requested the track via Zoom, to come up on stage and dance while he played. Nygaard got out of her car and ran up in her socks.
Claus Bech, director of the Aarhus City Association, explained the rationale behind the event seriesto local TV station TV2 East July, stating, “We go into it because the cultural houses and the urban space are standing still. We have been working with the Front of House for many years, which is why we also feel it is very important to support this because it both makes the artists happy, while at the same time giving citizens a community in the midst of this chaotic situation we are in.”
Other upcoming events at P Scene include a music quiz and a screening of Star Wars.
Colorado Springs, CO (May 4, 2020) — Sight and Sound Technologies recently designed and installed a new audio system in The Springs Church in Colorado Springs, CO, marking the first installation of a Martin Audio WPS system in the United States.
A modern-styled church, the sanctuary is a 2,000-seat room which gets wider from the stage towards the back corners of the room. Services are centered around an electric band and several vocalists, all of whom were previously heard through an aging left-center-right line array system that was starting to wear out. Sigh and Sound took down the previous system and was able to reuse some boxes in another room.
In the PA’s place is the new WPS system, which Sight and Sound COO Kris Johnson had heard at a trade show: “It was like the WPM with more beef because of the 8” drivers so we decided to look at those for the sanctuary. When we ran the projections, the system looked amazing so we moved forward with it.”
The system consists of six WPS enclosures a side flown off an I-beam with six CDD8 for front fill mounted across the front lip of the stage, all powered by an iK81 amp with one-box resolution. Johnson explained, “There are two I-beams that run left and right from front to back in the room and they drop pretty low, so we had to be under those beams otherwise we’d hit them with the top speakers. I like where the speakers ended up in the room and in a perfect world, I’d have loved to put the system about two feet higher, but we accomplished our goal: great coverage front to back with very little dB difference.
“In terms of music reproduction, WPS sounds amazing. For weeks, I was getting text messages from their audio technician raving how good and clear the system sounded. That, plus the parishioners love how the services sound with the new system. They’re all smiles.”
Stockport, UK (May 4, 2020)—Boutique UK mixer brand, MasterSounds launched its original Radius club installation/high-end rotary DJ mixers in 2016, and has now reinvented the line, taking a new approach to make them more affordable while continuing the engineering and audio approaches used of the first two generations of the line.
Originally launched in 2016, the two-channel Radius 2 rotary DJ mixer was followed by the introduction of the four-channel Radius 4 mixer, two valve-based versions (the Radius Two and Four Valve), an FX unit and dedicated LinearPOWER supply accessory.
“Four years on, and the brand has seen remarkable growth but the higher production costs of a premium rotary mixer rule them out for DJs on a tighter budget,” explains MasterSounds’ founder, Ryan Shaw. “Designer Andy Rigby-Jones, and I decided to do something about it, by redesigning the compact Radius 2 and Radius 4 to make them more affordable but without compromising any of the features, the feel or the audio fidelity of the original model.”
The new generation two-channel Radius 2 rotary and four-channel Radius 4 offer LINE and RIAA inputs, clear analog VU meters, a Master EQ/Isolator, a hi-pass filter on each channel, and an AUX send/Return system with insert button for integration of external effects. Radius 4 also includes two mic inputs, selectable via the rear panel.
According to the line’s designer, Union Audio’s Andy Rigby-Jones, “the Split Composite Passive RIAA stage remains identical to the previous generation, but we have simplified the post-fader circuitry. The biggest change was to the internal construction and PCB board shapes, where we have optimized them for maximum efficiency through our in-house fabrication plant which has made them a lot easier to manufacture. What we haven’t compromised on is the quality of the components used, and the third-generation mixers all feature Alps pots/switches, close tolerance resistors/capacitors and Panasonic electrolytics.”
Union Audio has undergone radical changes since Radius 2’s inception four years ago, which has enabled the team to implement the new design changes. Moving into a new unit in 2017, Rigby-Jones has developed a design and production facility, coupling traditional analog engineering with high specification manufacturing.
MasterSounds’ founder, Ryan Shaw, remarked, “The Radius 2 and 4 hold a special place in my heart, it’s the mixer Andy and I began our audio journey with, and one that gives the user a really unique way of blending records. Both Radius 2 and 4 are desktop products, with a small footprint, which makes them perfect for home, touring, and club use, or all three.”
The Radius 2 is priced at $844 and Radius 4 at $1,150.
Chicago, IL (May 1, 2020)—Noted studio and live engineer Danny Leake died Wednesday, April 27, bringing to an end a career that saw him work with some of the biggest names in music over a 50+ year career. While known for studio work that led to six Grammy nominations for engineering and mastering, Leake was equally adept in a live setting, working as Stevie Wonder’s FOH engineer for 28 years. Over the course of his career, he worked with the likes of Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Kanye West, The Police, Willie Nelson, Johnny Gill, Brian McKnight, Hank Williams, Jr., Natalie Cole, Candlebox, Lupe Fiasco, Natalie Cole and dozens more, bringing a keen ear and thoughtful perfectionism to his work. Felled by a heart attack while enroute to a dialysis appointment, Leake was 69.
Born in Chicago, Leake was occasionally working as a session musician when he graduated from Lane Tech High School in 1969, but was already moving towards an interest in audio engineering. As he recounted to Pro Sound News in 2007, “I played guitar for the longest time, since ’68, went out on the road with the Five Stairsteps, played with them, and I really got fascinated in the studio with the machines, the playback and everything. There weren’t really any black engineers in Chicago floating around at that time, so I’d say, ‘hey, how do you get into that?’ Everybody would laugh and walk away, and I’m like, ‘damn, what’s so funny?’ [laughs]
“So I basically read books, got drafted, went into the service, put a band together while I was over there and actually sold it to EMI Records. I forged a pass, told them I’d come from Chicago, Illinois when really I was just driving in from France, but we sold that stuff, and they gave me access to Abbey Road Studios and stuff, so I used to go just hang out with cats. When I came back to Chicago, I figured I would get a job as an assistant engineer or something like that, but that didn’t happen, so I just kept studying.”
Back in Chicago after an honorable discharge, Leake attended DePaul University and Roosevelt University, earning a BA in Music and Audio Engineering while also making use of what he’d learned overseas: “One day, a cat asked me to help him out at the studio and I told him, ‘yeah, I can help you out, but we really have to go someplace else that has this format to mix on.’ When we got there, I wired up all the stuff like I had picked up in England and the studio owner was impressed, so he offered me a job. He didn’t offer me any money [cracks up] but he gave me the keys—which was even better!
Making a name for himself, in 1979, he moved on to Chicago’s Universal Recording Corporation, where he worked for 11 years, engineering in every genre and media that the studio served. “I worked my way up to the chief engineer of that joint, cutting thrash metal records in the middle of the night, cutting [advertising] spots during the day,” he recalled.
During that time, he garnered production credits with The Dells, Tom Waits, The Chi-Lites, Eddie Harris and dozens of others, while some efforts, such as recording The Police in 1984, were under the radar. “They were touring, but I guess Sting and everybody else wasn’t happy with what they were doing live, so they actually set up the entire live show—monitor boards, the whole trip—in my studio at Universal Recording, which held 150 musicians. I remember I used a second studio to sub a lot of Stewart Copeland’s drums down. Over a two-day period, we recorded a ton of 24 tracks, 48 tracks, all of that stuff. I always wondered whatever happened with that—and last year, I bought a DVD of a show they did in Atlanta [2005’s Synchronicity Concert]. The show was them on stage, and all of a sudden they went into this big video, esoteric thing with colors floating around and I recognized the tracks I cut. Oh, okay! Did I get credit? No [laughs], but that’s part of the game.”
Becoming an independent engineer in the early Nineties, Leake moved into the live sound world with a true baptism by fire moment. Having worked with Johnny Gill on some of the early hits that established the former New Edition singer as a solo artist, Leake was asked if he’d mix FOH for Gill in Japan.
He recalled, “I thought hey, how hard can it be? Big time engineer, right? Well, the first gig was at the Tokyo Dome. [laughs] It was a festival with Hall and Oates, the Doobie Brothers, Sheila E, all these cats, so there were 63,000 people, maybe 200 Clair S-4s up in the air. I’d never seen a speaker that big in my life. The audio guys were talking about things I had no idea what they were talking about—but everybody thought I was the pro because I brought my own gear! But I always bring my own gear, so I was like, what did I get myself into?! We did the show and to my ears, to my way of thinking, I was, God, this was horrible. I was ready to say ‘guys, you don’t have to pay me, I’m really sorry’ and they were ‘man, that was the greatest thing we ever heard!’ And I’m like, oh…it was?
“One thing that did happen though—that show, when they said ‘Johnny Gill’ and the whole place started yelling, they hit the first note and the joint went crazy. I got addicted to the audience. I had never experienced that before—63,000 people all getting their vibe through me and nobody’s remixing me. Yeah…I told him, whenever you go out again, call me; I’d like to do that.”
Garnering studio credits with the likes of Kurt Elling, Ramsey Lewis & Nancy Wilson, Dennis DeYoung, Michelle Williams and others over the next 30 years, Leake founded his Urban Guerilla Engineering boutique mixing and mastering studio in Chicago. Additionally, he was a multi-term president of EARS (Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago), mentored dozens of working engineers in the region, was a board member of SPARS, and was also a member and one-time trustee of the Recording Academy, writing proposals that helped lead to the Engineering, Mastering, and Remix Grammy Awards.
Despite that success in recording, he was often on the road, mixing tours for Diana Ross, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Dennis DeYoung, Aretha Franklin, Bell Biv Devoe and most notably, for Stevie Wonder, helming the house desk for hundreds of shows across all of Wonder’s tours since 1992.
In the live realm, Leake brought the meticulousness and insight he’d learned in the studio to the road, carefully placing microphones onstage himself—much to some monitor engineers’ irritation—and bringing along studio tools that were considered esoteric in the live realm. “I was probably the only guy on the planet that was traveling with a Massenburg Equalizer in my live rig,” he mused of his early days mixing shows.
Despite his willingness to bring technology to bear in a live setting, Leake had strong opinions on the subject, going so far as to note on his website, “Music should never become a slave to the technology.” Instead, he always aimed to ensure that music lovers, whether listening at home or in the middle of a packed arena, were focused on the music, and that philosophy was at the heart of every mix he created. As he told PSN while on tour with Stevie Wonder, “I have a theory that people don’t necessarily want to hear the record. They want to hear something bigger than that; if they wanted to hear the record, they’d stay home.”
Danny Leake is remembered by his wife of 24 years, Fran Allen-Leake, owner of LJect Productions; children; and grandchildren.
Santa Rose, CA (April 30, 2020)—Sommer Cable has introduced its new SC-Planet CPR microphone and control cable.
SC-Planet CPR features a special design with dual-stranded wires and a certified heat resistant AL/PT foil screen, including a drain wire for 100% shielding coverage. The wire diameter of 0.34 mm² / AWG 22 is intended for long-distance transmission and for connections compliant with 100 V technology.
The cables are available as a single 6.2 mm / 0.24 in. cable or double pair 11.6 mm / 0.46 in. version. Designed with heat and fire protection in mind, the cable is certified for the highest-rated fire protection in accordance with the strict European Construction Products Regulation EU 305/2011. Nonetheless, the company reports that the cabling is flexible and supple to work with, and can be laid easily in cable trays and dado ducts.
Cables pursuant to the fire protection class Cca are subject to regular certification and inspection. On request, Sommer Cable will provide the declaration of performance as required by EU Construction Products Regulations.
How are you? These days, that’s a welcome and yet loaded question. If you’re reading this, you’re still above ground and that’s not a bad start. I say that only partially in jest though, because let’s face it—there’s not a lot of room for kidding around these days.
As I write this, we’re a little over a month into the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, with essential businesses across the country either still closed or getting by with employees working from home. For recordists, that means taking on any work they can scrape up and tackle alone in private/home facilities. Many post audio pros are likewise working from home with mixing rigs taking over their living rooms. Senior content producer Steve Harvey caught up with numerous professionals for his cover story and other tales recounted in our Recording and Post/Broadcast sections—stories that highlight the frustration of the times and the sparks of ingenuity that overcome obstacles in our way. Some of the solutions shared are admirable and others are just plain amusing, but they all illustrate the human capacity to persevere in hard times.
The segment of pro audio most visibly hit by the pandemic, however, has been the sound reinforcement industry, with thousands of live sound pros out of work overnight, with no gigs ahead for the foreseeable future due to tours put on pause, shuttered venues and bans on large gatherings. With high-profile squabbling between politicians on when and how to reopen the country (and the occasional pandemic expert trying to get a word in edgewise), it’s hard to tell when gigs will grace stages again.
Venues are closed not only for the safety of audiences but the crews as well, though it’s a tough pill to swallow when the bills are piling up. That said, I’ve talked to a number of live sound pros over the last month who either contracted COVID-19 or knew someone who had, and the general consensus is that a pile of bills is a comparative luxury to being at death’s doorstep. I recount one such story as an example in our Sound Reinforcement section this month.
At this moment, the mayors of New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans have stated they don’t want any big events—major league games, concerts and the like—held in their cities until 2021, while Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health is now suggesting that fall 2022 might be the earliest that large events return if we don’t find a vaccine before then. Harvard cites that as a worst-case scenario, but the thought of 18 months without arena-packing, shed-swelling tours is enough to send a shiver down the spine of the most tour-hardened road warrior (not to mention the audio manufacturers who keep them armed with gear). No cities or states have actually said they are banning large gatherings that far down the line—but that’s only as of mid-April as I write this.
With scant information currently available to the public and the lack of any stated (much less agreed upon) plans for reopening the economy, for now it looks like non-essential businesses will start to go back to work in stages across the summer, which means well before a vaccine is available—so COVID-19 and the brutal statistics it engenders will still be with us. Nonetheless, that means live sound vendors who have diversified with system design, installation and AV integration divisions will be able to at least partially go back to work.
It’s also a fair bet that bans on gatherings and events will slowly be lifted with increasingly larger headcounts allowed as we measure the cause-and-effect of doing so, which means local and regional live sound providers will probably be the first to come back online, tackling small gigs, weddings, corporate events and the like. While everyone is aching to stop sheltering and start having fun again, will the public feel safe enough to go out? Will it actually be safe enough? That remains to be seen. When will the gigs come back? Not a second too soon—except it might be.