Los Angeles, CA (May 8, 2020)—Veteran audio engineer Dave Henszey’s Dolby Atmos-certified immersive mixing and recording suite, Henszey Sound, features an all-Dante network infrastructure enabled by an arsenal of Red and RedNet interfaces from Focusrite.
Among his important tools are a Focusrite RedNet MP8R eight-channel mic pre and A/D converter, a RedNet A16R 16-channel analogue I/O interface, three RedNet HD32R 32-channel HD Dante network bridges and a Red 8Pre 64-in/64-out Thunderbolt 2 and Pro Tools | HD-compatible audio interface. Other highlights include a Slate Raven console, a full complement of outboard gear, software and mics (including his prized Neumann U47fet), and the first Atmos speaker system made up of ADAM components — three ADAM A77X near-/midfield monitors, four A7X and four A5X nearfields and two SUB12 subwoofers.
Creating the Atmos mixing suite meant getting outside advice. “I found those people at Dolby Laboratories and Westlake Pro, and they’ve been wonderful advisors in helping me make this vision happen. The experts at Westlake Pro recommended Focusrite components, and I’ve had good experiences with Focusrite through my career, so it was an easy decision to go with their advice,” says Henszey. He has been in-demand for years, with an extensive client list that includes Lego Star Wars, Miller Brewing, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, MTV Spring Break and much more.
“The one non-negotiable approach that I had was that I needed to have this system be Atmos-certified with ADAM speakers, because they are my go-to. [Dolby] had never certified an Atmos system with ADAM speakers, so I was to be the first. They have digital tools to help set up and certify a room, and we got it up and running, and it all worked like a dream. The sound was stunning. I knew it would be good, but I had no idea what I was about to hear, and it was spectacular. The work that Westlake Pro and Dolby did at this room is way over the top.”
Henszey comments, “The future of the audio industry is really exciting, and there’s a lot of great stuff happening right now. Atmos has opened up a lot of possibilities. I love that format — even when you hear an Atmos mix out of a smartphone, it jumps out at you and goes all around you. It’s a beautiful set of tools for audio professionals working today and in the future.”
Salt Lake City, UT (May 8, 2020)—Veteran composer and songwriter Jim Funk has completed his namesake Funk Studios in Salt Lake City, Utah. Initially conceived as a two-room facility, the complex now has three rooms in order to handle projects of all styles and types, from vocal overdubs and mixing all the way up to large orchestral and choral tracking sessions. Key to the facility is its 1,300-square-foot Studio A tracking space, attached to a brand-new control room centered around a Solid State Logic Duality δelta Pro-Station SuperAnalogue console.
The massive Studio A tracking space, dubbed The Stage, offers 23-foot ceilings, custom variable acoustics and four iso booths, one housing a Yamaha C7 grand piano with Disklavier. The room, like the rest of the complex, was designed by Jerry Steckling of JSX Audio.
Studio A’s Duality desk isn’t alone, as there’s an SSL XL Desk in Studio B already. “I think a big part of the decision to go with the Duality was the experience I was having on the XL Desk for the first year that I was working for the company,” says recording engineer Stoker White, who works for Funk’s long-established musical theater production track recording business.
White says of the Duality, “I love the way it feels like a traditional analog desk, where everything is primarily accessible right on the channel strips instead of going back and forth to the center section. The filter is right there, and I love how easy it is to flip around the signal flow as far as where the EQs are landing relative to the insert points. It’s really intuitive and comfortable to work on. I love working on it — and it sounds great, too.”
Specifically, he says, “The console mic pres sound excellent. I’ve used them for 80 percent of my work since we’ve been open. They’re perfect for the orchestral tracking we’re doing.”
Nashville, TN (May 4, 2020)—The studio of Nashville-based electronic music producer Asher Postman was damaged in the Tennessee tornado in March, but his recently acquired ADAM Audio A7X active nearfield studio monitors survived.
On top of crafting his own songs, Postman has remixed artists from Riley Clemmons to The Chainsmokers. His tutorials garner six-figure YouTube views. His head-bobbing version of the Motown classic “Mr. Postman” assembles sounds recorded on his iPhone. Perhaps he’s best known for his hilarious meme remixes, which turn viral TikToks and Vines such as “Dubai Was Lit” into fully produced trap jams.
Postman first heard the ADAM monitors when he and a friend from Detroit, David Chapdelaine, whose artist project is called Augest, went on a writing retreat. “We were traveling light and brought minimal setups. There was no subwoofer — and we’re electronic guys who like subs!”
The 7-inch carbon-glass fiber composite woofer of the A7X, powered by its own 100-watt amplifier, was up to the challenge, he says: “The low end sounded really good, and we put things together that sounded right when later we played the tracks on systems that did have subs. I want to mention that the lower mids are really nice as well, whereas on my previous speakers they were nowhere near as defined.”
Postman continues, “I hadn’t experienced a high end this clear before. Working with hi-hat parts, top loops, synth riffs, anything with a lot of high-frequency content, I felt like I was finally hearing everything I should have been hearing on my old monitors but didn’t realize it. With a track like ‘Dubai Was Lit,’ I can have about 20 to 30 layers of sound going, so it’s great to know I’m getting an accurate representation of all those frequencies.”
Postman also found that the A7X monitors helped him tune his Nashville studio, which was oddly shaped and had a bad resonance at around 130 Hz, he reports. “The ADAMs can already sound good in a problem room, but their accuracy made it very easy for me to find that bad frequency using measurement software and tune it out.”
Following the tornado, he says, “I’m currently at my parents’ house in Michigan, and once again, I’ve never been this happy about having to work without a subwoofer. If I get a mix to sound good on the ADAMs, it sounds good on anything.”
Kevin Suggs arrived in Seattle just in time for the ‘90s grunge-era gold rush, when the city was bursting with bands looking to score a record deal. Spending a decade of 12-hour-plus days pushing faders at studios like Avast! Recording Company was the perfect training to head up audio engineering for the podcast series Live on KEXP.
“Things just started to explode,” Suggs says. “Even though I wasn’t working with any huge Seattle bands, there were just so many bands and everybody was recording. It was a very vibrant time to be making music in this town. Everybody had a shot.”
As a freelance engineer and steel guitarist, Suggs racked up credits on albums by Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins and Brandi Carlile. By the time he arrived at KEXP, a non-profit arts organization known for curating adventurous music for its FM radio station and online properties, the audio crew was producing more than 100 live music sessions a year.
Live on KEXP—until this week, known as KEXP’s Live Performances—is the latest evolution of a podcasting program that began in 2004, and a key arm of the organization’s multi-platform approach that includes broadcasting to the Seattle radio market and streaming to two million YouTube subscribers.
Every note of sound, though, begins with Suggs and the audio engineering team. Today, KEXP logs about 300 performances every year. To maintain efficiency and consistency, Suggs begins each session with a proven template based around workhorse mics like Shure SM57s and SM58s and a baseline of plug-ins and presets in Pro Tools.
“My mantra for these things is just simplicity,” says Suggs. “I’m not trying to recreate a band’s record or anything. I’m trying to capture what the band is giving.”
Until a few years ago, the engineers mixed the audio to two-track on an eight-bus digital Mackie board before sending it to Pro Tools. These days, they automate the mix through an Avid S6 Pro Tools control surface.
“It’s recording every move I make,” he says. “If I didn’t quite get that guitar solo up in time, I can make a marker. And then once we’re off the air, I can go back and I can fix that [for the podcast].”
Like any live recording situation, though, control is a relative concept. There’s only so much isolation you can do when a full band is playing together in room. Suggs has a few tricks to help keep instruments in their own lanes, but sometimes he simply has to let it bleed.
“I always start my mixes with the vocal mics up because they’re going to color everything,” he notes. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to solo the kick drum, because as soon you push those vocal mics up, it’s going to change that kick drum sound completely. It’s just a matter of embracing the bleed, because you’re going to get a lot of it.”
Instead of setting up bands according to their stage plots, Suggs positions them in a circle, with everyone facing each other like in a rehearsal. In the absence of isolation barriers, this configuration cancels some of the interference between the vocal mic and drum mics.
Every session that ends up on the Live on KEXP podcast is first broadcast via radio to the Seattle area. With few exceptions, what ends up on YouTube and the podcast is exactly the same as what the radio listeners heard. The main difference between the broadcast and streaming audio is in the mastering stage.
“We hit the one that goes out on the air with a little more compression [from an L2 leveling amplifier], and then we do a raw track [for streaming] that has nothing on it and no compression. That’s what we usually use for mastering, so we can start fresh without any other compression.”
When shelter-in-place orders came into play in March, the Live on KEXP team was already set up to have their engineers work remotely. Most, like Suggs, have studios in their homes, so they’re able to mix and master sessions seamlessly.
Luckily, KEXP has enough sessions in the can to last well into the summer months. The only audio currently being recorded at home for the Live on KEXP podcast is the voiceover by host Troy Nelson, who runs an AKG Perception 20 mic through a Universal Audio Arrow audio interface into Logic Pro X.
Rest assured, Suggs and the audio engineering team will be ready to go as soon as they’re able to get back to the studio.
“I really feed off of the vibe,” he says. “There’s really something about that live energy and the mix being a performance. At the same time as the band’s performing, you’re performing the mixing. You still get that adrenaline rush. There’s no net.”
Washington, DC (April 29, 2020)—The Library of Congress is encouraging the public to make hip hop music with material drawn from some of its audio and moving image collections through Citizen DJ, a project available on the organization’s LC Labs website.
The project, developed by 2020 innovator-in-residence Brian Foo, is scheduled for a summer 2020 launch and is now available in a preview. The experimentation work of LC Labs is part of a digital transformation of the Library of Congress intended to more widely share its collections in new and innovative ways. The expectation is that listeners will be able to discover materials in the library’s collections they were not previously aware of through hearing samples in the new hip hop tracks.
Citizen DJ will offer three user-friendly ways of accessing the sounds: an interface for exploring a particular collection by sound and metadata; a music creation app that enables users to remix collections with beats; and as downloadable sample packs suitable to use with most music production software. The preview offers samples from the library’s archives of music, spoken word, interviews, oral histories and government films, including the early motion pictures and sound recordings of the Edison Companies and the Center for Applied Linguistics Collection documenting North American English dialects.
Foo, a data visualization artist at the American Museum of Natural History who was previously at the New York Public Library, has created the Citizen DJ project as a way to revive the “golden age of hip hop” during the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to Foo, “This small window of time produced landmark albums such as Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High & Rising, both considered to be culturally significant and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. These albums were dense and intricate sonic collages composed of hundreds of found sounds.”
Copyright lawsuits had largely put an end to collage-based music by the end of that period by restricting the use of samples, he notes. “Today, collage-based hip hop as it existed in the golden age is largely a lost (or at best, a prohibitively expensive) artform. I believe if there was a simple way to discover, access, and use public domain audio and video material for music making, a new generation of hip hop artists and producers can maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures, and sonic history that might otherwise be hidden from public ears.”
Los Angeles, CA (April 21, 2020)—Multi-Grammy-winning mix engineer Rob Burrell recently converted a space in his Nashville-area home studio into a Dolby Atmos mix room, incorporating the Focusrite Red 16Line 64-in/64-out Thunderbolt 3 and Pro Tools HD-compatible audio interface.
“I really needed the workflow to work for mixing, mastering and Atmos post,” notes Burrell, who has worked with artists including Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, Michael W. Smith, Michael McDonald and many more, as well as having multiple credits in film and television. “I had a big list of things that I wanted to hit in the most concise kind of package possible—and so enter the Red 16Line, which has rocked my world. I had high hopes for the Red 16Line, but generally I don’t get too excited about gear anymore, because I’ve been there and done that with much of it. But this is different.
“First of all, I always talk about wanting the ‘tech to melt away,’ meaning that once a new bit of gear is integrated into your setup, it should feel like it’s not there, and I get that here. But more than that, it has affected the sound in a positive way. It knocked me out, because once I was using the Red 16Line, I could hear things in my mixes that I was missing before. As a result, my mixes have been coming together more quickly, with more transparency for me and easier troubleshooting. I love the Red 16Line and highly recommend it.”
On his philosophy of mixing day to day, he says, “If someone asks me if I’m more of an analog or digital guy, I’m whatever it takes to make things great. Generally, I work digitally all in the box now, but it varies from project to project. I can literally go from an orchestral record to a hip-hop song the next day, and a country song the day after that. I like the challenge, and I like to get my butt kicked a little bit by trying new things.
“So after mixing in 5.1 and 7.1 since the late ‘90s, it was a no-brainer to dive into Atmos, which is a very precise and technical process with a fantastically artistic canvas to paint with. It’s such a deeply rewarding challenge. Recently I’ve been going back to material that I’ve mixed in the past and mixing it for Atmos, just as an exercise. It’s really illuminating.”
Los Angeles, CA (April 21, 2020) — Craft Recordings has launched a new YouTube series featuring some of the biggest names in music discussing their favorite vinyl discoveries after raiding the record bins at the label’s Los Angeles headquarters.
The weekly series, Craft Recordings Presents: Shoplifting, kicks off with three episodes that feature alt-rockers Taking Back Sunday, jazz and fusion icon Chick Corea and producer Scott Litt. Future installments of the ongoing series will include the likes of Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire, Fran Healy of Travis, The Manhattan Transfer, The Zombies and Poncho Sanchez.
As they go through their loot, they review their hauls and offer insight into their musical heroes and early influences, while sharing anecdotes along the way. Artists will have their pick of Craft’s vast catalog of titles — from foundational jazz and rock albums to beloved soundtracks to punk classics — from such imprints as Stax, Prestige, Fantasy, Fania, Nitro and Vanguard.
In episode three, Scott Litt, who has worked on numerous records for R.E.M., as well as for Liz Phair, Nirvana, and Patti Smith, selects a diverse collection of titles, including Here’s Little Richard, the 1957 debut from the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer. “This guy was the real deal,” he proclaims. Litt also pulls a copy of The Pharcyde’s 1992 debut, Bizarre Ride. The single “Passin’ Me By” “was one of the first records with the sound of the needle on the groove,” he says. He also grabs a reissue of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Litt’s picks also includes a selection of titles by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Zombies and Miles Davis.
Sig Sigworth, president of Craft Recordings, says, “When we designed our new office space, I wanted to have an area where artists could come in, hang out and experience the quality and quantity of our catalog, and what better way than crate-digging? Although, we wanted to take it a step further and capture their reactions as they discovered new releases or re-kindled affairs with lost classics, and thus Shoplifting was born.”
Kingston, Jamaica (April 20, 2020)—Sam Clayton Jr., a noted producer/engineer for numerous reggae acts, died of coronavirus in Kingston, Jamaica on March 31. Clayton led a colorful life, as he was also a founding member of the storied Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, which later became the focus of the 1993 Disney film, Cool Runnings.
Ironically, while he was among the first four athletes chosen for the country’s Olympic team when Jamaica made its push to enter the Winter Olympics, Clayton was ultimately not part of the four-man sled that famously crashed that year during its third run. Climbing out of the bobsled after the crash, the team pushed its sled over the track’s finish line, perhaps losing its chance at medals, but becoming part of Olympic history by cementing an indelible image of determination that exemplifies much of what the games are about.
In later years, Clayton moved into producing and engineering, working with the “Harry J. Studio” label and with acts around the world, including Toots and the Maytals, Ernest Ranglin, Horace Andy and Steel Pulse. In a remembrance post on Facebook, Steel Pulse’s David R. Hinds, noted, “Sam Clayton Jr. will be missed terribly by all that knew him, primarily because, a man that is so upright, fair, honest, eager to work under any challenges or conditions, and possess an arsenal of talent, is a very hard commodity to find in this industry of ours, today. He was a jack of all trades and most important of all, a sincere friend who had a solution to practically any problem that came into play.”
Remembering Clayton to The New York Times, Hinds added, “Most important of all, in this thieving, cutthroat music industry of ours, he was trustworthy. Where Sam towered over the rest of his peers, is that he held dearly every task he did, no matter how small, or how tedious. They all got his relentless undivided attention.”
Clayton Jr. is survived by his wife, Annie; daughter, Joelle; sons, John, Simon and Ice; four sisters, Nicole, Sophia, Aiesha and Suzzanne; and three grandchildren.
Athens, GA (April 15, 2020)—Andrew Ratcliffe’s Tweed Recording moved in recent times to Athens, Georgia to build out a new three-room facility, along with a classroom and a one-hundred seat live performance venue. Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers are used in the classroom and the live performance venue, and now Ratcliffe has installed three sets of Danley Studio 2 self-powered studio monitors, one for each control room.
Ratcliffe started an equipment company alongside his studio and is a part-owner in the newly revitalized console company, Sound Techniques. The equipment company always gravitated toward vintage gear with personality. He worked with integration firm TSAV to help bring all the technologies in the facility together, including Dante, Internet, Wi-Fi, and more. “They suggested I check out the Danley line for the theater, so we went to Gainesville for the day to hear what Danley had to offer,” he said. “We were impressed by the people at Danley and their unconventional approach to high-fidelity live sound.”
Ratcliffe went with a pair of Danley SM-100F full-range loudspeakers with low-end support for the live venue and a pair of Danley CS-100 Cinema series loudspeakers for the classroom paired with a Danley THmini subwoofer.
“While we were there, Cooper [Hedden] let us hear prototypes of Tom Danley’s latest obsession: studio nearfield monitors,” Ratcliffe continued. “These were the Danley Studio 1s, which are passive boxes. They sounded absolutely incredible! Since we have so much gear in our racks already, I commented that I’d love to see the Danley monitors in a one-box powered format. The next day, Cooper called to say the challenge had been accepted. Tom Danley was going to build me an active version!” Now officially the Danley Studio 2, Tweed Recording has three sets. Two are in the mirror-imaged recording studios (almost exact replicas of the Oxford facility). The third set sits in the mix room.