Having worked with Avid’s new Pro Tools 2020.11 and likewise new Carbon interface for some time now, I wanted to highlight a few fresh features that I’ve found useful in the daily workflow.
Routing Folder: This organizational tool lets you select tracks and route them into a neatly packaged folder which behaves like a traditional Aux channel on steroids. There are two approaches to this—you can create the Routing Folder then put tracks into it, or select tracks and create a Routing Folder directly from them. For me, the value of the Routing Folder is that you can process it like an Aux, but then collapse it with the click of a button. You still have access to Solo, Mute, Insert, Send and so on.
For organization, you can collapse the entire folder structure by clicking on the small folder Icon at the bottom of each Routing Folder; simply click it again to unfold it back. Also, when in the Edit window, you can place the insertion point anywhere in a Folder track and select Shift-F to toggle between closed or open.
If you already have an Aux track setup for such purposes, you can also just click on the Aux and select ‘Convert Aux to Routing Folder.’ You could also just create a ‘Basic Folder,’ which has the same functionality minus the ability to process or route. Folders can also be created within folders for additional sub processing.
By using these folder tools, it makes the session much more streamlined both visually and functionally.
Convert Audio to MIDI: There’s only one word for this feature: Wow! With Pro Tools 2020.11, you can take audio tracks from your timeline and convert them into MIDI files. By selecting your audio clip and dragging it onto an Instrument Track, a Menu box appears with the ability to choose Automatic, Universal, Percussive, Percussive Pitched, Melodic, Polyphony Sustain or Polyphony Decay Conversion Types, and it offers you the option to Consolidate the Clip. You can also choose selections from the Clip List, by selecting the Copy Audio as MIDI dropdown menu option. From there, just drop the Audio Clip with its associated MIDI track to the Timeline. It’s that easy.
All of this is enabled through the authorization of Melodyne in your Pro Tools account. Pro Tools subscriptions and Software Update + Support Plans come with Melodyne 5 essential, which, aside from helping with the Convert Audio to MIDI, allows you to fix those questionable notes.
The first thing I did was take a recorded bass track and turn it into MIDI. From there, I tweaked a few note lengths (only had to do a few!) and assigned it to an Omnisphere stereo sub bass patch. The combination together was ridiculous. I then took a kick drum and turned it into MIDI, assigning that to an 808 kick in another piece of software. Imagine where we can go from here.
Dark Theme: For those who like the drama of the dark side, you can alter how the Mix and Edit windows look. By going to Preferences > Display > UI Theme, the dropdown menu lets you select between Classic or Dark. If you select Dark, Pro Tools will ask you to restart for the UI theme change to take effect. After restarting, you’ll notice a whole new world of color attitude. I like it just for a change of mindset, and I hope to see more adjustments available for it in future updates to allow for various gradients and more. It is cool, though, for the late evening sessions or when you want to lower the lights and have some attitude.
Toronto, Canada (December 22, 2020) — Neil Parfitt, who composes music for children’s animation, spanning preschool, teen comedy and even Japanese Anime, is using Flock Audio’s Patch System to audition his custom signal chains within his workflow.
“In 2015, I had DAW fatigue, and got tired of just staring at a screen all the time, so started buying some of my key outboard gear,” he recalls. “So I began using analog outboard on the front end, and also during mixing on the back end, and things began to get really complicated.”
Once he began using Patch, that changed, he says: “Patch has changed my set up from set and forget to a sonic playground because I can easily reconfigure everything at any point, and has actually made me appreciate outboard gear even more.”
Parfitt has his Patch connected to the master insert on his Neve 8816 summing mixer. “From there, all my analog gear kind of acts like sweetening. I can do mid-side, parallel compression, and other kinds of processing. But if a client calls, I can instantly load a different preset which automatically takes that same outboard gear, I can run my synth through it and record it. Patch has allowed me to reconfigure my entire workflow instantly and that’s what hooked me into it.”
He continues, “I love the sound of having things hardwired, but in the past, you couldn’t experiment in the same way as you can in a DAW with software. Now, Patch has allowed me to play with my gear like Lego. I feel like I can experiment freely without crossing this threshold of going in-the-box. It has made my system a giant sandbox playground. I can load different presets and changes are seamless for any of my projects.”
Now, Parfitt is able to treat his analog hardware much like DSP plug-ins, with dedicated paths for each show he works on. “When I am on a show, once I figure out the signal path for a particular show, I will give it a preset. For instance, maybe one preset will involve tracking modular synth that will contain the outboard I need. In these cases, using different gear, I can audition any order of any outboard gear instantly, which is unreal. I can instantly add or remove compressors, reverbs or other processors without having to rewire or ever leave the mix position. Patch has opened up a whole new world for me.”
2020 will be remembered as the year we’d like to forget, but when 2021 is recalled one day as the year everything bounced back, much of that will be due to groundwork laid down in the preceding 12 months. That includes the pro-audio industry—next year, when live events and concerts return, new hits rule the airwaves and the latest must-hear podcasts land in your listening queue, many of them will be created using pro-audio equipment that was introduced over the last 12 months. With that in mind, here’s the Gear of the Year for 2020.
So what was the Gear of the Year? That’s not an easy thing to determine, so rather than weigh a hot new plug-in against an arena-filling P.A. or an audio console years in development, we decided to let our readers show the way.
Product announcements have always been among the most popular stories on prosoundnetwork.com, so we dug through our Google Analytics (readership statistics), sifting through all the “new product” stories we ran 2020 (well into the triple digits!) to determine which ones were the most popular with PSN readers. With that in mind, here’s the Gear of the Year that YOU unknowingly picked—a true Top-20 for 2020.
1. YAMAHA RIVAGE PM3 AND PM5 DIGITAL MIXING SYSTEMS
This dual product launch in May was far and away the most popular product announcement of 2020 with our readers. Yamaha introduced two consoles—the PM5 and PM3—as well as a pair of DSP engines—DSPRX and DSP-RX-EX—and version 4 firmware that provides features to new and legacy Rivage systems.
Both of the new consoles feature large capacitive touchscreens that allow users to use multi-finger gestures, with the PM5 sporting three screens and the PM3 getting one. As with their predecessors, the PM5 and PM3 sport 38 faders—three bays of 12, with two masters—but each of the new control surfaces is laid out with an eye toward increased efficiency.
2. SOLID STATE LOGIC 2 AND 2+ USB AUDIO INTERFACES Solid State Logic unveiled its first personal studio-market products—the USB-powered SSL 2 (2-in/2-out) and SSL 2+ (2-in/4-out) audio interfaces—at the Winter NAMM Show. The 2+ in particular caught our readers’ eyes, with a 4K analog enhancement mode “inspired by classic SSL consoles,” monitoring and an SSL Production Pack software bundle. Offering expanded I/O for musicians collaborating, it includes two analog mic preamps, 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA AKM converters, multiple headphone outputs with independent monitor mix, MIDI I/O, and additional unbalanced outputs for DJ mixers.
3. JBL 4349 STUDIO MONITOR
The JBL 4349 studio monitor is a compact, high-performance monitor loudspeaker built around the JBL D2415K dual 1.5-inch compression driver mated to a large format, High-Definition Imaging (HDI) horn, paired with a 12-inch cast-frame and pure-pulp cone woofer. The JBL D2415K compression driver features a pair of lightweight polymer annular diaphragms with reduced diaphragm mass, while the V-shaped geometry of the annular diaphragm reduces breakup modes, eliminates time smear and reduces distortion, according to JBL.
4. APPLE LOGIC PRO X 10.5 Apple updated Logic Pro X with a “professional” version of Live Loops, new sampling features and new and revamped beatmaking tools. Live Loops lets users arrange loops, samples and recordings on a grid to build musical ideas, which can then be further developed on Logic’s timeline. Remix FX brings effects to Live Loops that can be used in real time, while the updated Sampler augments the EXS24 plug-in with new sound shaping controls. Other new tools include Quick Sampler, Step Sequencer, Drum Synth and Drum Machine Designer.
5. AMS NEVE 8424 CONSOLE
The AMS Neve 8424 is a small-format desk based on the 80-series console range. Intended for hybrid studios, the desk provides a center point between analog outboard gear, synths and the like, and the digital world of DAW workflows, software plug-ins and session recall. As an analog mixing platform, the 8424 offers 24 DAW returns across 24 channel faders or, for larger DAW sessions, a 48-Mix mode that allows a total of 48 mono inputs with individual level and pan controls to be mixed through the stereo mix bus.
6. MILLENNIA MEDIA HV-316 MIC PREAMP Millennia Media bowed its fully remote-controllable microphone preamplifier, the HV-316. Offering 12V battery operation, the HV-316 is housed in a 10-pound, 1U aluminum chassis housing 16 channels of Millennia HV-3 microphone preamplifiers with simultaneous analog and Dante 32-bit/192 kHz Ethernet outputs. Other digital audio output options are planned, including USB and MADI. The unit is designed for high-temperature continuous operation (up to 150° F), is powered by both 12V DC and worldwide 80–264V AC, and features “pi filter” shielding on audio and digital feeds to prevent interference.
7. SHURE SLX-D DIGITAL WIRELESS SYSTEM
The Shure SLX-D, offered in single- and dual-channel models, provides operation of up to 32 channels per frequency band. Transmitters run on standard AA batteries or an optional lithium-ion rechargeable battery solution with a dual-docking charging station. For less technically inclined users, it offers Guided Frequency Setup and a Group Scan feature that sets up multiple channels by assigning frequencies to all receivers automatically via Ethernet connections, allowing a 30-plus channel system can be set up via Group Scan within a few seconds.
8. MEYER SOUND SPACEMAP GO
The Meyer Sound Spacemap Go is a free Apple iPad app for spatial sound design and mixing. Working with the company’s Galaxy Network Platform, Spacemap Go can control Galaxy processors using a single or multiple iPads as long as the units have current firmware and Compass control software. Spacemap Go is compatible with various sound design/show control programs such as QLab, so designs assembled using them can be implemented into a multichannel spatial mix using Spacemap Go’s templates for common multichannel configurations.
9. D&B AUDIOTECHNIK 44S LOUDSPEAKER
Housed in a flush-mountable cabinet, the d&b audiotechnik 44S is a two-way passive, point source installation loudspeaker with 2 x 4.5-inch neodymium LF drivers and 2 x 1.25-inch HF dome tweeters, delivering a frequency response of 90 Hz–17 kHz. The 44S features a waveguide and baffle design intended to provide horizontal dispersion down to the lower frequencies while being focused vertically, providing a 90° x 30° dispersion pattern to direct sound to specific spaces.
10. BEYERDYNAMIC TG D70 AND TG 151 MICS Beyerdynamic made two additions to its Touring Gear (TG) series. The second-generation TG D70 dynamic kickdrum mic is meant for capturing the impact of bass drums and similar low-frequency-intensive instruments, while the TG 151 instrument mic is a lean microphone with a short shaft that can be used on everything from snares and toms to brass instruments and guitar amplifiers.
11. QSC Q-SYS CORE PROCESSORS QSC’s Q-SYS Core 8 Flex and Nano audio, video and control processors provide scalable DSP processing, video routing and bridging for web conferencing, as well as third-party endpoint integration without the need for separate dedicated control processors. The 8 Flex includes onboard analog audio I/O and GPIO plus network I/O, while Nano offers network-only audio I/O processing and control.
12. TELEFUNKEN TF11 MICROPHONE Telefunken‘s TF11 is the company’s first phantom-powered large-diaphragm condenser mic. The CK12-style edge-terminated capsule is a single-membrane version of the capsule featured in the TF51, and the amplifier is a proprietary take on the FET mic amplifier similar to the M60, coupled with a custom large-format nickel-iron core transformer.
13. L-ACOUSTICS K3 LOUDSPEAKER
K3 is a compact loudspeaker from L-Acoustics that is intended as a main system to cover up to 10,000 people, or for use as outfills or delays for K1 or K2 systems. Designed as a full-range line source, K3 integrates 12-inch transducers for large-format system performance in the form factor of a 10-inch design.
14. CLEAR-COM HEADSET SANITIZATION KITS Clear-Com has sanitization kits for its CC-300, CC-400, CC-110, CC-220 and CC-26K headsets. They include replacement ear pads, pop filters, sanitizing wipes, ear sock covers and temple pads in a cloth bag. Items for each kit vary depending on the headset, and can also be purchased separately.
15. ZOOM PODTRAK P8 PODCAST STUDIO
The Zoom PodTrak P8 provides recording, editing and mixing capabilities all in one unit. Six mics, a smartphone and PC can be recorded simultaneously, each with its own fader and preamp with 70 dB of gain. A touchscreen controls monitoring, adjusting, onboard editing and more.
16. WAVES SHIPS KALEIDOSCOPES PLUG-IN Waves’ Kaleidoscopes plug-in creates classic analog studio effects such as 1960s phasing and tape flanging, 1970s stadium tremolo-guitar vibes and 1980s chorus sounds.
17. OUTLINE STADIA 28 LINE ARRAY SYSTEM
The Outline Stadia 28 is a medium-throw system intended for use in permanent outdoor installations. A single enclosure weighs 46.2 pounds and can reportedly reach 139 dB SPL.
18. LAB.GRUPPEN FA SERIES AMPLIFIERS Lab.gruppen‘s FA Series Energy Star-certified amplifiers are intended for commercial and industrial applications, and are offered in 2 x 60W, 2 x 120W and 2 x 240W.
19. D.W. FEARN VT-2 PREAMPLIFIER
The updated D.W. Fearn VT-2 Dual-Channel Vacuum Tube Microphone Preamplifier now features an integrated, switchable 43 dB pad, aiding patching into a master bus.
20. KEF LS50 META SPEAKER
Our Gear of the Year list concludes with the LS50, featuring KEF’s Metamaterial Absorption Technology driver array, a cone neck decoupler, offset flexible bass port, low-diffraction curved baffle and more.
Santa Cruz, CA (November 23, 2020)—Antares Audio Technologies has introduced Auto-Tune Hybrid, a new edition created solely for Avid Pro Tools platforms.
Hybrid is reportedly optimized for Avid’s DSP-based hardware to give users more processing power but also works on native systems when Pro Tools users aren’t using such hardware. It is optimized for low-latency tracking on Avid DSP hardware, including Carbon, HDX and VENUE | S6L systems, offers Basic and Advanced real-time pitch correction, and also sports Classic Mode for the “Auto-Tune 5 sound.” Compatible with the Auto-Key: Key Detection plug-in, it also offers MIDI control of pitch and other parameters.
Auto-Tune Hybrid, which retails for $399.99, is included at no additional cost to subscribers of Auto-Tune Unlimited monthly or annual plans. Hybrid is one of numerous planned upgrades and releases to be included in Auto-Tune Unlimited.
Burlington, MA (November 12, 2020)—Avid has introduced Pro Tools | Carbon, a new hybrid audio production system intended to create an improved tracking experience as it integrates Pro Tools with HDX DSP acceleration and the native CPU of the user’s computer.
Using Carbon’s onboard HDX DSP, the new Pro Tools Hybrid Engine simultaneously allows users to access on-demand, low-latency channels to record through AAX DSP plug-ins in real time—with sub-1 ms latency monitoring performance. Going between Native Mode and DSP Mode requires only a single button press per track in Pro Tools, allowing users to simplify their workflow for recording and mixing.
AAX DSP, at the core of the Hybrid Engine, delivers the same sound quality in both native and HDX DSP Acceleration domains, enabling users to toggle in and out of DSP Mode while maintaining sound quality. This also enables music creators to disconnect Carbon and physically take their mix elsewhere or collaborate with others who don’t have the interface.
Carbon features double resolution clocking, and what Avid says is its most transparent mic preamp design to date. With four headphone outputs to send individual monitor mixes, eight preamps combined with 16 channels of ADAT inputs and an onboard talkback mi, the unit can handle tracking a full band. Carbon requires an Ethernet connection to the host computer, aiming to preserve the highest possible sound quality from input to output, as well as ‘futureproof’ the unit.
In addition, Pro Tools 2020 introduces a much-requested ‘Dark Mode’-style UI, as well as a new ability to analyze audio and render it as MIDI notes. For audio post professionals, Pro Tools 2020 includes native integration to export ADM files for Dolby Atmos, a new space clips function that lets users arrange a multitude of clips in a fraction of the time, and a reintroduction of the ability to bounce sessions to QuickTime formats in macOS Catalina.
Pro Tools | Carbon is available now, starting at $3,999 USD—that includes a one-year Pro Tools subscription and partner plugins from Arturia, McDSP, Plugin Alliance, UVI, Native Instruments and Embody.
Baton Rouge, LA (July 7, 2020) — PreSonus Studio One 5 was introduced today, incorporating new elements into its long-running DAW including the introduction of Show Page, a new live performance environment; an extensive revamping of the Native Effects plug-in set; expanded mixer scenes; and more.
The Show Page environment allows users to essentially run a show from a single computer, combining tracks playback with patch management for virtual and real instrument players inside a single window. Studio One Song channel strips, mixdowns, and virtual instrument patches can be directly exported to the Show, while setlist items can be arranged and reworked in the moment. Providing a full-screen performance view, adaptive real-time controls and a large meter, the Show Page is intended to help users play with backing tracks, control virtual instruments, run plug-ins as a virtual effects rack and more.
Studio One’s Native Effects plug-in set under version 5 adds new features and improvements for many effects, along with a new interface with separate dark and light themes. All dynamics effects now have sidechain inputs, and plug-ins with a filter option now have the filter added to the sidechain input as well, enabling more control over the sidechain signal and eliminating the need to add a separate filter up front. Several plug-ins with a Drive parameter now have a State Space Modeled drive stage, aiming to provide analog-sounding saturation. The Pro EQ plug-in adds a linear-phase low-cut filter, 12th-octave spectrum display, and input and output meters with adjustable range and peak hold. Several other plug-ins have received have been updated to improve sound and/or usability.
Snapshots of the entire mixer can now be taken at any time, and can be recalled in a variety of different ways with various options. In addition to limiting scene recall to specific parameters, recalling a scene may be limited to selected channels only. A dedicated Listen bus has been added, letting users monitor Solo signals through a separate output channel or tune their room using calibration plug-ins while leaving the main mix unaffected.
Other new features include audio Clip Gain Envelopes, providing additional gain control to an audio clip. Meanwhile, aux inputs now allow external audio sources to be fed directly into the mixer without requiring an associated track, so external instruments can be used like virtual instruments within Studio One. Version 5 also adds support for key switch articulations, chasing external timecode (MTC), MPE and MIDI Poly Pressure support, recording in 64-bit floating-point WAV format, and cross-platform support for hardware-accelerated graphics.
A new dedicated Score View for the Note Editor, based on PreSonus’ Notion music composition and notation software, is available on its own or as a companion side-by-side view with the Piano and Drum views, allowing users to enter, view, and edit notes in standard music notation.
Studio One 5 Professional is available with a street price of $399.95; updates from Studio One 4 Professional are $149.95. For those subscribing to PreSonus Sphere, the new Version 5 is readily available as one of the numerous offerings there. Sphere membership rates are available at monthly ($14.95 U.S.) or annually ($164.95) rates.
Studio One Artist (Street price $99.95; update price: $49.95) now has built-in support for VST and AU plug-ins, ReWire, and PreSonus’ Studio One Remote control software for iPad and Android tablets. These features were formerly available for Studio One Artist only as separate Add-ons.
I had a fantastic time putting the most excellent Doshi Audio Tape Head Preamplifier through its paces. This latest version, labeled the EVO series, has some improvements over the previous Tape Head Preamplifier 3.0 series, but permit me to reminisce a bit first… A Long Time Ago In A Recording Studio Far, Far Away Sitting behind an enormous API console as I peered through the glass to watch the musicians in the tracking room, I heard the last bit of decay from the final chord and cymbal crash fade to silence. I hit stop, then the rewind button on the MCI JH-110 2” 24 track machine. I mashed the talkback button and asked the band to come in and hear the take. When all were gathered in the control room, I hit play. It was a big sonic letdown. In different situations, the disappointment was sometimes extreme, sometimes minimal and on a few very special occasions, I felt the playback actually had an enhanced quality. But it was NEVER the same as the input. Sure, the music and performances were many times excellent and captivating, but why wouldn’t the tape deck serve up all that goodness that I heard going to the [...]
Houston, TX (May 22, 2020)—SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston, TX, has upgraded its Neve Genesys Black console, installing the GenesysControl plug-in to enable total integration with DAWs.
The Genesys Black console is installed in SugarHill’s Goldstar room, originally built in 1964 and designed by Jack Clement, who also designed the Sun Recording Studios in Nashville, TN. SugarHill has completed many sessions on the console for artists such as Chance the Rapper, George Thorogood, Kevin Gates, 21 Savage, Maxo Kream and North Mississippi Allstars. Most recently, Finley has been mixing an album for The Killer Hearts, which will be released soon on Spaghetty Town Records.
SugarHill studio engineer Stephen Finley says, “In 2018, we installed our Genesys Black G32 console with 16 analog channels. It is a fantastic console and we all really love the preamps and EQs. We have 16 Neve 1084s, which make everything sound better — just a little always helps. We also have one eight-channel bank of dynamics that I like to use while tracking drums as its helps to tame some hits. I use very little gain reduction.”
Finley says investing in the GenesysControl plug-in has brought an entirely new dimension to the studio’s workflow. “I enjoy being able to automate my drum busses on the 8T [8 track] section during choruses for extra excitement. Also, being able to have the automation plug-in on all my tracks, put all the tracks in Pro Tools into the Neve at a touch and finalize any volume automation on the fly is very helpful. With the new GenesysControl plug-in and the console’s recall software, recalling a mix and making an adjustment is now a fairly easy task — depending on your patching, of course.”
Founded by Bill Quinn as Quinn Recording Studio in 1941, the facility was renamed Gold Star Studio in 1950 and eventually became SugarHill in 1972 when it was acquired and renamed by notorious producer Huey P. Meaux. The studio is now owned by Stephen Finley, Fred “Bubba” Hightower and Ryan Youngblood, collectively known as The Hightower Group.