New South Wales, Australia (November 24, 2020)—Damien Gerard Studios became Australia’s first client for the new Solid State Logic Origin after relocating to West Gosford in New South Wales.
“Once we had completed the move into the new larger facility, the old Soundcraft 2400 series console was probably our weak link compared to the quality we had elsewhere in our outboard and mic inventory, which had upgraded considerably with the move,” explains studio manager Marshall Cullen. “My new business partner Jason Stenning and I began looking at vintage consoles that might be available — including Sylvia Massy’s old Neve in the USA — but the economics of it didn’t stack up.”
Cullen had reportedly heard good things about the Origin, and was swayed by the advantages of buying a new console, including a warranty and a modern power supply design. Local AV distributor Amber Technology organized the testing and delivery of the new desk. Since the day Damien Gerard’s new control room came online, the studio has been busy with tracking, mixing and mastering, as well as hosting solo artists and voiceover sessions.
The studio’s large live room, which can accommodate 20 or more musicians, has recently done a number of sessions with people live streaming or recording and filming live for post production. “Having the workflow of the console with 64 faders in front of you, the split paths and being able to fly different ins and outs where it’s needed has really helped those sessions,” says Cullen. “Also having an engineer on the left-hand side of masters and plenty more faders for a producer or assistant on the right-hand side has been a great boon.”
Hollywood, CA (November 23, 2020)—Native Instruments recently teamed up with drummer/producer Butch Vig at United Recording to record a variety of kits and one-shots for Butch Vig Drums, the first in a new line of artist-created Play Series instruments.
Butch Vig Drums were recorded at United Recording’s Studio A in Hollywood just before Los Angeles issued its Safer at Home order. Vig was joined by engineer Billy Bush, United staff engineer Wesley Seidman and drummer Mike Fasano. Also on hand were Native Instruments product owner Dino Vallianatos and The Loop Loft founder Ryan Gruss.
“When Butch and I decided to partner on this project, we discussed our options for studios, and United’s iconic Studio A quickly became our #1 choice,” said Gruss. “We knew it would allow us to capture a more ‘wide open’ sound by placing the drums out in the middle of the live room and also a ‘dry and tight sound’ by utilizing the various vocal booths. In addition to that flexibility, the acoustics in that particular studio are unparalleled. Original owner/designer Bill Putman was a sonic genius and the results you get when recording at United speak for themselves.”
The United Recording sounds were further processed through a bespoke selection of analog and digital preamps, compressors, stomp boxes and more at Vig’s home studio, GrungeIsDead. The result is Butch Vig Drums, which includes 21 individual drum kits, each with 16 one-shots created using Vig’s distinctive approach to percussive sound design. Each kit also comes with 16 preset MIDI patterns, which can be triggered using a MIDI controller or edited within any DAW using drag and drop technology.
Vig is best known as a co-founding member of the alternative rock band Garbage and the producer of seminal albums such as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream and Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown.
Mackie’s MP-360 and MP-460 professional in-ear monitors are a great option for the engineer that can’t afford $1,500 custom IEMs but wants something better than basic buds that have one speaker driver.
More drivers can give better clarity for recording and mixing, so Mackie has packed both models with Knowles balanced armature drivers and a 3-way crossover. The MP-360 has three Knowles drivers in each ear, while the MP-460 gets four drivers for a quad driver design. These drivers, originally developed for hearing aids and critical listening applications, are intended to provide fidelity, realism and detail, providing considerable output with less power, with the MP-360 impedance at 36 ohms and MP-460 impedance at 15.5 ohms.
The Mackie MP IEMs arrive with a small, sturdy hard-molded travel box that holds everything needed to take care of the in-ear monitors. This includes a cleaning cloth, cleaning tool, 1/8″-to-1/4″ adapter, braided cable and an extra braided cable with remote for phone or laptop use. Attaching the IEMs to the MMCX connectors is with a simple click-and-go system. There’s also a dozen pairs of ear tips which include wide-bore silicone, silicone, foam, triple-flange styles with a small, medium, and large option in each style.
The frequency range for both sets of MP IEMs is 20 Hz to 20 KHz, with up to 40 dB of sound isolation, which is key to blocking outside noises in order to hear what’s going on with your recording or mix. The Mackie MP-360 has 117 dB of audio output and the MP-460 gives you an extra decibel at 118 dB. I could definitely hear the differences and it’s one of the reasons I liked the MP-460 a bit more. The MP-460’s four drivers ultimately give you more information in the mid-range; that was what really put it over the edge, not the loudness. You’ll never turn it up all the way with it being so close to the threshold of pain for hearing.
The isolation that can be achieved once you find the correct ear tips is just what’s needed for a pristine recording and mix. Clarity in the mid-range for vocals is what I look for in any IEM and the MP-460 knocked that right out of the park for me! That clarity gave me a real sense of what was going on with my recordings and mixes.
I found that the MP-460 sat better in my ears as well, and gave a better seal for me to hear, whether I was recording, using them for mixing podcasts or walking around town listening to music. The MP-360 felt a little tighter in my ears compared to the MP-460, but both pairs were enjoyable and comfortable.
Overall, I was very impressed by both pairs of MP IEMs. They’re versatile enough to use out on tour, in the studio or during a good workout! The hard-plastic case that houses the IEMs is perfect for the road and light packing. An important accessory for the Mackie MP series is the MP-BTA Bluetooth adapter, which makes the IEMs perfect for working out, also adding a crystal-clear microphone for cell phone use. It was amazing to finally have mobility with a great-sounding IEM. The additional $99.99 is well worth it to have an enjoyable listening experience.
The Mackie MP-360 retail price is $399 and the Mackie MP-460 retail price is $499. Both of these IEMs were impressive, but I’d suggest spending the additional $100 for the MP-460, as I found the fit and clarity are totally worth it.
Santa Cruz, CA (November 23, 2020))—Art & Science Of Sound Recording (ASSR) has launched ASSR-Online—a new recording course, taken exclusively online, led by producer, engineer, and artist Alan Parsons. Rooted in Parsons’ Art & Science Of Sound Recording DVD series, the new course offers 26 video-based lesson modules with new and updated content, and leads to industry certification awarded upon course completion.
The ASSR-Online course comprises almost 11 hours of online video training spanning 26 lesson modules that are intended to be completed at a pace of one module a week. They cover the fundamentals of music production, each made up of a main video lesson module; a specific (printable) ‘keywords’ glossary; additional supporting audio, video, or image files; and a specific assignment related to the lesson. Each lesson module also offers a forum engine for communication between fellow students, and each lesson module concludes with a 10-point quiz specific to the lesson — complete the quiz to move on to the next lesson.
Students enrolled onto ASSR-Online are provided with a professionally-recorded 62-track raw multitrack (5.12GB .WAV) session file of a complex rock song with a ton of vocal harmonies — namely, the Alan Parsons-penned-and-produced ‘All Our Yesterdays’ (featuring session bassist Nathan East, Foo Fighters keyboardist Rami Jaffee, The Alan Parsons Live Project vocalist P. J. Olsson, session guitarist Tim Pierce, and drummer Simon Phillips) to remix and interact with at 24-bit / 88.2 kHz recording resolution on their own DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Students are also provided with three additional raw multitrack session files for use during the course, including a multi-miked grand piano recording by ASSR’s Julian Colbeck (with which they can access different microphone positions and mixes), a choir recording (with which they can create their own mix of an MS — Mid/Side — miking arrangement, shown in the Recording A Choir lesson module), and the full multitrack of a track from a recent Colombian concert by The Alan Parsons Live Project (performing with a symphony orchestra).
GRAMMY Award-winning producer and engineer Alan Parsons started out as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios in London, where he worked with The Beatles (on 1969’s Abbey Road and 1970’s Let It Be) and engineered Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon album in 1973. He has since had a multi-decade-spanning, multi-platinum career as a producer and as an artist with The Alan Parsons Project.
Listed lesson modules are: A Brief History of Recording; Studio Acoustics – a guide to how sound behaves in rooms; DAWs and Current Equipment Choices in 2020; Microphones; Consoles and Controllers; Digital Audio and Computers – a guide to the technology; Monitoring – from loudspeakers to ear buds; MIDI; EQ (Equalization); Compressors and Limiters; Noise Gates; Reverbs; Delays; A Band Tracking Session; Making Beats; Vocals; Internet Recording; Recording Drums; Recording Keyboards; Recording Bass; Recording Guitar; Recording Guitar With Vocal; Recording A Choir; Live Recording – an introduction; Mixing; and, last but by no means least, Dealing With Disasters. Duly completed, students are awarded an ASSR-Online certification in The Fundamentals of Recording & Music Production.
The ASSR-Online course is $395.00 USD which can be paid at once or in four installments.
Hollywood, CA (November 20, 2020)—Bernie Grundman has remastered all 11 LPs in the new eight-album VMP Anthology: The Story of Herbie Hancock, which was curated by Vinyl Me, Please and Herbie Hancock.
The anthology celebrates Hancock’s 80th birthday and his more than 60 years of altering the landscape of jazz. Grundman cut the lacquers from the original masters. Takin’ Off, Maiden Voyage, Head Hunters, The Piano and Future Shock were cut AAA from analog tapes. The River: The Joni Letters and1+1, which were recorded digitally, and Live Under the Sky, which has been re-sequenced at Hancock’s request, come from master digital audio.
Grundman originally mastered a number of the original releases, including 1973’s breakthrough Head Hunters and the 2008 Grammy Album of the Year, River: The Joni Letters. Recalling the original Head Hunters mastering sessions, he says, “When they brought that in, I was working at A&M at the time, running their mastering department. Well, that record was shockingly different from what I expected a Herbie Hancock album to be. His approach was different from just about anything I had heard before. Herbie modernized jazz pop music and because of the mentality that he has and that he put into that, it makes it even more interesting. It had a lot more depth than most records I had heard up to that time. It stood out as being really unique. It wasn’t derivative, or copying what was out at the time. He did something that could communicate with a much broader listening public.”
The new box set includes albums from every major era of Hancock’s career, from his early albums as a bandleader to his later fusions of jazz with funk and hip-hop, and his Grammy-winning work from the ’00s. As with past VMP anthologies, the set comes packaged with access to an exclusive podcast series featuring interviews with Hancock, his collaborators and those he inspired, and Grundman.
The LPs are pressed on high-quality 180g black vinyl and housed in heavyweight tip-on jackets. A first edition heavyweight two-piece slip and slash box with original design by Clay Conder is hand-numbered and limited to 1500.
Recording microphones have been flying off the shelves at retail all year, but that hasn’t stopped pro-audio manufacturers from introducing a new studio microphone every few weeks this Fall. Some are high-end products aimed at the upper echelons of the recording world, while others are intended for down-and-dirty use in home studios, but they’re all worth finding out about, because every new mic is a potential new tonal flavor for your sonic stew. Sift through our ICYMI rundown of new mics from the last six months and see what’s new!
Aston Element Microphone
Aston Microphones has clearly had a blast this year developing its new Aston Element by having potential users vote on sound samples to determine the way the microphone would ultimately sound. The Element incorporates new capsule technology, a new chassis design, a magnetic pop filter and custom shock mount, and a backlit-LED logo 48V phantom power indicator. According to Aston, the studio microphone has been rated by NTi Audio as the world’s quietest mic and the frequency response, which extends far below 20Hz and above 20kHz, as the widest of any electromagnetic microphone.
Audio-Technica has released new limited-edition AT2020 Series microphones—the AT2020V (standard) and the AT2020USB+V (USB model), each featuring a reflective silver finish. The side-address condensers are equipped with low-mass diaphragms custom-engineered for extended frequency response and transient response. The mics’ cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source. All models in the AT2020 mic line are aimed to provide a wide dynamic range and handle high SPLs. Both of the limited-edition V models come with AT8458a shock mounts to attenuate noise, shock, or vibration transmitted through a mic stand, boom or mount.
Aiming to help drummers capture the ultra-low end of their sound, Avantone Pro has introduced Kick, a sub-frequency kick drum microphone that aims to capture the subsonic signature by using a low-frequency driver. The AV-10 MLF sports a single continuous press-formed cone, and in the Kick’s case, the 18 cm cone acts as a microphone element. The microphone itself is of a moving coil dynamic type, with a 50 Hz to 2 kHz frequency response, 6.3 Ω output impedance and figure-eight pattern, plus a male XLR connector.
Beyerdynamic has introduced two new additions to its 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.
Swedish audio manufacturer IsoVox has introduced IsoMic, a new studio microphone created in conjunction with fellow Swedish company Research Electronics AB, owners of the Ehrlund Microphones brand. The new microphone is based around a triangular capsule with a 7 Hz to 87 kHz frequency range. The IsoMic itself features an aluminum body with glass bead-blasting finish. Its triangular capsule reportedly has a SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) of 87 dBA, DR (Dynamic Range) of 115 dB, and a maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level) peak performance of 0.5% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) at 116 dB or 1% THD at 122 dB.
Hot on the heels of introducing its Revelation II studio microphone in the Spring, MXL Microphones has launched its new Revelation Mini FET, aiming to provide intimacy and warmth of a tube mic, but built around a FET circuit with a smaller footprint. MXL’s Revelation Mini FET utilizes a 32 mm center terminating, gold-sputtered capsule combined with a low noise circuit. The mic focuses on the midrange and lower frequencies, resulting in recordings with less hum and more music. Additionally, the inclusion of a three-stage pad (0, -10 dB, -20 dB) is intended to provide the flexibility needed for recording high SPL sources, such as horns and kickdrums. The mic features black chrome accents as well as hand-selected FET and capacitors
First announced earlier in the year, Sanken Microphones is now shipping its new CUX-100K Cardioid or Omnidirectional super wide range professional microphone. The new microphone builds on the history of the company’s Chromatic omni-mode CO-100K, adding the ability to change modes with three settings: Cardioid (Far), Cardioid (Near) and Omni modes. The CUX-100K is intended for a variety of high-resolution, high-sample rate recordings, both in spatial or close-miking applications.
Scope Labs, a new pro-audio manufacturer based in Finland and operating globally, has introduced its first mic, the Periscope Microphone — an omni-condenser microphone with a built-in compressor that gives the mic a unique character. The Periscope is based around an omni capsule followed by a compression circuit intended to highlight textural nuances that the mic captures, with the aim of providing a hyper-realistic sound. The Periscope is manufactured in-house at Scope Labs Ltd. in Finland.
Sennheiser has introduced two new vocal microphones—the MD 435 large-diaphragm microphone, bringing the company’s dynamic MD 9235 capsule to a wired vocal microphone for the first time; and the MD 445, an LDC with a tight super-cardioid pick pattern. Ostensibly intended for live sound use, they reportedly hold their own in the studio as well. The MD 435’s lightweight aluminum-copper voice coil is intended to provide fast transient response, according to Sennheiser, in an effort to provide detailed, transparent sound. The large-diaphragm microphone features dynamics of 146 dB(A) and can handle sound pressure levels of up to 163 dB/1 kHz. The MD 445 is designed with a high-rejection, super-cardioid pick-up pattern, it reportedly offers uses considerable gain before feedback. Dynamics are wide at 146 dB(A) and the microphone is said to be able to handle sound pressure levels of up to 163 dB/1 kHz.
The TF11 is the company’s first large diaphragm phantom-powered 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 by OEP/Carnhill made in the UK. The mic’s through-hole components include UK-made polystyrene film capacitors, Nichicon Fine Gold electrolytic capacitors, and a high-performance, ultra-low-noise JFET amplifier.
Berkeley, CA (November 19, 2020)—Mastering engineer Michael Romanowski recently completed a new facility at Coast Mastering that is outfitted to handle projects up to Dolby Atmos 9.1.6.
The new mastering room was designed by Romanowski along with acoustical consultant Bob Hodas, who also tuned the room. California-based audio engineer and studio design consultant Bob Levy worked closely with the build-team from the beginning of the project.
Coast Mastering features equipment chosen over Romanowski’s 30 years as a recording, mixing, and mastering engineer, both in Nashville and the San Francisco Bay Area. On the audio software side, Romanowski has been mastering immersive audio projects using the Steinberg Nuendo software for many years.
A main feature of the new studio are the Focal Scala Utopia EM speakers for left, right, and center channels which tower at almost six feet tall, and Focal Utopia Diablo Evo speakers for the six surrounds, which are all paired with Bricasti amplifiers and converters, and Wireworld cables. The subwoofer is by Meyer Sound, while the six height speakers are by Neumann. Stillpoint Aperture acoustic treatment was used throughout the new studio.
“As a music fan, I have really been enjoying the variety of styles of music that I have mastered in Atmos, with Alicia Keys, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The U.S. Army Field Band, Fantastic Negrito, The Devil in California, and a local Bay Area Latin fusion band, Vibrason, among many other projects,” said Romanowski.
“I built my first mastering room in 2000 for 5.1 surround with Paul Stubblebine, then moved to immersive sound adding height speakers in 2018. My new mastering room was built specifically for immersive formats including Dolby Atmos. It’s such a joy to work in and to really hear the music as it is, so I can make the best decisions for my clients.”
New York, NY (November 19, 2020)—There are complex podcast productions, and then there’s Story Pirates. For technical director Sam Bair, editing the acclaimed Gimlet podcast isn’t about simply picking the best content and shaping a narrative—it’s about finding the best takes from a half-dozen actors reading their lines from a script, and then filling the audio spectrum with sounds that advance the story and appeal to kids.
“It really is a true post-production compilation of recordings,” says Bair, whose role includes sound design, producing, and recording and mix engineer. “We’re recording all the takes and pulling specific lines from different takes. We’re also taking whole sections from different takes.”
The Story Pirates podcast—named the 2020 Best Kids and Family Podcast by iHeartRadio and with more than 20 million downloads to its credit—is brought to life by a collective of comedians, musicians, writers and teachers who interpret original stories written by kids into sketches with original songs in each episode. Two cast members, Lee Overtree and Peter McNerney, pull double duty as executive producer and co-producer, respectively.
“Peter is the main producer during recordings of stories,” Bair explains. “He and I work together to pick the best takes of each scene and then fine tune the pacing. Then, over the course of mixing and sound designing, we are still, by the millisecond, really pacing it out to get what we think is the best comedic effect.”
Under conventional circumstances, Bair records the cast live in a studio, with the actors standing in a circle “cartoon-style” around a Neumann U67 with Warm Audio WA87 and WA14 microphones in front of each actor. Since COVID-19 hit, however, they have recorded the podcast over Zoom with live reads as before, and each cast member records locally through a WA87 or WA14 into a Zoom H6 recorder.
For the show’s frequent guest actors—they’ve had 40 since the pandemic hit—Bair gets in touch in advance of the recording session to help them prepare. Some have nice home studios, while others have a simple USB microphone.
“I have a little document for all the actors, [saying], ‘Hey, here is the recommended mic setup for you. Here’s the recommended room setup for you,’” Bair says. “A lot of these actors have no technical experience whatsoever, so we have them send some sample recordings. I critique that and we work together over email to get the best possible quality out of their home systems.”
Despite their efforts to get clean audio, occasionally an anomaly or two will sneak through the iron-clad system Bair and McNerney have established. In a recent episode, the actor playing the lead character, who had 80 percent of the dialogue in the story, “sounded like she was in a tin can” with a distracting buzz through the entire recording, Bair says. “We were kind of up against the wall. What we’ve found works really fast, considering the circumstances, is [to give the actor] an assembled take of the entire story with sound design and everything in it. They put that into, say, GarageBand and give us two or three takes, and we’ll massage those new takes in.”
Story Pirates also employs a live band with guitar, bass, drums and keys to perform a new original song for each episode, which Bair tracks in the 800-square-foot live room at his Chelsea (NYC) studio, The Relic Room. Bair builds out the fictional world of each episode with audio from sound libraries as well as a live piano underscore.
“When we’re tracking in the studio with the cast, there’s a live piano player,” he says. “Now that we’re not in the studio, I send [the pianist] an assembled version of each section of the episode and he’ll underscore the whole thing. It really helps with the actors at home [because] that piano underscore helps mask various room tone differences.”
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed the rise in popularity of modular synths over the past few years. I got into it about seven or eight years ago, and I fear I am living proof of just how addictive they can be. I realize I could be accused of a certain amount of self-justification in this article, but trust me, they really are a useful tool for mix engineers.
First, a quick overview for the uninitiated. There are two common set ups, of which the one referred to as “East Coast” style is the more traditional. This is so-called because Moog synths were built on the east coast of the USA, as opposed to the slightly more esoteric Buchla synths which originated on the west coast at about the same time (‘west coast’ style, although hopefully you’d worked that out). The pros and cons of each method can cause some pretty heated debates in the world of synth-heads—debates in which neither Bob Moog nor Don Buchla were remotely interested.
Anyway, I digress.
There are few basic parts that are common to the traditional setup. You start with a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO). This permanently generates a wave form—sine, triangle, saw and square are generally your choices—the pitch of which is decided by the control voltage (CV) that you send it from your keyboard or DAW. Normally you mix two or three of these VCOs together and then feed them into a resonant filter which shapes the sound by taking away harmonics, which gives us the term ‘subtractive synthesis.’ You’ve still got a permanent tone, so next in the chain is a voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA), which you normally turn down to silent so it can be turned up again by modules called envelope generators (often ADSR-style, if you’re familiar with hardware synths) which fire whenever they receive a ‘gate’ signal—which is triggered when a key on your keyboard is pressed (or, again, from your DAW).
That’s the basics, but modular synthesis gets more interesting when you introduce different sources of modulation. Pretty much everything you can think of can be modulated by everything else, with low-frequency oscillators (LFOs), ring modulators and various styles of envelope generator all being part of the arsenal, but that’s another article.
“But,” I hear you wearily ask, “how is this useful to mix engineers?” Well…
Better synth sounds. If you find yourself being handed less-than awesome synth sounds to mix, then you’ve got a simple solution to that. Remember that a new filter can cost you less than £100, and each new filter opens up a whole raft of different tonal possibilities, so even a modest modular system can give you a wide palette of great analogue synth sounds. Ask for the MIDI along with the audio and you can quickly create sounds that not only lift the track but also make the mix easier.
Better filters. I know this sounds like it goes with the previous paragraph, but I mean something different here. In this application, you’re using the filters in your modular system like the filters on an EQ—because if you want to take the top off your bass track, you can obviously do it quickly with a nice clean plug-in, but with an extra minute of effort and a Moog low-pass filter, you’ve added some real character to your mix as well.
Extremely tweakable analogue effects. Although you can do everything in the box these days if you want to, sometimes you don’t. For these out-of-the-box moments, modular synths offer a lot of really fun, tweakable and fantastic-sounding effects, from simple spring reverbs (with up to three tank sizes that you can flick between) to deep granular delays. There are amazing sounding phasers, and tube VCAs that give you incredible distortion effects. If you think that you—or your clients—might enjoy manually playing effects instead of automating a plug-in, then a small Eurorack (3U modular synths) set-up might be right up your street. It’s just like building a small collection of guitar pedals, but one to which you only need to add an oscillator and you’ve got yourself an analogue synth.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to start recommending specific modules (feel free to contact me at themixconsultancy.com if you want advice on this—I can talk modular for days!) but perhaps you will now see a modular synth is not just a hipster’s plaything (although it is also that), or a synth-head’s money-pit (yeah, it’s definitely that, too), but also a useful weapon in the arsenal of a mix engineer.
Modular synths are becoming a useful weapon in the arsenal of a mix engineer.