Canada (March 24, 2021)—Canada-based Dome Productions has unveiled Gateway, a new all-IP SMPTE 2110 OB truck outfitted with a Calrec Apollo digital audio console that is currently being used for TSN and Rogers SportsNet on their hockey broadcasts.
“We’re excited to take advantage of optimized and new workflows in all formats — HD, 3G and UHD. Now, virtual paths can be dynamically connected to change workflows depending on the show requirements,” said Al Karloff, manager of engineering services, Dome Productions.
Dome has been using Calrec consoles for 20 years and all different generations of the consoles are still active in the company’s fleet. The Apollo was commissioned by Canada-based SC Media.
Jean Daoust, SC Media founder and president, says, “The Apollo was the only console that met Dome’s requirements; no other model could offer a surface with 144 faders, or the mix power of over 1,000 input channels. We’re proud to be partnered with companies such as Calrec and Dome Productions. The newfound addition of Calrec to our AV portfolio has opened new doors for us in the broadcast media vertical, as well as provided incredibly innovative solutions to our already valued customers. The Gateway truck is an incredible project, and we look forward to building upon this success for all parties involved.”
How do you capture the essence of a legendary engineer/producer with 23 Grammys, 160 gold and platinum albums and a ‘who’s who’ resume, and put that into a piece of software? Well, that’s just what Leapwig and the iconic Al Schmitt went for with the new Al Schmitt signature plug-in. The team literally encapsulated his gear, mixes’ textures and workflow to come up with something that ambitious.
When first opening the plug-in, you select from a Source dropdown menu that offers up Vocal, Bass, Brass, Mix, Piano or Strings. These are referred to as ‘profiles’ and each of them are tuned differently with their own character and tone. Each profile also features a different ‘tuned’ amount of harmonic distortion. Within each profile, there are a number of options as well—for example, Vocal features Body Level, Air Level, Echo Level, Compression, Air Type and Echo Type.
This approach to plug-in design has led Al and the team at Leapwig to create something that operates in a unique fashion. When audio is played, rings that represent loudness are played around the relevant icon in the center in real time. If there is something like gain reduction happening, the outer rings tighten up accordingly at ½ dB per ring. For instance, if there are four rings happening, you’ve got 2 dBs of reduction. It’s something your eyes have to get used to because it’s simply a new way of operating.
Since each source features its own customized parameters to tweak, you quickly adjust to how to get around. For example, Mix features Sub Boost, Low, Mid and High Level, Low, Mid and High Comp, a compressor link and Air Boost. Bass is nothing but Compression, Body Level and Air Level, but it includes additional harmonic distortion within those parameters. Piano, which is one of my favorites, features Compression, Echo Level and A/B/C Echo Type. Note that “echo” is actually a reverb, a name that was chosen since that is what Al calls it. Aside from that, there’s In and Out Meters with up to 12 dBs of gain.
What I like about this plug-in is that you can dial in some taste very quickly. When first listening, it helps to run through each source to understand what the parameters do. To hear the echoes clearly, I would simply put on audio with attack and stop the transport, listening to what sound is created afterwards. The others, such as Sub, Air bands and EQs are easy to hear. Compression is subtle yet clearly audible. I found it useful to also mix and match—for example, using the compression in the bass source on something like a piano. Then, if I wanted more, I put another instance after in the DAW and used the EQ in Echo in the Strings source, or the EQ and Air settings in the Mix source. Once you have a feel for it, your instinct knows where to go. I saved a number of presets for easy recall: I like Echo Type C on the Strings source, so that’s now my “RT Echo 1 Strings’ preset, and I also captured a nice Mix bus preset with Sub Boost, Air Boost a few dBs of Gain and a touch of Highs as “AS Master 1.”
Aside from being easy, this plug is fun to use. You can get to a sound with just a few quick fader slides and most importantly, it works as advertised. It’s not big, bold and aggressive, but subtle and tasty, especially in the reverb/echo fields. Most importantly, all of these sounds are clean, clear and tasty. I would also use the word “refined,” which is a testament to the team making it. Since you probably can’t get him to your session, now you can bring a little of Al Schmitt’s magic sonic touch to your own tracks.
New York, NY (March 10, 2021)—Emily Lazar, the Grammy Award-winning founder of The Lodge mastering and mixing facility in Manhattan, has introduced We Are Moving the Needle, a new initiative to bring equity and inclusion to the music industry.
Lazar launched the nonprofit organization on Mar. 8, the same day that the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its latest annual “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” study, breaking down the gender and race/ethnicity of artists, songwriters and music producers. The report found that women are “missing,” “muted” and “written off” in the music industry, an ongoing trend that has not improved during the nine years covered by the study.
“Today, the new USC Annenberg Inclusion in the Recording Studio report has revealed that in 2020, the percentage of women in music production/engineering has DECLINED (!!!) from 2.6% to 2%. This is unacceptable!” Lazar wrote on Twitter. “I’ve seen firsthand how few women are in studios, but to see that number decrease breaks my heart. I am committed to continuing to do my part to change that.”
According to We Are Moving the Needle, the organization is “working to create measurable change by empowering women in the recording and professional audio industry with the education, equipment and the mentorship needed to succeed at the highest levels.” The organization has been launched in partnership with Blackbird Academy, Dolby, The Lodge and Sonos. Founding sponsors include pro-audio product developers such as API, Aston Microphones, Eventide, iZotope, Splice and Universal Audio, as well as the Recording Academy, SoundGirls and others.
The organization’s stated mission is to provide educational programming and to award scholarships and grants to music technology and recording programs at academies, colleges and universities. As a part of the initiative, the venture promises to guarantee the development of future generations by awarding female and female-identifying applicants with a full scholarship to a top audio school.
Applicants (there is an online form) may be awarded equipment including software, hardware and other recording technologies. According to a report in Variety, the organization has plans for dedicated internships and entry-level positions designated and reserved for women who are part of the program.
Lazar has assembled an advisory “soundboard” of prominent women artists, producers, engineers and audio professionals, including Brandi Carlile, Christine Thomas, Erica McDaniel, HAIM, Karrie Keyes, Linda Perry, Liz Phair, Maggie Rogers, Maria Egan, Oana Ruxandra, Sara Quinn (Tegan and Sara), Shirley Halperin and Tracy Gershon.
The extensive list of mentors also includes AG, Carolyn Malachi, Catherine Marks, Claudia Brant, Denise Barbarita, EveAnna Manley, Gena Johnson, Jenna Andrews, Jennifer Decilveo, Jordan Hamlin, Kaitlyn, Aurelia Smith, Leslie Ann Jones, Lisa Kaplan, Louise Burns, Lucy Kalantari, Marcella Araica, Piper Payne, Sad13, Shani Gandhi, Simone Torres and Wendy Wang.
Lazar has 10 projects in the running for Grammy Awards this year, including Coldplay, Jacob Collier and HAIM, all nominated in the album of the year category. The eight-time-nominated mastering engineer holds the distinction of being the first woman to win a Grammy in the best engineered album, non-classical category.
New York, NY (March 3, 2021)—KLANG:technologies has released its new KLANG:kontroller, a hardware controller that is compatible with all KLANG immersive in-ear mixing processors, and a new processor, KLANG:vokal, intended to aid musicians’ personal monitoring needs.
The KLANG:controller is essentially a standalone hardware controller that offers the same mixing functionality as the company’s KLANG:app, along with a Dante headphone amp. The unit provides tactile user control of channels, groups and immersive mixing via an intuitive interface that centers around color-coding and channel names.
Relative DCA group mixing and full single-channel control via eight push rotary encoders is onboard as well, with eight rotaries that allow musicians to balance their in-ear mix.
The onboard headphone amplifier delivers audio for in-ear monitors and high-impedance headphones, with both 3.5mm (1/8″) as well as 6.3mm (1/4″) stereo TRS connectors. Two XLR outputs can be connected to, for example, wireless in-ear transmitters. Installation-friendly features like Power over Ethernet, remote setup via the KLANG:app, and automatic Dante routing are included. KLANG:kontroller gives musicians full control of all relevant functions, while the engineer can still overview and control all mixes via the KLANG:app or DiGiCo SD or Q series consoles.
User Presets, plus USB import and export, are offered, allowing users to save personal presets, which can then be imported into the KLANG:kontroller, allowing the unit to be used by any number of musicians.
Binaural ambient microphones are built into the unit; they can be blended into the immersive in-ear mix, along with a local stereo aux input for, for example, a click track or playback from a phone. The mix can be sent back to the Dante network or, alternatively, the ambient microphones, or aux input can be shared with other musicians.
KLANG is also releasing a new immersive mixing processor, KLANG:vokal, which offers a dedicated feature set that allows up to 12 musicians to pick up to 24 mono or stereo channels out of 64 Dante and MADI inputs. Based on KLANG’s FPGA core, KLANG:vokal offers 12 mixes of 24 mono or stereo inputs at 48 kHz and 96 kHz, including the company’s Root-Intensity EQs.
Burlington, MA (February 22, 2021)—Avid has released Avid Venue 7, the latest update for its Venue line of live sound consoles, debuting a number of new features and enhancements in the process.
Avid Venue software now supports I/O sharing across three Avid Venue | S6L systems, providing more workflow flexibility without affecting sound quality. Support for I/O sharing makes it easier to add a broadcast console or second monitor console to a setup or enable fast switchover at festivals and concerts. With I/O sharing, microphone feeds can be split digitally over the network so engineers only have to build one set of I/O racks; meanwhile, all I/O configurations support Avid’s True Gain technology, which automatically manages gain compensation to ensure proper signal levels are maintained for each engineer.
With Venue 7, users can now send and receive up to 128 channels of audio between Avid Venue | S6L systems and Milan (media-integrated local area network) certified devices – including loudspeakers, amplifiers and other pro audio devices – with the new MLN-192 Milan Option Card and latest Avid Venue software. The format’s plug-and-play connectivity lets users distribute audio to Milan-enabled devices over an Ethernet AVB network, with no switch configuration or IT expertise required.
“As the world’s first live sound console to be certified by the rapidly growing Milan protocol and the only one to offer gain-compensated I/O sharing between three systems, this is more than just a software update – Venue 7 truly takes a giant leap forward,” said Dana Ruzicka, SVP & GM of Audio & Music Solutions at Avid. “Although live performances have been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, Avid remains fully committed to innovating for the live sound industry. We’re doubling down with the biggest software release since shipping the S6L system, giving engineers and sound designers the power and performance they need to deliver the best possible live sound productions.”
Venue 7 also provides control of delay compensation to help users tackle plug-in-heavy mixes with complex routing requirements. Aligning busses and matrixes is simplified through Automatic Delay Compensation (ADC) settings, while the new Input Delay Alignment command aids aligning selected input channels to compensate for any plug-ins inserted on those inputs. Other new additions include USB recording and playback, new mixing features and a variety of processing and routing options.
Kinnelon, NJ (February 19, 2021)—Will Putney’s Graphic Nature Audio recording studio is relocating from its current home in Belleville, NJ to a larger, rural property about 20 miles west in Kinnelon. Putney, a metal/hardcore producer/engineer, mixer and musician has worked with bands such as Every Time I Die, Body Count, Knocked Loose, The Amity Affliction, Stray From The Path, Counterparts, Terror and Northlane
Putney has long mixed using a hybrid setup: “I would mix out into pieces of gear that I’ve collected over the years and sum everything together back into the computer. The setup ended up getting more and more complicated. Over time I was basically building a console piecemeal, with different summing mixers, and creating ways to do parallel sends and analog-style routing to get to my compressors and EQs.
As a result, the new facility is centered around a newly installed 32-channel SSL Origin analog in-line mixing console, acquired from Vintage King.“ I decided that if I could find something streamlined enough that would give me the routing functions that I want and without too many components, and that had a small enough footprint, I would probably be better suited to working on something like that,” he said.
The transition from his former multi-component workflow to the new setup incorporating the Origin has been seamless, he stated: “It all just feels super musical, and it’s fast and easy for me to get mixes going on. What I do in the computer doesn’t really change at all, so it’s business as usual; I still work how I always did.”
The complement of gear installed with the Origin mimics Putney’s previous setup and includes a pair of Amphion Two18 nearfield monitors, which he switched to several years ago, along with Universal Audio Apollo interfaces for tracking and overdubbing into his Logic Pro DAW. “We still use Pro Tools for editing,” he says, “or if I travel to another studio.”
The Origin desk has been installed in a room at the new location in Kinnelon, where the next stage of construction will begin in the coming months. “I’ve got two control rooms set up here. The goal for the future — we’ll start construction in the spring — is to do an updated version of my old drum tracking room but with a more traditional control room. That will be my A room where I can do everything — recording drums and mixing. I will be able to do an entire record there, start to finish, as opposed to working in the modular rooms in the other facility,” says Putney.
Mixing on headphones has become increasingly common in recent years. Producers and engineers, even at higher levels of the profession, do not always have regular access to a high-end professional mix room—a situation only exacerbated in the COVID-19 era. Given the monitoring conditions of an acoustically untreated or under-treated room, it is often tempting to resort to headphones during the mixing process in order to hear details which might get lost otherwise. In addition, many audio pros need to mix or check their mixes on the go, while away from their own familiar monitoring environment.
All this often makes headphone monitoring a necessity.
But headphones—no matter how good or expensive—are notoriously unreliable when it comes to critical mix decisions. Mix depth, precise panning, stereo image decisions, reverb amount and placement, and, in particular, low-end frequency response are all difficult to get right on headphones. Decisions made over headphones, with the audio ‘injected’ directly into one’s ears, often translate unpredictably when the same mix is heard back through monitors, over real distance in a physical environment.
In recent years, pro-audio manufacturers have turned to spatial audio technologies to deliver truer-to-life, three-dimensional acoustic response over headphones. Waves Audio has spearheaded this development with its proprietary Waves Nx technology, which restores the missing three-dimensional acoustic information provided by loudspeakers in a room. The Nx algorithm is designed to achieve this on any headphone model, without changing the color of the user’s favorite headphones.
Four years ago, Waves released its first Nx-powered pro-audio product, the well-received Nx Virtual Mix Room plug-in for professional headphone monitoring. The plug-in uses channel crosstalk, inter-aural delays (ITD), filters and gains (ILD) for each ear, early reflections and head motion tracking to construct the “virtual acoustics” of an ideal imagined room.
The next challenge was to combine the Waves Nx 3D audio algorithm with the precision-measured impulse responses of an actual high-end control room. The first outcome of this effort was the Waves Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin, released in 2019, which emulated the legendary UK studio’s Studio 3 control room.
Now, Waves has applied the same painstaking 360° acoustic image capture process to the famous Ocean Way Nashville control rooms. Ocean Way Nashville was chosen because it is widely regarded as an audiophile sound engineer’s dream—designed from the ground up by Ocean Way founder Allen Sides to meet his vision of the ultimate recording, mixing and monitoring environment.
The studio’s control rooms in particular were designed to provide an accurate acoustic response that translates seamlessly to other listening conditions. Ocean Way Nashville’s spacious control rooms combine unusually large ‘sweet spots,’ resulting from the rooms’ construction specs, with the Allen Sides-designed Ocean Way Audio HR1 and HR5 monitors, built for even dispersion across the room.
Development of the Waves Nx Ocean Way Nashville plug-in was closely supervised and approved by Allen Sides himself, to deliver—over any set of headphones—faithful representations of the room’s finely tuned acoustics, as experienced through the Ocean Way near-field and far-field monitors. Users inserting the plug-in on a stereo bus can monitor through the emulated soffit-mounted Ocean Way Audio HR1 main monitor system, or through the free-standing HR5 reference monitors. Both monitor systems are known for their wide bandwidth and dynamic range, ultra-low distortion, and particularly wide and even dispersion.
The Nx Ocean Way plug-in also allows users to control the exact blend of room ambience into the monitor mix. Sides himself was particularly enthusiastic about this ability; on his request, Waves engineers opened up the ambience blend to up to 160% of measured performance. While 100% is the default setting and useful in most monitoring scenarios, Allen simply loved the sound of the room turned up for his own monitoring pleasure and urged Waves to include this option.
As developers of immersive audio solutions know, our experience of the stereo field over spatial audio technologies can be affected by the user’s precise head size and shape. To complete the realistic spatial experience, the Waves plug-in allows users to customize the plug-in to their precise head circumference and ear-to-ear distance measurements, for a better, personalized Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) approximation.
Head tracking, using a webcam or the separate Waves Nx Head Tracker Bluetooth device, is optional but recommended. While the plug-in improves the reliability of headphone monitoring even without head tracking, the spatial cues provided by tracking the listener’s natural head movements enhance the immersive experience, especially over long mixing sessions.
Recent listening sessions at Ocean Way Nashville, with top Nashville engineers who are intimately familiar with the original control rooms and monitors, bore out the plug-in’s accuracy, with many hearing in it the “Allen Sides fingerprint.”
Bokjeong-dong, South Korea (February 10, 2021)—Local house of worship Good Shepherd Church in Bokjeong-dong, South Korea, recently updated the audio system in its secondary chapel, Glory Hall, with the new addition of an Allen & Heath Avantis console, along with a set of ME-1 personal mixers for the praise team. Despite the pandemic, both chapels are still in active use, though services are being held with reduced capacity.
The previous digital console installed in the Glory Hall had begun to show its age and was struggling to accommodate growing channel counts. Working closely with Allen & Heath distributor, Sama Sound, Good Shepherd Church made the upgrade to a 64-channel, 42-buss Avantis mixer, expanded with the dPack processing upgrade and a GX4816 AudioRack for onstage I/O.
Concurrent to the arrival of the new console was the implementation of a compact, discreet ME personal mixing system, replacing the praise band’s wedge system. Connected to the Avantis via a ME-U hub, a half-dozen ME-1 units allow the musicians to create their own headphone mixes. “Thanks to the ME-1 personal mixers, the sound on stage is well managed, making mixing easier, and the performers are comfortable because the sound quality is very high and they are easy to operate,” explains Kim Hyun-seok, leader of Good Shepherd Church’s audio team.
They aren’t the church’s first A&H consoles, either, as SQ series mixers were already installed in two spaces, with an SQ-7 console in the 300-seat Vision Hall, a multi-purpose facility used for youth worship, and an SQ-6 mixer installed in the praise team’s rehearsal space in the Church’s basement.
Oxford, UK (February 5, 2021)—Solid State Logic has introduced its new UF8 Advanced Studio DAW controller, offering users remote access to faders, encoders and high-resolution color displays. It’s primarily intended for use in music creation, production and mixing, post production and webcasting.
The UF8 is expandable to a 32-channel control surface and offers integration for all major DAW platforms. SSL’s new 360° control software (both Mac and Windows-compatible) manages multi-controller configurations, customised user keys, and DAW switching across multiple layers, allowing for switching between numerous sessions.
The unit offers 100 mm touch-sensitive faders; high-resolution colour displays; eight “endless” rotary encoders; creation and use of custom workflows via five banks of eight user keys and three quick keys, adding up to 43 assignable keys per UF8; an intelligent multi-purpose Channel encoder; mouse scroll emulation, providing control of any plug-in parameter you hover the mouse over; the ability to switch control between three simultaneously connected DAWs; the ability to chain up to four UF8s together for a total of 32 channels of control; and a pair of SSL plug-in: SSL Native Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip.
Andy Jackson, SSL studio product manager, noted “UF8 is an obvious next step in SSL’s development in ergonomically designed studio tools for todays’ mixers, producers and creators. The layout and build quality are all about our fixation with ‘human engineering’; creating products that keep you in the creative zone with high-speed access to every fader or control, without operator fatigue or discomfort.”
New York, NY (February 4 2021)—The Switched On Pop podcast lives by the motto “show, don’t tell” in its dissection of popular music and how the production team relates complex stories and concepts to listeners through audio.
“We wanted to have deeper conversations about music that could dive into some of the actual musical insights—things that are harder to write about on paper,” says Charlie Harding, who started the podcast with co-host Nate Sloan. “We knew that audio gave us the opportunity to evidence some of the deeper, more intriguing elements of music.”
Switched On Pop, which recently joined forces with New York magazine’s music outlet Vulture, goes deep into the making and meaning of popular music, juggling a mix of formats to reach entertaining and informative insights about anthems like Smash Mouth’s omnipresent hit “All Star,” artists Keith Urban and Carly Rae Jepsen, and the trends that drive the industry.
In the recent episode “D.O.C. (Death of the Chorus),” Harding and Sloan discuss how contemporary popular music has shifted away from the soaring choruses of songs like Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” towards a structure of continuous hooks without the sweeping buildup and release of a verse-chorus composition. Editor and engineer Brandon McFarland cues up clips of Franklin, Billie Holiday and Beyoncé like a DJ to illustrate their points.
“Nate starts telling us about A-A-B-A form, and he grabs an example of ‘Blue Moon’ with Billie Holiday singing it,” says Harding. “Immediately [when] he says, ‘A-section,’ the filter opens up [and] the highs in the music come in, along with the volume.” The A section crossfades into the B section, with a touch of plate reverb added to give the sound separation from Sloan’s speaking voice. “We really try to have a clear sense of 3D perspective of the music versus the voice.”
The production team is cognizant of maintaining fluidity within an episode, so transitions between clips fall naturally and in time, like beats of the same measure. “Nate and I are musicians and Brandon is a musician, so we make sure that you’re always going in on a beat, going out on a downbeat, or going out on the last beat of the measure, and that the clips themselves feel musical,” says Harding.
For their four-part miniseries on Beethoven’s fifth symphony, Switched On Pop recorded the New York Philharmonic Orchestra playing the iconic composition and presented particular sections in a similar manner. To eliminate dead air between sections they talk about, McFarland “creatively fade[s] those two sections together in a way that it’s fading underneath Nate talking. You don’t even notice we’ve cut out a piece of music, then the flutes come in. [McFarland] did a really good job of finding that perfect-zero crossing point in the music, cutting it, getting a nice little reverb tail, and making it sound natural.”
When playing actual clips of popular songs doesn’t drive home the points Harding and Sloan make, their own backgrounds as musicians come into play.
“We have music executives, producers [and] all kinds of people listen to our show, but I want us to be accessible to a general audience,” he says, “and that means I’m always trying to find a way to make it as clear as possible what we’re talking about. I can’t assume that people can, in their ear, isolate the bass guitar from the main guitar, so if I don’t have the stems of a track, it’s often easier for me to recreate something to demonstrate what we’re talking about.”
Harding’s comment points to a larger challenge he and the podcast team wrestle with every episode: how to draw listeners into the story and deliver information and clips without creating fatigue or disinterest.
“Our goal is to have the show sound as genuine as possible, but not meandering,” he says. “[It’s about] threading that needle of how we can take you on a journey where something is changing every 90 seconds.”