Berkeley, CA (January 22, 2021)—Meyer Sound has unveiled its new Leopard-M80 narrow coverage linear line array, available immediate. Leopard-M80 is identical to the existing Leopard design except that it provides an 80° horizontal pattern instead of the 110° coverage of the original model. Because the vertical coverage and rigging hardware are identical to the original Leopard, the new Leopard-M80 can be configured in mixed arrays of both loudspeaker variants; the company suggests using Leopard-M80 loudspeakers in the upper array section to provide focused long-throw coverage while Leopard loudspeakers below spread horizontal coverage for closer seating sections. Arrays configured with only Leopard-M80 loudspeakers can offer a long throw with reduced spill to the sides of the array, aiding use in narrow venues with reflective side walls, as well as in outdoor applications where side spill into adjacent areas must be minimized to conform to noise regulations.
Leopard-M80 also affords additional system configuration options. Leopard enables tighter horizontal control across a broad spectrum of outfill, center fill and delay applications when used in large-scale systems with Leo and Lyon main line array systems. All current Meyer Sound line array loudspeakers share a common acoustical signature. “Leopard has been one of the most successful loudspeakers in our company history and is by far the bestselling member of our line arrays,” notes Meyer Sound vice president and chief loudspeaker designer Pablo Espinosa. “With Leopard-M80 we are offering system designers and rental companies yet another option to create high-performance, cost-effective systems for any application, from a small club with Lina arrays up to massive stadium and festival systems with LEO main arrays scaling down through Lyon and Leopard fill and delay systems.” Meyer Sound • www.meyersound.com
Los Angeles, CA (January 15, 2021)—A new reference-level screening room and lab on the Netflix campus in Los Angeles has been developed around new cinema technologies: Meyer Sound’s Ultra Reflex cinema audio solution and Sony’s modular and scalable Crystal LED displays. The project marks the first public installation of the emerging Ultra Reflex solution, created to overcome acoustical quandaries inherent to large-scale direct view (“emissive”) video displays in cinemas and similar settings.
Cinemas with more traditional acoustically transmissive projection screens have loudspeakers placed behind the screens, but that approach can’t be taken with a direct view video display, which features a hard surface. However, the obvious alternative—placing speakers around a direct view display—can compromise uniformity of coverage, stability of image localization and overall audio fidelity.
Ultra Reflex, then, is said to solve the problem by using a high-frequency component reflecting off the screen that is coupled with a direct radiating low-frequency component. The patent-pending solution encompasses proprietary acoustical designs, DSP technologies and optimization techniques.
For the initial launch period, the Meyer Sound Ultra Reflex solution is paired with Sony’s Crystal LED, though the Meyer technology is compatible with all hard-surface direct view displays. Meyer Sound Ultra Reflex is scalable and suitable for all direct view applications, from home cinema and post-production studios through corporate installations and commercial cinemas.
The Netflix site is, by necessity, designed to replicate both critical viewing and audio mixing as well as to accommodate VIP screenings. The room features a 17-foot wide by 9-foot high HDR-capable 4K Crystal LED from Sony. Proprietary DSP for optimization is supplied by a Meyer GALAXY 816 Network Platform. The screen channels are part of a Dolby Atmos system that has recallable snapshots for theatrical or 9.1.6 home entertainment playback modes. The balance of the system comprises 37 self-powered Meyer Sound cinema loudspeakers, including HMS Series lateral and overhead surround loudspeakers bolstered by USW-210P subwoofers for surround bass management and X-400C cinema subwoofers with VLFC very-low-frequency control elements for bass management and LFE.
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.
North Hollywood, CA (November 3, 2020—Fever Recording owner Eric Milos recently swapped out the aging Solid State Logic 4048G console for an SSL Duality Delta Pro-Station desk in the facility’s main control room. “It sounds great, it looks great and the functionality, with Pro Tools control on the surface and the marriage of the console automation with the Pro Tools automation system, really gives you the best of both worlds,” he says.
Milos acquired Fever Recording, formerly owned and operated by multi-Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Warryn Campbell, at the tail end of 2016. The main studio, with its own tracking room, lounge and kitchen, is separate from the rest of the building, the other half of which houses three production rooms, rented to long-term clients, with shared amenities.
“There’s a gated back parking lot where you can pull in and walk straight into the studio. We’ve had a number of artists in who appreciate that privacy,” he says.
Milos, originally from Ohio, graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2010 and cut his engineering teeth at Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood. He subsequently hired on as an engineer at Clear Lake Recording, which chief audio engineer Brian Levi established in 1987. In 2012, Milos purchased the Clear Lake facility and much of the equipment in it.
Clear Lake’s Studio A was designed by George Augspurger. “It’s got a really great Trident 80B console. It has been a great tracking room for all of its life, with a wonderful sounding drum room and a great grand piano. We do everything—every style, every type of session,” says Milos, from large ensembles to solo vocals.
Pro Tools Ultimate and a Studer A827 tape machine are both available. Outboard, there is a Neve sidecar and various pieces of vintage Pultec, Eventide and Lexicon gear alongside some of the newer studio standard gear, plus classic Neumann, Sony and other tube mics. “There’s also a nice smattering of modern mics. We’ve never not had enough microphones for a session,” he says.
“When I took over, probably half the cool vintage equipment there. I could never dream of spending the money you would have to pay for it now.”
Milos built a B room in 2016 to handle overdubs, vocals, tracking and mixing. “It’s got an Avid D-Command and a basic set of outboard. We do a lot of vocal overdubs in there, for all genres of music, and we do a little bit of 5.1 mixing and some ADR.”
Two small production rooms, designated C and D, are leased out on a monthly basis. “In one room, we have a composer who has been with us for three or four years,” he says.
Fever Recording, located a couple of miles west along Burbank Blvd., underwent a bit of a remodel along with the Duality desk upgrade, says Milos, to give it more of a boutique hotel vibe. “We also got a few pieces of outboard gear, like the SSL Fusion, which everybody has been loving. The price-to-fun ratio has been excellent.”
The control room door barely cleared the old short-loaded 64-frame 4000G desk. “It was too big for the room. This Duality fits, and it looks like a spaceship,” says Milos, who bought the console, formerly at a N. Hollywood recording school, through Vintage King.
“I’ve done a couple of mixes on it; it’s so much fun and clients have been loving the Duality. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Duality behaves more like an SSL 9000 series desk, he says. “We can push it a little bit harder than a 4k. There have been occasions where we were getting a little bit of distortion on the master buss of the 4k, because we didn’t have the headroom for a massive 808.”
On the subject of headroom and 808 kick drums, Milos has also bolstered the Bryston-powered Augspurger main monitor system at Fever. “I added some dual-18 Meyer Sound subwoofers that I saw on Craigslist. It’s a great full-range system when you switch up to the mains. For the most part, people are up on the mains when they’re doing production and getting a feel for the song. Then they switch to the ATC25A nearfields for tracking and mixing, for more detail.” There is also a pair of Yamaha NS-10s.
“Anybody familiar with the 4k pretty much gets the Duality right away. In that studio, we do a lot of hip-hop and top-40 stuff, so there’s a lot of production—keyboards and that kind of stuff—and not a lot of full tracking. The Duality is nice for the situation where there are 20 people in the control room, and everything is interfaced, and being able to control Pro Tools.”
Jakarta, Indonesia (October 13, 2020)—Nestled inside the Jakarta International Expo (JIExpo) centre for meetings, events and arts performances is the JIExpo Theatre, a brand-new venue seating 2,500. “The venue was originally specified to be just a theatre, but I saw the potential to make it also serve as Indonesia’s largest concert hall,” said managing director, Prajna Murdaya.
Key to the facility is its Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system, provided through Meyer Sound national distributor Mega Swara and installed by Jakarta-based integrator Kairos Multi Jaya. A total of 285 small, self-powered loudspeakers (MM-4XP miniature and UP-4XP full range plus UMS-1XP subwoofers) are deployed throughout the auditorium to create natural acoustical environments uniformly throughout the large space. Processing is handled by Meyer Sound’s multi-module D-Mitri Digital Audio Platform, with 51 microphones distributed overhead for sensing the ambient acoustics.
For events requiring amplification, the JIExpo Theatre provides a direct reinforcement system anchored by LEOPARD line array loudspeakers, with arrays of 12 per side to cover the first two levels and an additional set of four per side for the uppermost level. Deep bass is supplied by a cardioid configuration of five 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements flown over center stage. Center channel loudspeakers are UPQ-1P, with UPJ-1P loudspeakers as side fills and UPM-1P loudspeakers for front fills as well as under- and over-balcony fills. The system can be used with Constellation off, or with acoustical enhancements added for a variety of pop, rock, jazz and musical theatre performances.
Among first events was a concert by cellist Yo-Yo Ma—his first in Indonesia—for which the Constellation system remained on throughout, extending the theatre’s RT60 baseline physical acoustic from 1.2 seconds to 2.2 seconds. The system allowed the theatre’s technical manager, Bayu Wicaksana, to customize the response for the cellist’s instrument. Ma’s rendition of six suites for cello by Johann Sebastian Bach drew extended standing ovations from the audience.
Other key contributors in the design phase were theatre consultants Philip Soden and WSDG acoustic consultants. The Meyer Sound contingent was led by Constellation Project Director John Pellowe with design and tuning of the direct reinforcement system supervised by Director of System Optimization Bob McCarthy.
JIExpo Theatre boasts one of the largest stages in Asia, measuring 48 m wide by 16 m deep and expanding up to 21 m deep following renovations with the orchestra pit covered. The theatre is the latest addition to the larger exposition complex, which first opened in 2010.
Sioux City, IA (October 8, 2020) — BNY Productions has been monitoring through Meyer Sound Bluehorn System speakers in its production studio while remotely broadcasting an average of 100 live and virtual “hybrid” political rallies and speeches every week for the past six months.
BNY, a Meyer Sound dealer and collaborator, is a full-service production company, delivering events that vary from phone and television interviews, video conferencing and remote recordings. “Bluehorn eliminates the guesswork. So if it sounds good here, that is how it is going to sound everywhere. That makes my job so much easier — it is what it is and I love that,” says Bill Kristijanto, co-owner of BNY.
“When people send me materials recorded on an iPhone, for example, I’m going to have to fix it. If I didn’t have a good set of monitors, then I would be doing a lot of guesswork. So, Bluehorn has helped in a way that most monitors can’t,” Kristijanto says.
In addition to BNY’s remote-only events, they have taken on “hybrid” events, which include physical and virtual attendees who access the event via a virtual conference room. While in-person events in cities around the country are still produced and broadcasted remotely in the BNY studio, Ultra-X40 point source loudspeakers have been used for on-site monitoring. The sound reinforcement systems for the events vary by location but are comprised of Meyer Sound equipment including Ultra-X40 and Lina very compact linear line array loudspeakers.
While the Bluehorn System has played a pivotal role in BNY’s Studio A, it is also equipped with nearly 50 Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers, including MM‑10XP miniature subwoofers, MM-4XP miniature self-powered loudspeakers, and UP‑4slim ultracompact installation loudspeakers. The studio is also used as a recording studio and laboratory to test new ideas for live events.
Since 2016, BNY Productions has provided the audiovisual support for political events for a variety of clients. In March 2020, the COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions forced their live operations to shift to remote, virtual-only broadcasts.
Wilkes-Barre, PA (September 16, 2020)—It used to be that a tour would drive into a venue and load-in; this year, the drive-in is the venue. While those drive-in concert venues may seem few and far between, some intrepid acts are linking them together for tours anyway, forging ahead despite the pandemic. Case in point: bluegrass sensation Billy Strings’ Meet Me at the Drive-In tour, which spent much of mid-September on the road, playing sizable gigs in outdoor venues in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
One of those stops included three nights at Wilkes-Barre Township’s Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza—or, rather, its parking lot. On hand to ensure every speedpicked note was heard were Dave Brotman and Mike Shoulson of Coatesville, PA, rental company DBS Audio Systems, which fielded a Meyer Sound Leopard reinforcement system for all three shows.
“What a wonderful experience it was to work a large show again—our first since December—and to work with such a professional crew and fabulous band as Billy Strings,” DBS Audio Systems president Dave Brotman said. The Billy Strings production team included FOH engineer Andy Lytle.
The parking lot venue provided a capacity for 530 vehicles, allowing fans to maintain social distancing while enjoying the outdoor shows. Covering all that space were left-right hangs of 16 Leopard compact linear line array loudspeakers each and a dozen ground-stacked 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements. Meanwhile, four MSL-4 reinforcement loudspeakers were evenly dispersed among two delay towers.
“Once again, the Leopards performed beyond my wildest expectations. Andy, Mike, and I were absolutely amazed. From a low-end perspective, we opted not to do an end-fire configuration, though it would have helped on stage, due to the extreme width of the parked cars,” Brotman said. “Once tuned, the 1100-LFCs performed wonderfully and soared happily all the way back to the end of the parking lot, which was easily 500 yards-plus. The 1100-LFC is the most musical sounding subwoofer I have ever heard. With an upright bass and the wonderful overtones it naturally has, the 1100-LFCs only complemented the bass players’ sound. No coloration, just an incredibly musical loudspeaker at any volume.”
At 200 feet from the stage, the front of house mixing position was significantly farther away than FOH engineers are used to (100 feet). It was also Lytle’s first time using Meyer Sound Amie precision studio monitors at the console: “The Amies’ sound quality helped my mix drastically. The clarity of the Amies was unbelievable, not to mention the low end response. These monitors sound so good that I would trust them mixing the band side stage any day.”
With drive-in concerts serving as a new solution to producing live events, everyone from the production teams to the artists to the audience was excited to be experiencing live music. “Everyone we came in contact with was just thrilled to be there, be performing, and be reinforced by, in my opinion, one of the best loudspeaker systems on the planet,” Brotman said.
Adelaide, Australia (August 19, 2020)—The Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) in South Australia recently underwent a AU$397 million renovation, which included a major overhaul of the venue’s audio systems. Today, the venue is ready to welcome thousands, and they’ll all hear the house systems, which are based around Meyer Sound loudspeakers.
All of the facility’s loudspeakers and associated processing were augmented or completely replaced with new Meyer Sound systems in seven halls, including the addition of LYON line arrays for the ACC’s largest configurable space. When combined with existing inventories, this latest round of investments brings the total Meyer Sound loudspeaker count up to 270, making ACC the largest single-site user of Meyer Sound systems in Australia.
In addition to the 20 LYON line array loudspeakers and accompanying eight 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements, the latest additions also include 65 ULTRA-X40 compact loudspeakers and 10 900-LFC elements. For networkable drive and optimization, the project included the integration of five each of GALAXY 816 and GALAXY 408 Network Platforms and, for monitoring via the network, two RMServer.
The new LYON arrays reside in the ACC’s central building, where they can be flown in different configurations and orientations to cover the facility’s largest single open space, a combination of three separable halls (F, G and H) covering 5,600 square meters. “With the new LYON system, we can fly the arrays for large or small room configurations in any orientation, select the preset for it in GALAXY’s Compass control software, and we’re ready to go,” says Matthew Stanton, the venue’s technology services manager. “We’re delighted to now be able to offer premium concert-level sound across our venue which enables us to accommodate, for example, a top Australian act for banquet entertainment without need to rely on any outside rentals. We found that the system’s linear response provides audio that is full and musical yet not intrusive.”
The new complement of 65 ULTRA-X40 loudspeakers will be spread widely around the venue, serving in both permanently mounted and portable capacities either as mains in small to mid-size rooms, or as fill or delay systems in the largest halls.
North Hollywood, CA—Zach Seivers went to school to pursue his dream of telling stories through film but found that sound was his true calling. In 2006, straight out of film school, he started his own audio post company, growing the business from one to four rooms before recently adding to his storytelling tools with an upgrade to Dolby Atmos mixing capabilities.
Seivers set up Snapsound in an office tower in North Hollywood in a deal with a documentary filmmaking client. “I was able to bring equipment into a room that they traded with me. I said, ‘I’ll be an in-house guy for you guys, but I want to be able to pursue my own clients.’ And they were cool with that.”
He still maintains a working relationship with the company but has since leased his own space in the building, initially focusing on non-theatrical content, primarily for broadcast. “We built three 5.1 nearfield rooms and a voiceover/ADR recording space. Eventually I stopped recording dialogue and repurposed that room as a fourth nearfield room. If I was doing any projects with a theatrical destination, I partnered with a facility like Deluxe” in Hollywood, he said.
Working with an acoustical designer, Seivers value-engineered the rooms to get good, basic acoustic treatment and isolation in the studios at minimal expense. “I didn’t know how long I would be in the space,” he explained. “Now it’s been over 10 years, but I knew I would never be able to take those physical investments with me if I had to leave the building.”
Instead, he said, “I decided to put the emphasis on digital tools to account for any acoustical issues. We worked with Trinnov and brought the DMON [monitoring processor] into all of the studios. That was a game-changer.”
The layout and equipment complement, including JBL 4328 speakers, was designed to be identical in every room: “The DMON allowed us to fix the more complex problems and matched the sound of each of the rooms so much more closely than we were able to do without it.”
The monitors have since been upgraded to JBL 708s. All four rooms have also transitioned from Digidesign Control 24 surfaces to C24 desks over the years.
As the momentum behind Dolby Atmos built in recent years and the essential tools became more readily available to independent facilities, Seivers decided it was time to take the plunge. “Netflix embraced and pushed delivery in Atmos. That was the catalyst for me as a business owner,” he said.
He contacted Chris Bolitho, sales director at Vintage King Audio in Los Angeles, about upgrading Snapsound’s Studio A. “I’ve known Chris for a long time,” said Seivers. “He quickly connected me with Miles [Rogers, cinema/studio development manager] at Meyer and introduced me to Jose Castellon [senior studio and cinema design engineer] at Dolby. VK is very hands-on and has a very personalized service. And they have a wonderful guy on their staff, audio consultant and technician Frank Verschuuren. It’s nice to have that level of support.”
With the Acherons, “You can emulate a theatrical sound, and I’ve increasingly been moving into more theatrical work,” he said—a move that led to installing three Acherons for LCR coverage in Studio A. “The way the sound moves in the room is so much more dynamic that I’m able to make choices that I have found translate better from a small to a big room. If I’m going to another facility and four-walling a large stage, I want to minimize the amount of time I spend translating the work to that room.”
Meyer’s UP-4slim speakers support the Dolby Atmos side and overhead zones. “I like that they have more than enough power, the resolution is fantastic, and they have a really interesting look. I also like that they’re extremely modular and easy to install—and remove. And we didn’t have to deal with cutting holes in the ceiling.”
Studio A’s spec was barely compliant with Dolby’s criteria for Atmos Home Entertainment Studio certification, he said. The room just squeaked through. “Because our room has a sloped ceiling, the rear overheads were right on the edge of what Dolby considers their minimum spec. They’re very careful with when and how they make concessions, since the point of the certification is that it is a standard. But we were so on the edge that they were willing to be flexible. They balanced that with the other aspects of the room.”
Signal transport between the Pro Tools system and the Dolby Atmos RMU—both running on Mac minis—and the Avid MTRX controller is via Dante. To continue taking advantage of Trinnov’s optimization technology, Seivers also upgraded Studio A’s DMON to a Dante-enabled version capable of handling the new 7.1.4 speaker configuration and communicating with the MTRX.
He also swapped out Studio A’s C24 for an Avid S6 desk. “I love the reaction of the faders,” he said. “As simple as that sounds, that was the biggest reason I wanted to invest in it.” The S6 is popular for mix-to-picture rooms, but Seivers initially resisted the upgrade because of the expense. “But there’s a little bit of a future-proofing aspect because the S6 is built with Atmos in mind,” he said.
As it turns out, there’s an active used console market through online portals such as UK-based Resurface, including for the component parts of Avid’s M10 version of the S6, which doesn’t include the display screens. That’s fine by him, said Seivers, who finds the displays distracting. “I’m looking at the image on the screen and not Pro Tools or the board displays. You can get an M10 at a fraction of the price of a new M40 system, so I ended up buying the S6 used.”
Now, like everyone else, Snapsound is facing an unpredictable future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s super strange, but we’re creative people and we can be creative in ways beyond our craft,” said Seivers. “I’m confident that people are going to find ways to tell stories no matter what.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Pro Sound News. Innovations is a monthly column in which different pro audio manufacturers are invited to discuss the thought process behind creating their products of note.
When we listen to spatially orchestrated music, elements such as delicate dancing synths, thunderous rolling percussion or floating voices can fully engage us. Unfortunately, in our current environment, social distancing is the norm and venues are for the most part in a state of sonic hibernation. We can only imagine the performances and shared experiences that we miss so much. Perhaps now we can take time to consider how technology can help inspire the artists who in turn inspire us.
Spatial audio technology has undergone a renaissance of late, as tools for both live and cinematic multichannel sound design have been elevated. Building on this, Meyer Sound will introduce Spacemap Go spatial sound design and mixing control software for our GALAXY Network Platform later this year. Spacemap Go provides an easy-to-use interface for multichannel panning using one or more iPads connected to systems comprising multiple GALAXY processors. We have explored how to build a spatial audio performance instrument by turning our primarily theatrical sound design tool upside down.
The roots of this exploration extend back to 2016 when I participated in the North American Theater Engineering and Architecture Conference in New York. There, I met multimedia artist Dave Rife at an intriguing session entitled “Immersive Environments and the 21st Century Audience.” Months later, Dave introduced me to the organizers of Moogfest, a “synthesis of music, art, and technology” in Durham, NC, which I attended the following year. In addition to the music and inspirational setting, I was particularly taken by the already-vital Spatial Sound education track led by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT). Together, we realized we had a great opportunity at Moogfest to help artists use their existing content to explore spatial sound in their performances.
Since 1993, Meyer Sound has developed multichannel sound technology leveraging the Spacemap multi-panner. Spacemap uses a graphical control interface to provide seamless panning over any number of loudspeakers in any arrangement. Multiple Spacemaps are typically used to address a complex system to provide a wide range of spatial mixing strategies. Sometimes all the loudspeakers are used, and sometimes just a few. This flexibility has made it a staple for architecturally-driven sound design. Sound designers and sound artists have used Spacemap in spectacle productions, live theater and sound art installations around the world.
In the theatrical world, a production period of days or weeks allows time for the sound design team to mix and automate one section of a show at a time, with ample opportunity to make adjustments during rehearsals and previews.
But Moogfest provided new challenges. For the most part, none of the spatial mixes would be automated, and there was no time to rehearse. The interface needed to be responsive enough to be played as a spatial audio instrument.
Meyer Sound returned as the Official Sound Parter of Moogfest in 2018. This video from Meyer Sound details the company’s expanded presence at Moogfest 2018, including providing multichannel systems for concerts, workshops, and technology demos at the festival’s anchor performance spaces, including the Durham Armory, the 21c Museum Hotel, and Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre as well as two installations at the Durham Fruit and Produce Company. Many of the events in these venues showcased Meyer Sound’s Spacemap, which provides spatial mixing for any loudspeaker configuration. New user interfaces were developed for Moogfest to provide simple, real-time, spatial audio control.
We agreed to focus on the “Armory” venue, which has a standing capacity of 600. Three artists used this venue each night during the four-day event. Each was afforded 90 minutes to set up and soundcheck. Some brought their mix engineer, and some didn’t. The system provided 51 loudspeakers, including main L/R LEOPARD arrays, 22 surround and overhead positions and quad stage monitoring, and was driven by a D-Mitri digital audio system. Our user interface required a fresh approach, as the primary workflow would be interactive rather than automated. We settled on a design that employed three iPad Pro multitouch surfaces for direct spatial manipulation of 32 independent sound sources.
This interface included dedicated pages for groups of channels as well as a page to focus on a single channel. Any page could be selected on any iPad. The operator could position sound statically or start one or more movements. The three iPads were configured as a spatial audio console alongside the FOH console.
After developing the prototype, we met with some of the artists scheduled to perform in the venue to discuss spatial mix strategies, approaches and the new user interface. Electronic musician Suzanne Ciani and educator/electronic cellist Margaret Schedel developed an ensemble piece led by Ciani’s Buchla synthesizer work, performed as a live score for the silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This piece was spatially mixed by student and faculty collaborators from the Berklee School of Music. The student operating the spatial mix took to the interface instinctively. The performance was mesmerizing.
Shabazz Palaces at Moogfest 2018: In this video from Meyer Sound, Ishmael Butler and Tendai “Baba” Maraire of hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces describe the “future of music” and spatial sound, as well as their experience in the A3, an advanced spatial sound environment inside the Durham Armory created as a collaborative effort by Moogfest, Meyer Sound and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT).
The electronic hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces also performed a set, mixed by their engineer, Alejandro Iragorri, with my assistance on the spatial mix. During soundcheck, we strategized on how and when to pull the percussion, voice and synths out into the room. This enveloping experience followed the dynamics of the music and energized the audience.
With this foundational experience under our belt, over the following months, we continued one-on-one sessions with artists, previewed the fledgling interface at trade shows and semi-private sessions, and outfitted a few installations such as National Sawdust in Brooklyn, Seattle Symphony’s Octave 9 and Monash University in Melbourne with this prototype. In 2019, we gave it a second go at Moogfest and focused on spatially mixing artists on-the-fly. We collaborated with synth luminary Patrick Gleeson in a spatial presentation of his work. After this event, he told me his music was “made for this.”
Suzanne Ciani at Moogfest 2018: In this video from Meyer Sound, electronic music pioneer and Moogfest veteran Suzanne Ciani discusses her electronic live score of German silent film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and experience in the A3, an advanced spatial sound environment inside the Durham Armory created as a collaborative effort by Moogfest, Meyer Sound and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT).
Shortly thereafter, we began work to bring this technology to our GALAXY audio processor using new native iOS control software for iPad, which we look forward to launching in Q3 2020 as Spacemap Go. Spacemap Go will bring spatial mixing to the entire installed user base of our GALAXY processors, supporting workflows including live mixing, theatrical automation and installed sonic art.
Spatial audio technology can provide opportunities for gatherings to safely experience music together in new ways. Music may be presented that is developed for spatial playback, or perhaps a musician accompanied with playback. These could be performed at regular intervals for smaller audiences who are encouraged to explore the music in space. We hope that the re-emerging music performance landscape will be spatial.
Steve Ellison is Meyer Sound director, Spatial Sound.