South Windsor, CT (January 29, 2021)—Independent hip-hop and R&B producer Paul “Willie Green” Womack recently returned from filming a video at Telefunken’s headquarters and has also been putting his new Telefunken TF11 microphone through its paces at his Brooklyn recording studio.
Green was at Telefunken’s headquarters in Connecticut to produce and film 30 minutes in the company’s recording studio and sound stage for the 2021 NAMM Believe in Music Week: “By visiting their manufacturing center, I could see firsthand how their mics are put together so meticulously.”
Green, whose production credits include Wiz Khalifa, Donnie McClurkin, The Roots, Billy Woods, Elucid and others, continues, “My first impression is that the new TF11 sounds very polished, and it sounds like a modern microphone. Telefunken has such a long history of so many great mics, but this one has a progressive, refined sound, which is what I was looking for, especially for the hip-hop and R&B I do.
“The top end is bright and not hyped, and it’s open and airy, the way you want, especially for modern R&B. You want that top end on there, but for things I would usually do for an R&B or a pop record, like boosting EQ to brighten it up — I don’t need to do that with the TF11. It just sounds that way right out of the box, which makes the whole process easier for tracking, and then of course, all the way through mixing. I’m having to work less to get the right sound.”
Womack investigated the lower frequency response of the TF11, he says. “When you work with some of these mics that have all of that bottom in there, I wind up trying to clear out some of that low end and low mid, especially if I’m doing a pop thing and I’m stacking a lot of vocals. If I want to warm it up, that’s what a tube pre-amp or a tube compressor would be for. This TF11 has a nice, full low end, but without so much that when I’m stacking vocals, it starts to bloom too much. It really is nice and balanced down there.”
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.
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.
When producer Matt Dwyer sits down to mix and master an episode of the podcast Eric Krasno Plus One (Osiris Media), his ears are searching for the sweet, compressed sounds he heard on the airwaves in the 1980s.
“I grew up in the era of great FM radio,” he says, “so I have in my head these amazing-sounding FM radio voices from the Eighties, really smooth-talking people without much variation [that] come through loud and clear wherever you are.”
Achieving that aesthetic can be a challenge, he says, especially considering the variety of input sources he encounters on the podcast. Krasno, a GRAMMY-winning producer/songwriter who talks shop with artists and producers like Don Was, Dave Matthews and John Mayer on his music podcast, tracks with a Telefunken AK-47 mic and a Universal Audio LA-610 preamp. But his guests’ audio can be a wild card.
“Primarily, we’re doing [interviews] over FaceTime,” says Dwyer, “and then he’ll feed the audio back into Ableton. We’re trying to get guests to record themselves locally and then send the track to us, [but] we try to make do with the remote audio the best we can.”
Passing the files over the internet adds some initial compression, but Dwyer doubles down to tighten them up before sending the tracks through a limiter and boosting the gain. “It’s a lot different than producing music, because you want a really steady sound from the voice with very, very little dynamics,” he says. “People are listening to these things in their car, in the gym, and you want to serve the conversation rather than focus on an audiophile experience.”
Dwyer has a reliable formula for equalizing the tracks, and there’s a night-and-day difference between how he handles the audio sources. The audio files he gets from Krasno and his guests are often adjusted in opposite directions.
“Eric has a nice, deep voice, so I’m doing a lot of rolling off of the low end, maybe around 200 Hz, to take a little bit off the low end so it’s not so boomy,” he says. “To the contrary, if I’m looking at a FaceTime recording or something like that, I’m probably boosting a little bit more in the mid-range, maybe like the 400-800 Hz range, because you don’t get as much of that coming into those recordings.”
Dwyer doesn’t impose a heavy hand in the mastering stage, he says. His primary concern is to bring out an overall frequency shape if he didn’t get it in the mix, and to work on loudness.
“When you’re talking about podcasts, especially when you’re going to get into a platform that serves up dynamic ads, you’ve got to be very conscious about your loudness measurement. For example, with the platform we’re on, all the ads are served up at -16 LUFS. I try to master for an average of -16 LUFS, and do kind of a QA inspection of the overall file.”
As a confessed music fanatic, Dwyer can be hyper-critical of albums that come out with “squashed and poor dynamic range,” he says. Podcasts, he recognizes, are a different beast.
“The unfortunate nature of the podcast space,” he says, “is that the end result is going to be a 128 Kb MP3 that people are going to get served up. You have to keep that in mind, particularly in the mastering stage, and make sure that it’s going to sound varied to somebody streaming it to their phone coming through their earbuds. It’s a lot about problematic frequencies and making sure that the loudness is intact and where we want it to be.”
South Windsor, CT (September 23, 2020)—Telefunken Elektroakustik has added to its ongoing Alchemy Series of microphones with the introduction of its new TF11, the company’s first large diaphragm phantom-powered condenser microphone.
The TF11 microphone’s sound reportedly draws inspiration from a number of notable mics in the past, with mic designers aiming to provide a voicing similar to an AKG C12 mixed with modern FET performance. According to the company, the TF11 provides quick, accurate transient response, high SPL handling, and low self-noise.
Drawing from circuit elements employed in other Telefunken models, the CK12-style edge-terminated capsule is a single membrane version of the capsule featured in the TF51. Meanwhile, 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.
Intended for use in the studio or in a live-sound setting, the TF11 is hand-assembled and tested in the U.S., and is available as a single mic (MSRP $895.00), or in matched stereo sets.
The NBA is back in action despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with 22 teams living and playing within ‘The Bubble’ of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex as they complete their season. Living in lockdown has left some with little to do other than play, but five-time NBA all-star Damian Lillard has been putting his downtime to good use, recording in his hotel. Waxing lyrical is not a new passion for the Portland Trailblazers point guard, who has recorded as rapper Dame D.O.L.L.A. for some time.
Now, having posted a photo of his mobile recording set up on Instagram, we can take a look at what he’s using to capture those tracks inside The Bubble.
Capturing Lillard’s flow is a Telefunken-Elektroakustik ELA M 251E large-diaphragm tube condenser mic—not an impulse purchase at $9,495 list price, but given that he’s expected to make just shy of $30 million this year, he can probably afford it. That mic is perched atop a Gator FrameWorks GFW-MIC-0821 compact base bass drum and amp mic stand.
Next stop is the Universal Audio Apollo x4 Thunderbolt 3 audio interface, which in turn is sending everything to Avid Pro Tools on an Apple MacBook Pro. Keeping that laptop connected to something via a Cat 5 cable—let’s guess it’s hotel internet—is a J5Create JCD383 USB-C multi adapter.
Last and realistically least, the hard-to-see headphones leaning against the Apollo x4 aren’t high-end cans but rather a Sony PlayStation platinum wireless headset—which means Lillard is probably games for fun when he’s not, you know, playing games for a living. On the other hand, it’s always a good idea to hear your tracks the same way the eventual listener is going to, so having a set of down-to-earth consumer ‘phones around isn’t a bad idea actually.
Those headphones are crucial, however, as he pointed out to the Associated Press, noting, “I saw people saying that there would be complaints of him recording music, but I don’t have any speakers. Everything is in the headphone speakers. I’m rapping out loud, but not screaming to the top of my lungs. Nobody is going to hear me rapping.”
Perhaps neighbors won’t hear him rapping in his hotel, but more and more people are hearing him in the outside world. Hip-hop is more than just a hobby for Lillard, who aspires to have dual careers in basketball and music, much as actor Donald Glover has a separate occupation as Grammy-winning rapper Childish Gambino. June saw Lillard drop two tracks—“Goat Spirit” with Raphael Saadiq, and “Blacklist”—while July found him releasing “Home Team.” He’s also worked with the likes of 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne in the past, the latter of whom he performed with during this year’s NBA All-Star weekend. With NBA players not allowed outside The Bubble until their season ends, who knows how many tracks Dame D.O.L.L.A. may leave Disney with?
I had a fantastic time putting the most excellent Doshi Audio Tape Head Preamplifier through its paces. This latest version, labeled the EVO series, has some improvements over the previous Tape Head Preamplifier 3.0 series, but permit me to reminisce a bit first… A Long Time Ago In A Recording Studio Far, Far Away Sitting behind an enormous API console as I peered through the glass to watch the musicians in the tracking room, I heard the last bit of decay from the final chord and cymbal crash fade to silence. I hit stop, then the rewind button on the MCI JH-110 2” 24 track machine. I mashed the talkback button and asked the band to come in and hear the take. When all were gathered in the control room, I hit play. It was a big sonic letdown. In different situations, the disappointment was sometimes extreme, sometimes minimal and on a few very special occasions, I felt the playback actually had an enhanced quality. But it was NEVER the same as the input. Sure, the music and performances were many times excellent and captivating, but why wouldn’t the tape deck serve up all that goodness that I heard going to the [...]