Las Vegas, NV (November 4, 2020)—Bettermaker is marking the sale of 1,000 Bettermaker Mastering Limiter units with the introduction of the “very-limited-edition” Darthlimiter. Only 200 will be produced.
The new Darthlimiter updates the original Mastering Limiter with the addition of a new capacitive touchscreen with improved contrast and viewing angle; a Burr-Brown™ OPA1656 op-amp for lower noise and extended dynamic range; and, as might be expected from its name, an all-black front panel with a black frame and black knobs.
Both the Darthlimiter and Mastering Limiter include frequency-dependent saturation with separate odd- and even-harmonic components and fully-adjustable clip and limiting settings. In addition to digital recall and automation, the front panel offers an array of metering, including all varieties of ‘analog’ meters (VU, PPM, RMS, Peak), LUFS, K-metering, FFT, Goniometer, correlation and more.
Harrisonburg, VA (October 20, 2020)—A massive explosion rocked a shopping mall in Harrisonburg, VA at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, destroying a number of businesses in the ensuing fire, including Blue Sprocket Sound recording studio. “The initial explosion did not happen in our studio. Another part of the building blew up and the rest of the structure caught fire,” says owner and chief engineer Chris Jackson.
Local residents reported feeling the shock of the explosion from miles away. One witness told a WTVR-TV reporter, “I saw a big mushroom cloud.” Five people were reported hurt, two seriously.
Michael Parks, Harrisonburg’s communications director, said the mall, which was also home to a vape store, a halal market, a nail salon and barber shop and a musical instrument store, was “a total loss.” A number of nearby businesses, including a Wendy’s, suffered damage from the explosion’s shockwave.
On Monday, Oct.19, the Harrisonburg Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office released a determination that the explosion and fire was the result of a natural gas leak inside the building. The exact origin of the leak and ignition source are still under investigation, according to the statement.
“There’s a lot of emotion around the loss, but at the end of the day I try and remind myself that it was just a building and it was just stuff,” Jackson says. “People still make professional recording equipment and we can move on from this, though it will be a long road.”
Jackson, a Harrisonburg native, opened Blue Sprocket Sound in 2013. He had previously spent some time in Nashville, where a friendship with Dave Piechura of Vintage King Audio led to an introduction to Vance Powell, studio manager and chief engineer at Blackbird Studios, who offered Jackson an internship. Jackson started working at Blackbird shortly before the grand opening of Studios C and D and later also worked as a staff technician for Korby Audio Technologies.
In 2018, Jackson returned to his hometown and set up a basement studio with an Amek G2520 mixing console purchased in Nashville, an MCI JH-24 tape machine and Pro Tools. He eventually began to draw up plans for a larger facility, which he constructed in a 4,300-sq.-ft. building at the Park Place Plaza. The two-story building allowed for 18-foot ceilings in the live room, which could accommodate an orchestra, as well as lounge areas, a tech shop and offices.
Having initially moved his basement studio gear into the spacious control room at Blue Sprocket Sound’s new location, Jackson later upgraded to a rare Rupert Neve-designed Amek 9098 desk that was formerly in Studio B at Full Sail in Florida. A portion of the second floor, including Jackson’s mastering room, outfitted with a Mac Pro, Crookwood console and other gear, was saved by firefighters, but was declared unsafe and demolished.
Investigators have been moving debris around in search of the source of the explosion, says Jackson. “They shoved our part of the building out of the way; I’m sure there’s a molten mass in the middle that was a 9098 console.”
In 2018, Jackson opened a vinyl pressing plant, Blue Sprocket Pressing, in a separate building a few hundred yards from the studio. The pressing facility was largely unaffected by the explosion. “There’s a little extra space in the building, so we might try to prop up a little mastering suite and get back to work,” he says.
Members of two local bands have set up an online GoFundMe fundraiser for Blue Sprocket Sound and Hometown Music, the adjacent instrument store, with proceeds to be split equally between the two businesses.
Into The Groove Why do a lot of us audiophiles (and casual listener types) prefer the sound of records over the same music released digitally? Is it something about the inferiority of digital? Are vinyl records, without those sacrilegious anti-aliasing filters and stair-step samples, somehow higher in resolution? Or is it simply the much-heralded warmth of vinyl? Some would say digital is superior without the surface noise, side length limitations, and inner groove distortion. So what’s the point of putting digital mixes on an analog record? Records should be cut from an analog master, right? I’m not talking about the ritual of owning and playing records. Putting aside the factors of having a tangible object that requires more care and intention, along with the fun of combing bins for used treasures and everything else that goes with being a record collector, let’s explore the sonics and what’s responsible for that warm and fuzzy feeling we often get when having a platter party. Words and Photos by Dave McNair Everyone hears things differently. Folks have different tastes for what lights up that pleasure center in our brains. It’s a subject I talk about a lot with my audiophile friends, especially the [...]
Finland (September 15, 2020)—Cloud-based automated AI mastering service CloudBounce has launched its CloudBounce desktop mastering app, allowing users to master large files without uploading or downloading as with its online subscription service.
First launched in 2015, CloudBounce has since mastered more than a million tracks and tripled its user base in the second quarter of 2020 during the pandemic. The new desktop version is available as a feature of the service’s monthly subscription fee, providing subscribers with both the existing web-based mastering and the new desktop app. Features include reference-based mastering (the app can match characteristics from a chosen tune), genre-style mastering, album-wide settings, output loudness control, export to all major file formats and more.
Users drag and drop a file, and the AI analyses each track, using machine listening, classification and various audio procession tools, including compressor, EQ, limiter and stereo imaging among others to create a master. Users can make their own tweaks, applying 10+ mastering options as well as using existing genre references (15+ genre-specific choices) or uploading reference tracks which the app will analyze before applying similar sound characteristics to the new master.
An album mastering option offered by the desktop app allows for a whole album to be uploaded with track order specified and mastering options available either individually or album-wide, with all tracks available to preview instantly. Users have control over their track output loudness levels using the loudness dial inside the app to change the LUFS level of the final master.
Hollywood, CA (July 22, 2020)—A new box set of four classic studio LPs and four legendary live albums by the Grateful Dead from Vinyl Me Please was cut fully analog by mastering engineer Chris Bellman working with the original quarter-inch stereo master tapes at Bernie Grundman Mastering.
“It’s Triple-A analog all the way,” says Bellman of the newly remastered 14-LP VMP Anthology: The Story of the Grateful Dead. “There is no digital stage whatsoever.”
Working from the original quarter-inch stereo master analog tapes, Bellman explains, “Quality by and large was very good. Some of the splices were a little bit dicey, so I had to reconstruct some splicing. But that’s relatively easy, just time consuming. You have to pull it apart, clean the tape, and then just redo the splice with fresh splicing tape. They’re all mixed down to quarter-inch, 15 i.p.s., some cases Dolby A, some cases, non-Dolby. And actually, there’s one project that was 30 i.p.s., Terrapin Station.”
Albums included in the box set are Workingman’s Dead (1970), American Beauty (1970), Live/Dead (1969), Europe ’72 (1972), Wake of the Flood (1973), Terrapin Station (1977), Reckoning (1981) and Without a Net (1990). Bellman cut all the titles fully analog except Without a Net, which was sourced from the original master digital audio. The anthology was pressed on high quality 180g colored vinyl at Quality Record Pressing (QRP) in Salina, KS.
“My basic process for doing reissues of any kind, as well as these, is that I like to hear what it was when first released,” Bellman explains. “In this case, it was vinyl. So VMP gave me all eight albums on vinyl, the earliest pressings they could find, and I referenced our remastering with those. I put up the tape and I play them roughly parallel and kind of dial it back into the tape. And then I go back, and I turn the record off and I just kind of listen again and try to see what I could do to improve the transfer, faithful to the original.
Bellman adds, “I would say that the playback electronics has much improved, especially over the past 50 years. We can pull off a lot more information off of these tapes, in spite of the fact that they’re 50-plus years old. We can get a lot more resolution off the tape, which lends to a better end vinyl product.”
Have you ever wondered what the heck Mastering is? I mean, we have tons of “Remasters” available for purchase, but what does that really mean? PTA contributor Dave McNair leads us though the maze of music production and into the final steps of music mastering in this week’s show of The Occasional Podcast. In this episode of The Occasional Podcast we seek to answer all these burning questions and more thanks to Dave’s main gig as a mastering engineer and Grover Neville who also produces and masters. The interview touches on everything from client services to EQ to the evolution of the role over time. Like most of music production, things have really changed with the advent of digital and other advances in recording technologies. The duo also discusses some of the nuances in remastered albums, and sometimes why every remaster isn’t always better the previous version. Our show this week also marks the end of season 3 of TOP and beginning of season 4. Season three was a memorable one, seeing interviews with such audio legends as Dan D’Agostino, Jeff Joseph, Sonus Faber and most recently Nelson Pass. We have some even bigger surprises in store for our listeners coming [...]