Joe Walsh y Studio Consoles y Grace Potter & the Nocturnals y Avett Brothers Live!
august 2012 \\ mixonline.com \\ $6.99
M u s i c P r o d u ct i o n • l i v e s o u n d • s o u n d f o r p i ct u r e
Brainworx Saturator Plug-In
SteinberG UR8234 Interface
Lectrosonics Handheld Transmitter
Lauten FC-387 Mic
Entering ‘Another Dimension’ With Jack Douglas
8.12 Contents
Volume 36, Number 8
features T
30 Aerosmith in
‘Another Dimension’
23 Tour Profile:
52 The Robair Report:
Avett Brothers
24 News and Notes
26 All Access: Rockstar
Energy Drink Mayhem
The Apprentice
54 New Products
58 Review: brainworx bx_
saturator plug-in
60 Review: Lectrosonics
Venue HH Handheld
62 Review: Lauten FC-387 mic
64 Review: Steinberg UR8234
DAW interface
80 T
Skill Fracker
38 Small-Format
Studio Consoles
44 Bonnaroo 2012
46 Joe Walsh
‘Analog Man’
50 Another Green Day
for Mark Isham
13 Grace Potter & The
By Blair Jackson
16 News and Notes
18 Classic Tracks:
from the editor
The Knack’s “My Sharona” 74marketplace
by Blair Jackson
M I X | A ugus t 2 0 1 2 | mi x o n l i n e.co m
On the Cover: Aerosmith, with producer
Jack Douglas, is set to release Music From
Another Dimension, their first album in 11
years. Pictured are Joe Perry, Steven Tyler,
Jack Douglas and Warren Huart. Photo: Ross
Mix, Volume 36, Number 8 (ISSN 0164-9957) is published monthly by NewBay Media LLC, 28 East 28th
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From the Editor
The Importance of Being Aerosmith
ow can you not like Aerosmith? You might not like their Bad Boy 1970s image or
the crossover flirtation into hip-hop. You might not approve of the much-publicized periods of substance abuse and follow-up rehab, or the details of the band’s
infighting. You might not like that Steven Tyler can do American Idol or a Burger King
commercial and remain unscathed. You don’t even have to like their music. But, come on!
This is Aerosmith! Sweet Emotion, Train Kept A-Rollin’, Dream On, Walk This Way, Dude
(Looks Like a Lady)! By all accounts, they shouldn’t even be here after 42 years. Yet here
they are, 15 original albums later, with more than 150 million sold, and you know what?
They still sound fresh. They sound like Aerosmith, sure, but they also sound like today.
The same could be said for veteran producer Jack Douglas, who first teamed up
with the band in 1974 for Get Your Wings, followed by Toys in the Attic, which legitimized the band as international superstars. He went on to do two more in the ‘70s with
Aerosmith, while also working with the likes of Miles Davis, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick
and, perhaps most famously, John Lennon and Yoko Ono on Double Fantasy. Douglas has
had his own shares of ups and downs over a legendary career, and today, from both the
producer’s desk and his professorial chair at Ex’Pression College, he remains as fresh and
vital today as he was in his seat at Record Plant New York during rock’s heyday.
In November, Aerosmith will be releasing the long-awaited Music From Another Dimension, a project rumored about, stopped and started, and on the eve of release pushed
back two months because it came out bigger and better than expected, and they wanted
to get the Global Warming tour under their belt while the label readied the marketing
campaign. It might be hard to avoid references to Aerosmith this fall, and that’s okay.
They’re worth it.
Mix first heard about the record more than a year ago, first from a manufacturer who
had brought some gear up to Pandora’s Box, their studio in Boston. Then videographer/
photographer Michael Coleman started calling in with occasional updates as he chronicled
the making of the record over the next 12 months, from Boston to L.A. and back again. His
photo essay, with accompanying text by Blair Jackson, begins on page 30. More photos from
this unique look at how a project comes together will also be available at mixonline.com.
How is it that Aerosmith, or any artist, really, remains vital after 42 years? Are their
secrets that Radiohead can learn from them? Or the Black Keys? Or Kanye? Aerosmith
lived in the belly of the rock ’n’ roll fantasy life and came out the other side. They have
suffered through the dark periods, the breakups, the addictions. And they have ridden the
top of the waves. But the one thread is that they are consistently re-inventing themselves,
consistently keeping up with the culture and often leading it. This is no nostalgia act. Hell,
they appeal to three generations now! Not many acts can claim that.
They are also incredibly savvy businessmen, but you can’t honestly credit their success
to marketing hype or Guitar Hero exposure. These are rock stars who don’t sit still. They
live the life, and they walk the walk. They stay true to who they are and they just keep
playing. How can you not like that?
Tom Kenny
M I X | A ugus t 2 0 1 2 | mi x o n l i n e.co m
EDITOR Tom Kenny [email protected]
SENIOR EDITOR Blair Jackson [email protected]
TECHNICAL EDITOR Kevin Becka [email protected]
MANAGING EDITOR Lori Kennedy [email protected]
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FILM SOUND EDITOR Larry Blake [email protected]
CONSULTING EDITOR Paul D. Lehrman [email protected]
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Ciletti Gary Eskow Barry Rudolph Matt Hurwitz
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Doug Ausejo [email protected]
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talkback // TechTicker // blog updates // industry news // studio unknown
In July, inMusic (inmusicbrands.com), parent company of Akai Professional, Alesis,
Alto Professional, ION Audio, Numark, and
Sonivox, acquired the AIR Software Group
and M-Audio product lines from Avid. Based
in Germany, the AIR Software Group—
which began as Wizoo Sound Design and
was acquired by Avid in 2005—develops audio software, including effects plug-ins and
virtual instruments for Avid Pro Tools. MAudio manufactures keyboard controllers,
studio monitors and computer-based recording systems.
“With the addition of AIR and M-Audio,
we’re in an even better position to push the
boundaries of computer-based composition, production and performance,” says Jack
O’Donnell, inMusic owner and CEO. “Naturally, this will be very positive for musicians,
who will get a much more integrated musicmaking experience as a result.”
inMusic states that the AIR Software Group
will continue to develop and maintain technologies for the Avid Pro Tools family of digital
audio workstations, and a number of M-Audio
products will continue to include Pro Tools
software. Select Akai Professional and Alesis
products will also now include Pro Tools.
compiled by the mix staff
Vintage King, Infrasonic Open
Facilities in Los Angeles
Pictured at Vintage King LA are, from left: Jeffrey Ehrenberg,
Vintage King Audio West Coast Sales Manager and co-owner
of Infrasonic Mastering; VK co-founders Andrew and Michael
Nehra; Rob Maune of Sound and Structure; Pete Lyman,
Infrasonics co-owner and principle mastering engineer.
July 2012 saw the opening of a cooperative pro audio
venture at 1176 W. Sunset Blvd., a former office and
warehouse space measuring 5,265 square feet. Robert Maune of Sound and Structure (SaS), a Southern
California-based company specializing in studio
design, acoustic treatment and modernist restoration, contracted with Detroit-based pro audio retailer Vintage King Audio and Los Angeles’ Infrasonic
Sound Recording Company to design and build
dedicated audio facilities. Both companies refer to
their shared space as simply “1176.”
TEC Awards Set for NAMM 2013
The 28th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards will be presented
on Friday, January 25, 2013, at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif. For the
third consecutive year, NAMM will provide production and event management assets for the TEC Awards, with the TEC Foundation (tecfoundation.
com) conducting the nominations and voting process, and continuing as executive producer of the event. In addition to NAMM, TEC Awards sponsors
to date include Sustaining Sponsor Harman and longtime sponsors Shure and Avid.
The 28th Annual TEC Awards will include new awards in the Outstanding Technical
Achievement categories: Headphone/Earpiece Technology will include headphones and in-ear
transducers for professional studios, live sound and broadcast; Audio Apps for Smartphones
and Tablets will include software for recording and music production, audio measurement, audio/music utilities, controllers, signal processing and musical instruments. Eight awards for
Outstanding Creative Achievement will also be presented for sound production of recordings,
concert tours, films, television, interactive entertainment and other projects.
FREE Webcast
Pro Tools 10 and
Pro Tools|HDX
Register at mixonline.com
On the first floor, Vintage King Audio
opened Vintage King Los Angeles (VKLA;
vintageking.com/vkla), which includes a
critical listening room, mic locker and a
main room equipped with several listening
stations, affording clients the opportunity
to hear their own music through any equipment on the showroom floor.
Upstairs, Infrasonic debuted Infrasonic
Mastering (infrasonicsound.com/services/
mastering), directed by mastering engineer
Pete Lyman and comprising three mastering
studios and a vinyl cutting room equipped
with Infrasonic’s vintage Scully cutting
lathe. The staff includes Grammy Award–winning
engineer John Greenham and mastering assistant
Phillip Rodriguez.
“The common thread is that we’re all musicians; we all love gear—especially analog gear,”
says Jeff Ehrenberg, co-owner of Infrasonic Sound
and head of Los Angeles sales for Vintage King
Audio. “To my knowledge, this is the first facility
where an artist can attend their mastering session,
watch their vinyl lacquer get cut and head downstairs to demo some of the best analog recording
gear in the world. This is a passion project for everyone involved, and we’re excited to share with
our clients.”
Photo: David Goggin
InMusic Acquires AIR
Software Group and
M-Audio from Avid
M I X | augus t 2 0 1 2 | mi x o n l i n e.co m
Timeline for 49th CAS Awards
The 49th annual CAS Awards, which
honor Outstanding Achievement in
Sound Mixing and are presented annually to Re-Recording and Production Mixers, will take place in Los
Angeles on Saturday, February 16,
2013, in the Crystal Ballroom of the
Millennium Biltmore Hotel. “We are
continuing to be totally electronic
in our voting process this year,” says
CAS President David E. Fluhr.
Submissionformsforallawardscategorieswillbeavailableonlineatcinemaaudiosociety.org beginning Oct. 15. Final voting begins online on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013,
and ends at 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013.
AES Ready for San Francisco
The 133rd AES Convention (aes.org/events/133) comes
to San Francisco’s Moscone Center on October 26-29,
2012. Multi-Platinum UK-based producer Steve Lillywhite will open the convention with the keynote
address on October 26. Convention co-chairs Valerie
Tyler and Jim McTigue (pictured) announced two new programming tracks that will debut in San Francisco: Networked Audio, chaired by Nathan Brock, and Sound for Pictures, chaired by Brian McCarty.
Also new this year is a Project Studio Expo, “a two-day series of clinics on best practices and techniques on all aspects of creating and operating a small studio,” McTigue says. The Project Studio Expo
is an initiative spearheaded by Sound on Sound magazine with additional support from Mix, Pro Sound
News, the AES Daily, and Electronic Musician magazines, as well as HarmonyCentral.com. Manufacturers that target this demographic will have an opportunity to address end users directly, while free clinic
and discussion tracks will cover how to obtain professional results in a project studio context.
The AES also announced a new AES Section in Beijing, China. Shusen Wang, a longtime AES member and VP of a broadcasting company in Beijing, met with AES Regions & Sections Chair Peter Cook,
who then made two AES presentations to members of the China Audio and Video Association (CAVA).
Wang was invited to chair the Beijing Section.
Waves Audio Joins
the AVnu Alliance
Waves Audio has become a new member of the AVnu Alliance, an
industry forum dedicated to the advancement and certification of
Audio/Video Bridging (AVB) devices. As part of this relationship,
Waves will be a presence at AVnu events and will encourage industry adoption of AVnu’s standards campaigns. AVnu promotes the
adoption of the IEEE 802.1 Audio/Video Bridging, and the related
IEEE 1722 and IEEE 1733 standards over various networking linklayers. The organization works to create compliance test procedures
and processes that ensure AVB interoperability of networked A/V
devices, helping to provide the highest quality streaming A/V experience.
One thing that brings a high level of professionalism to any mix is making your vocal sound smooth, understandable and natural. A compressor goes a long way to make this happen...
Robair Report
Gino is preparing a interview with mastering engineer Steve
Turnidge about his new book “Desktop Mastering” (Music Pro
Ask Eddie
SEA CHANGE creates wonderfully interesting textures by mashing up traditional rock instruments – guitars and synths, dynamic
and organic drums – plus really cool orchestrations...
SPARS Sound Bite
Mix Tip: Drums
By Billy Hume
There was a time when we could rely on the fact
that most people listened to music on real stereo
systems, often with a subwoofer, to hear and feel
the punch of the kick drums. But today you never
know where your mixes will be heard. We need to
make sure that mixes have punch whether they
are being heard on computer speakers, ear buds,
car stereo or the club.
First, I make sure that I’m referencing the
mix across multiple speakers. I am constantly
switching between my Yamaha NS-10s, my big
speakers with a sub and a cheap stereo with small
speakers. I also monitor 90 percent of the time at
a pretty low volume.
Then I look for the fundamental punch. While
listening on my NS-10s, I put an EQ on the kick
with a bell curve and slightly narrow Q, boost
about 8 dB or 9 dB and sweep between 90 Hz to
140 Hz. I’m looking for that spot where I can feel
the kick in my chest. After I find it, which is usually
around 110 to 115 Hz, I will lower the gain to about
5 dB. This will go a long way on most systems.
Next I want to make sure that the attack or
“click” of the kick drum can be heard on small
speakers. I make a copy of the kick drum track,
then use a highpass filter and get rid of everything
below 2k. Next I use a bell curve EQ with a narrow
Q, boost it 10 dB or so and sweep the frequency
anywhere between 2k to 10K. I’m looking for the
best click that isn’t competing with other elements in the mix and gives the kick presence on
small speakers. Blending this track with the first
gives me a huge amount of control, as well as the
illusion that the kick is louder and deeper than it
really is. If the original kick doesn’t have any top
end I will use a sample instead.
Finally, I want to hit the sub with something.
I use the same technique that I used for the click
of the kick drum but use a lowpass filter instead.
I often use heavy compression or a transient designer to lengthen the sound as well.
Remember to keep referencing on multiple speakers and check the phase between all your kick tracks.
Billy Hume is the owner and operator of Radiator
Records/The Zone in Atlanta.
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
ONLY at mixonline.com
Cool Spin
PopMark Media Update
The Blasters: Fun on a Saturday Night
(Rip Cat Records)
Till now, The Blasters had only cut one studio
album since co-founder Dave Alvin went solo
more than 25 years ago. But Dave’s brother,
Phil, has kept the group together all along, performing Dave’s songs live, as well as the original
rockabilly, blues and folk songs that inspired
the Alvin brothers to begin with. The Blasters’
second post-Dave release, Fun on a Saturday
Night, is mainly made up of inspired covers of
classic soul, doo-wop and jump blues tunes,
performed by singer Phil Alvin; original Blasters Bill Bateman (drums) and John Bazz (bass);
and new guitarist Keith Wyatt.
Collection Update
The Dark Night Rises
From left: Kevin Wommack, photographer Jon Pattillo,
Whitaker Elledge, and Troupe Gammage of SPEAK
during a photo shoot.
Do a search for indie record labels, and you’ll
find, well, a lot. We know because we’re constantly checking them out to see who’s gotten in (and out of) the game and what they’re
doing. That’s how we came across Playing in
Traffic Records. Not unlike others, the label
offers artist development, promotion, touring and so on, but with one unique twist that
we don’t see very often: They’re not in it for
the quick sale, but rather, for the long haul.
Imagine that.
FREE: Webcasts on Demand
• Pushing the Limits of
Creativity: Dave Pensado
Talks Tech, Art, and Pro Tools 10
Sponsored by Avid
• Multi-Mic, Multi-Source
Mixing for Live Events
Sponsored by Lectrosonics
• Mixing the Band With Universal Audio’s UAD-2 Satellite
and the UAD Powered
Plug-Ins Library
Sponsored by Universal Audio
Visionary Director Christopher Nolan returns
for the final chapter of the Batman saga. In
this exclusive SoundWorks Collection video,
we profile the sound and music team including
composer Hans Zimmer (pictured), Supervising
Sound Editor and Sound Designer Richard King,
and Re-recording mixer Gary Rizzo.
• Recording and Mixing Techniques for Vocal Recording
Sponsored by Shure
• Multiformat Mixing on a
Workstation: Optimizing
Your Windows 7 DAW for
Audio Production
Sponsored by Dell
• Digital Converters
for Today’s Studio
Sponsored by Lynx
• Wireless Theater:
Optimizing Systems
for Vocal Clarity
Sponsored by Lectrosonics
• Tracking, Comping and
Editing Drums and
Maximum Note Expression
With Cubase 6
Sponsored by Steinberg
diting and Mastering
Solutions With WaveLab 7
for Mac and Windows
Sponsored by Steinberg
• Tracking the Band
Sponsored by Mackie
N e w W e b c a s t N o w On D e m a n d : P r o T o o l s 1 0 a n d HDX
grace potter & the
By Blair Jackson
News and Notes
By Mix Editors 16
Classic Tracks:
the Knack
By Blair Jackson
V i s i t m i xo n l i n e . c o m / w e b c ast s f o r d e ta i l s
Photo: Lauren Dukoff
From left: Matt Burr,
Grace Potter, Scott
Tournet, Benny Yurco.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Eclectic Rockers Continue Their Rise
ince bursting out of their native
Vermont in the mid-’00s, Grace
Potter & the Nocturnals have enjoyed
a steady rise, as years of relentless
touring on the club circuit, playing festivals big
and small, and opening for the likes of the Dave
Matthews Band, the Black Crowes and, this summer, the Kenny Chesney-Tim McGraw stadium
tour, have paid off. They’ve also made four strong
albums that showcase lead singer/songwriter/
keyboardist Potter’s combustive rock, soul and
blues punch, and her band’s flexibility playing
By Blair Jackson
everything from power ballads to crunching riff
For their latest album, titled The Lion The Beast
The Beat, after the song that kicks off the disc, the
band was looking to capture their live energy in
the studio, while retaining a radio-friendly sheen.
To those ends they chose veteran producer/engineer Jim Scott (Wilco, Chili Peppers, Tom Petty,
Sting) to record and co-produce the album (with
Potter), working primarily at his Plyrz Studio in
Santa Clarita (north of L.A.), and Rich Costey (Foo
Fighters, Springsteen, TV on the Radio, Weezer)
to mix at El Dorado Studios in Burbank. Potter
also co-wrote three tracks with the suddenly
ubiquitous Black Keys frontman/producer Dan
Auerbach, one of which was recorded at Easy Eye
Sound in Nashville by Colin Dupuis. Engineer
Kevin Dean worked with Scott at Plyrz and also
on other sessions at the Sunset Marquis Hotel and
Westlake Recording in L.A.
Potter connected to Scott on the recommendation of her friends Derek Trucks and Susan
Tedeschi “and also the Wood Brothers, who I love
and admire,” she says. “Plus, everybody had raved
mixonline.com | A ugus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
Music > Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Grace Potter and Jim Scott
about Jim’s great studio, and it is an unbelievable
place. He has gone so far above and beyond to
make the place comfortable, groovy and cozy. It’s
an epic place to make a record.”
Scott’s studio is tucked inside a 5,000-squarefoot warehouse building. The main tracking room
is 30x30 with a 14-foot ceiling, while the larger
warehouse space, Scott says, “is awesome. It’s not
a soundstage; it’s a true industrial warehouse and
there are rattles and hums that make it a little
undependable day to day. Still, we record in the
big room a lot—hand claps and percussion and
the odd guitar solo. A lot of drums and percussion
were done out there.”
The control room at Plyrz is a gear-head’s
dream: It’s based around an immaculately maintained mid-’70s Neve 8048 console and a pair
of Neve BCM-10 sidecars (all with their muchcoveted pre’s and EQs); KRK E8T and ProAc loudspeakers; and both classic and more modern outboard gear from UREI, dbx, UA, Neve and others.
The studio has an excellent microphone collection and scads of musical instruments, amplifiers
and such. “They used my drums, my amps; they
brought some guitars but not all,” Scott notes.
“That’s the service you have to provide these days.
more online
Check out
the extended
interview with
Grace Potter
and Jim Scott.
M I X | augus t 2 0 1 2 | mi x o n l i n e.co m
People can’t afford to ship gear across the country
anymore. Grace played my piano and the organs
that we have here.”
It was tracked almost entirely live, everyone
in the room, though vocals were mostly added
later. “Her scratch vocals are unbelievable,” Scott
says. “I think there are a couple that went the
distance, they were so
great. But we also did a
lot of vocals later, too.”
The vocal chain was a
1970 Neumann U 87
into a Neve 1081 and “a
blackface 1176 I’ve had
forever. We did vocals
at the studio, but we
also set up a mobile studio down at the Sunset
Marquis, and the only
change there was I used
the [Neve] 1073 because
that’s what’s in my Neve
sidecar. She’s a trooper,
man. She’ll sing 12 hours a day—just stand there
and lead the band: ‘Okay, back to the chorus;
ready, two, three, four—go!’ and blast out the
chorus at the top of her lungs all day long. It’s
impressive. She’s got a real instrument.”
According to Potter, it took awhile to determine the musical direction for the album. “I
didn’t really know where we were going at the
beginning of the record,” she says. “It’s something
that really took a toll on me because I was letting
all the pressure that was coming from me get to
me. There were also outside influences of people
who thought the record should sound like one
thing or another thing, but at the heart of it,
my dissatisfaction with the song selection was a
major piece of what made me eventually take the
reins and say, ‘I need to be more in control of my
destiny here. I have to stop letting other people
drive the car.’
“The Dan co-writing experience was part
of the catalyst for me re-assessing the entire
album—not because I thought the Dan songs
were so much better. It was that I realized there
was a deeper possibility for this record and a
more ambitious direction for this record to go in.
“We had all these kind of country-ish songs I
had co-written in Nashville. I had so many ideas
on the table, I couldn’t decide what direction I
wanted to go in. And the band was waiting with
baited breath, and they were so patient with me
through this time. Are we going to make a country
record or a rock record? Are we going to make a
cool, hip soul record with dance-y songs? Or are
we going to make an epic f—n’ opus? I think we
ended up doing a little of all of that, with very
careful selection and a lot of thought put into
exactly what message I wanted to send lyrically
and musically.”
The Nocturnals comprise lead guitarist Scott
Tournet, drummer Matt
Burr, guitarist Benny
Yurco and new bassist
Michael Libramento,
who joined the band
during the album sessions. In fact, at the
beginning, Tournet and
Yurco took turns playing bass. “We have five
people in the band,”
Potter says, “and everybody has their own idea
of epic-ness and beauty
in music, and I wanted
to address that on this
record. I wanted to give everybody a voice—not just
my own personal taste, but five people’s ideas of
what a great record is.
“It was very collaborative, from Jim Scott
creating unbelievable engineering sounds that
took it to another level, to David Campbell
arranging the orchestrations, to Rich Costey
mixing the shit out of it, to Dan Auerbach, who
brought his unbelievable quirk-rock into it. It
was a journey from beginning to end, closing
out with me and my band being really proud
of it, which is something that doesn’t always
happen.” n
Music > News and Notes
Little Feat’s Back with New Stuff!
It’s been nine years since Little Feat made a studio album of original material. But their new Rooster Rag
is one of the best of the post-Lowell George era (1987-on), boasting a solid collection of tunes performed
on acoustic and electric instruments and featuring new drummer Gabe Ford, replacing the late Richie
Hayward. Four of the new numbers are co-writes by keyboard ace Bill Payne and Grateful Dead lyricist
Robert Hunter, and another four are by the always-underrated Fred Tackett. Blues by Willie Dixon and
Mississippi John Hurt also get the Little Feat treatment.
Payne and guitarist Paul Barrere produced the sessions at Ultratone Studios in Studio City, Calif., a facility owned by guitarist Johnnie Lee Schell, who engineered. Schell’s 20x20 control room contains a baby
grand piano once owned by The Band’s Richard Manuel, along with a Hammond organ and a Wurlitzer.
The console is a Control 24 used primarily for monitoring—he has outboard Neve and API EQs, among
others, “but I don’t use a lot of EQ when I’m recording,” he says. “I do it pretty flat, and if it doesn’t sound
right I’ll switch or move the mic.
“I record piano with the lid down with small DPA condensers I Velcro to the lid.” Drums are in a 10x20
iso booth; Kenny Gradney’s bass goes direct, “and I put the guitar amps in the corner of the main room
with some blankets around them.” The album was cut mostly live (except for Sam Clayton’s percussion), with some later layering of additional keyboards
and guitars and backing vocals. A solid outing all the way! —Blair Jackson
Photo: Michael Elins
Tenacious D Teams with
John Kimbrough
In the years following the quiet box office reception that greeted their 2006 film The
Pick of Destiny, Tenacious D founders Jack Black and Kyle Gass were looking to come
roaring back. From August 2010 through
December 2011, they crafted their 2012
release Rize of the Fenix (Columbia Records)—the band’s third album and first
since the film’s soundtrack. They called
on Black’s friend, songwriter John Kimbrough (from the band Walt Mink), to
produce their newest effort, which features Dave Grohl (drums), John Spiker
(bass, piano, organ) and John Konesky
(electric guitar). Spiker also recorded
and mixed the album. “He’s a great engineer, but he’s very humble about it,”
Kimbrough says.
“Early on I did a bunch of demos in
my home studio that were mockups of
where I thought their songs might go,”
Kimbrough adds. “We started recording
before all the songs had been written.”
Over the first six months, Tenacious D
recorded in Pro Tools using largely analog signal paths, working in Ocean Way
(Hollywood), Record One (Sherman Oaks), Perfect Sound (North Hollywood), Dave’s
Place (Dave Bianco’s studio in North Hollywood), Ocean Recorders (Burbank), and
Black Sound (Pasadena), tracking Grohl’s drums in his Northridge studio, 606. Then,
they settled into Kimbrough’s converted garage studio for vocal and instrumental overdubs and mixing. — Matt Gallagher
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Gilberto Gil
Live in Rio
Brazilian singer/songwriter Gilberto Gil celebrated
his 70th birthday by combining his five-piece touring
band with a 41-piece orchestra for a special, one-time
performance in Rio de Janeiro’s Theatro Municipal.
Producer/engineer Gabriel Pinheiro was tasked with
recording and mixing Concerto de Cordas & Máquinas
de Ritmo for release on CD (September 5) and DVD/
Blu-Ray (October 25).
“It was the hardest recording I’ve ever done,” Pinheiro says. “We had one day to set up and record
a concert that would not stop for us or anyone. We
had two Pro Tools|HD systems running—one main,
one backup, and both with 64 inputs and 32 outputs.
I used my Lynx Aurora 16 [AD/DA converter] on the
main system for vocal, guitars, the band’s cello and violin, and the main orchestra. The rest was on an Avid
192 [interface]. We set up in a dressing room right in
front of Gil’s; there, we could accommodate a Soundcraft MH4 console, our PT systems and racks of preamps.” — Matt Gallagher
Classic Tracks
By Blair Jackson
The Knack
“My Sharona”
lthough they are little more than a footnote in the history of
rock—regarded by many as a one-hit wonder—the Los Angeles
pop/new wave band The Knack caused quite a sensation in their
day. Their best known song, “My Sharona,” was Number One for six weeks
in the summer of 1979 and their debut album, Get The Knack, was Number
One for five.
Lead singer, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter Doug Fieger had
been kicking around L.A. since 1971, when he arrived from his native Detroit with a band called Sky, who cut two albums for RCA before heading
back to Michigan sans Fieger. Around that time, he met (but didn’t play
with) future Knack drummer Bruce Gary, who was an in-demand session
cat and, a couple of years later, hooked up with guitarist Berton Averre.
Years before forming The Knack, Fieger and Averre penned the catchy
pop number “Good Girls Don’t” (another great tune from The Knack’s
first album).
“I had this idea for a teenage rock ’n’ roll band,” Fieger told BAM magazine writer Regan McMahon (my future wife, as fate would have it) in the
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only interview he and Averre granted during The Knack’s amazing summer
of ’79. The duo passed a tape of their rockin’ teen anthems around L.A., but
“nobody wanted to hear about it. We knocked on a lot of doors . . . People
told us, ‘This is very interesting, but we’re not signing anybody,’ and, ‘It’s
a little too pop.’ We got discouraged, but it never got to a point where I
wanted to give up on it.
“Finally,” Fieger added, “I said, ‘I don’t care anymore if I make it. I just
want to get out and play my songs, sing my songs in front of girls. I just
want to do that once in my life.’”
In the spring of ’78, Fieger and Averre managed to bring drummer Gary
into their orbit, and then snagged a bass player named Prescott Niles to
round out a quartet they named after a quirky 1965 British film by A Hard
Day’s Night and Help! director Richard Lester, called The Knack… And How
to Get It. Fieger claimed the full group rehearsed just six days before playing their first gig, at Hollywood’s Whisky A Go-Go. Word spread quickly about the energetic young band, and within a couple of months they
were selling out 1,000-seat shows at The Starwood and packing the historic Troubadour nightclub and other venues around town. Soon, Capitol
Records came sniffing around their door, and news of that label’s interest
sparked a huge bidding war. The songs that record companies had previously passed on were suddenly being hailed as fresh and original. As Averre
told BAM, “We’re just doing the music we love, which for five years we were
told wasn’t commercial.”
Indeed, ’60s-influenced pop and rock had come back with a vengeance in the late ’70s. Artists such as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers,
Graham Parker & the Rumour, Rockpile, Cheap Trick and many others
who were linked to the so-called “new wave” helped pave the way for
The Knack, who drew from similar influences—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Buddy Holly, Motown, etc.—as well as
from punk bands. The Knack’s songs were mostly hormonally charged
paeans to young lust (and love), and more than a few accused Fieger of
out-and-out misogyny. But he certainly wasn’t the first guy to see rock ’n’
roll as a vehicle to get girls.
Such as Sharona Alperin, a 17-year-old L.A. girl who became one of
The Knack’s first fans. Fieger, 25 at the time, became infatuated with her
and, according to Prescott Niles, took a catchy guitar and drum riff that
Berton Averre had devised a couple of years earlier, and the two fashioned
it into “My Sharona”; Fieger later said it took them 15 minutes to write it.
There was some discussion about including Sharona’s name in the title of
the song, but Fieger insisted, wanting to honor his new muse. (Fieger and
Sharona were a couple for four years.)
In the spring of 1979, Capitol won the battle for The Knack and immediately tagged producer Mike Chapman and his engineer Peter Coleman to
cut their debut. The Australia-born Chapman and Englishman Coleman
had been studio partners since their days in London in the early ’70s, work-
during the takes, but did all his leads lating with Suzi Quatro, The Sweet, Smokie
er through a Neumann U 47. Fieger and
and others, and also in various European
Averre both played through Vox amps
cities and in New York, before the duo set(as The Beatles did in their performing
tled in L.A. a few years apart. In the States,
prime), and Coleman and Dave Tickle—
Chapman and Coleman established themanother British engineer who was being
selves making hit records with the likes of
groomed to become Chapman’s main
Blondie, Pat Benatar, Exile and Nick Gilder
recordist, as Coleman was beginning
(remember “Hot Child in the City”?) before
to do his own production work—miked
cutting Get The Knack in April ’79.
the amps with Shure SM57s up close and
Chapman and Coleman did nearly all
Neumann U 67s about a foot away. Tickle
of their work in L.A. at what was formalhas said that a pair of Neumann KM84s
ly known as MCA Music Studios, but was
were used for distant drum sounds, but
still known to most in the record biz as
Coleman notes that a lot of the big drum
Whitney Recording Studios, in Glendale,
sound on the album came from a tube
in the San Fernando Valley. It was built
U 47 overhead—“I liked the beef out of
in the early ’50s by Lorin Whitney (1914them,” he notes—with some UREI 1176
2007), whose main interest was Chriscompression. Tickle told Sound on Sound
tian/inspirational music. He was involved
The actual Sharona on the 45 sleeve.
that Bruce Gary’s kit had a FET 47 on the
in Southern California religious radio
kick and tom-toms and KM 84s on the
and recordings beginning in the ’40s, and
when he decided to open his studio, he installed an enormous pipe organ cymbals; Coleman says that he liked 57s on drums, so perhaps that was
against one wall of his “A” studio, which was a generous 40x50x20. There on the snare (as was common in those days). A 47 captured Niles’ Ampeg
bass cabinet, which was off in a booth within the main playing area. The
was also a smaller “B” room and a mastering suite.
At first, Whitney specialized in religious recordings, but during the control room’s Neve had inboard 1073 EQs that producers and engineers
early ’60s it was increasingly used for Disney films, TV soundtracks and cherished and used liberally. EMT 250 digital delay was added judiciously
various Hanna-Barbera animated productions. By the late ’60s, the clien- to boost the studio’s natural resonance.
The album was cut to a 3M 24-track, “though a few songs only had
tele expanded further to include numerous rock acts—Frank Zappa recorded several albums there (including his 1969 masterpiece Hot Rats), and about 16 tracks of audio on them,” Coleman says. “I don’t remember any
everyone from Zappa and Rod Stewart to The Carpenters availed them- edits at all. As you hear it is how it was played.” Well, except for the overdubbed lead and backing vocals, and little touches such as percussive bits
selves of the organ on the premises.
In the mid-’70s, the studio’s two custom consoles were replaced by and the harmonica on “Good Girls Don’t.” Tickle recorded most of the
36-input Neves, and in 1978, Whitney sold the studio to MCA, which overdubs, then Coleman mixed on the Neve in MCA/Whitney Studio 3,
brought many of its own projects there, but also rented it for outside jobs— down to an Ampex ATR 2-track. The monitors were Altec 604s. Steve Hall,
who had worked at Whitney for several years pre-MCA, mastered the allike The Knack for Capitol.
“The first time I heard about the Knack,” Coleman recalls, “was when bum in his suite at the studio.
Capitol developed a massive promo campaign—overtly linking The
Mike was asked to produce them and he called me up and said, ‘Man,
you’ve gotta come see this band we’re going to record!’ I went down to the Knack’s look and sound to The Beatles—even before Get The Knack was
Whisky on Sunset and saw them play and they were so good. They were released in June ’79, so by the time the incredibly infectious and driving
obviously really well-rehearsed and they’d been playing those songs in the “My Sharona” hit the airwaves, the word was out about this band. L.A.
L.A. club scene for a while and they were great musicians to start with, so conceptual artist Hugh Brown launched a humorous “Nuke the Knack”
it was amazing. Mike said, ‘What we want is that. We’re going to do mini- campaign in opposition to the hype, but it wasn’t enough to keep “My Shamum overdubs and we’re going to keep it as pure as a four-piece rock band rona” from rocketing to Gold status faster than any single since “I Want to
can sound.’ That was the mission, and that’s what we did. All we needed Hold Your Hand,” and dominating the charts that summer. The follow-up
was a really good room, because they already had great instruments and single, “Good Girls Don’t,” hit Number 11, and Get The Knack ended up sellthey knew the material inside-out. They were tight as hell and there were ing more than 6 million copies worldwide.
Alas, that was The Knack’s great moment in the sun. They carried on
no click tracks.
“The thing I remember the most was how quickly we did it. I think we for a few more years with diminishing success before breaking up. Bruce
tracked it in three or four days, had a couple of days doing vocals and shak- Gary died of cancer in 2006, Doug Fieger in 2010. MCA Whitney Studios
ing tambourines, and then mixed in three or four days. Some of the solos closed in the late ’80s. Mike Chapman has continued producing and writactually went down live, and some we overdubbed. But most of it was kept ing songs; Coleman moved to Nashville and has been a successful producer/engineer/mixer there; David Tickle, too, has been an active producer/
as four-piece as humanly possible. It was a lot of fun.”
Coleman recalls the entire band setting up in a loose circle near the engineer/mixer; and Steve Hall started his popular Future Disc Mastering
center of Whitney’s “A” room and running down the tunes to near perfec- operation. Sharona Alperin is a high-end real estate agent in L.A.
Special thanks to Steve Hall for info about Whitney Studios. n
tion, usually just a couple of takes per song. Fieger laid down scratch vocals
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the avett brothers
By Tom Kenny
By Matt Gallagher
ALL ACCESS: rockstar
energy drink mayhem
By Steve Jennings
Photos: Steve Jennings
New Webcast Now On Demand: Wireless Theater: Optimizing Systems for Vocal Clarity // Visit mixonline.com/Webcasts for details
The Avett Brothers
Rockin’ Out at the Greek Theater
eal bands become bands on the road,
and it takes less than one song to
realize that the Avett Brothers are a
real band, one that has spent a good
part of their adult lives in the back of vans and
buses, night after night after night, playing off the
energy of the crowd and crafting their new material at the same time they belt out fan favorites.
In the midst of an eight-month tour that has
crisscrossed America more than once, stopping in
at festivals and benefits along the way, the Avett
Brothers will release their seventh full-length,
The Carpenter, on September 11 (American Re-
By Tom Kenny
cordings; produced by Rick Rubin, engineered
by Ryan Hewitt). Mix caught the band—brothers Seth and Scott Avett on banjo, guitar, accordion, piano, standing kick drum, standing hi-hat
and about everything else; stand-up bassist Bob
Crawford; cellist Joe Kwon; and drummer Jacob
Edwards—on June 23 at the Greek Theater in
Berkeley, Calif.
“With how dynamic and energetic these guys
are, I guess my mix philosophy is just to hang on
with both hands!” laughs FOH engineer Justin
Glanville, who has been with them for the past
seven years. “It’s a very active mix, and I have to
use at least some compression on just about everything. I try to use as little as possible, and I
try to mainly ride faders from song to song. But,
for example, I have to crush Seth’s hi-hat downstage. There are no sticks involved, as his hands
are busy playing guitar, but there are a couple of
songs where he kicking the cymbals, not stepping
on the pedal.”
Despite the success of 2010’s I and Love and
You, and a sometimes back-to-back-to-back tour
schedule in venues ranging from sheds to arenas
to festival stages to Art Deco theaters, the band
carries very little on the road—instruments,
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
Live > Avett Brothers
FOH Engineer Justin Glanville
mics, DIs and a “stick/show” for Glanville’s settings. “I use the plug-ins from board to board,”
says Glanville, “and I mostly request Avids now to
be consistent. That said, my old live rack is gathering dust—a few dbx 160s, two dbx 166XLs, an
a Lexicon MX300. I miss using that gear, but not
dragging it around.
“I really do enjoy delays, especially tape delays,
though I use them very lightly,” he continues.
“And multiband compressors/limiters have become my favorite tool. They can help with everything from a singer constantly grabbing the mic
and screaming into it, to a banjo that’s being attacked by metal finger picks as Scott repeatedly
stomps his foot through his kick drum pedal. I
recently got a tip from an engineer friend who
showed me parallel compression by way of auxes.
Very handy on drum kits and multiple electric
guitar mics.” Though they win awards in the Americana
category, the roots for both Scott and Seth in
their North Carolina youth bands was punk and
rock. The brothers sing into SM58s, sometimes
more online
Check out
more photos
of the Avett
Brothers online.
24 M I X
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wailing and often in resonant, soulful harmonies.
Glanville adds a touch of Bomb Factory 76 compression and slight EQ. “I try to keep the vocals
in your face for most of the songs,” he adds, “as
their lyrics are the most powerful part of an extremely dynamic show. I grade myself on crowd
movement and attentiveness. The crowd at the
Greek moved a lot and sang really loud, so that
makes me feel like I got the job done well. I was
very comfortable there from the start. It was a
great mix position.”
Sound system services at the Greek, as they
have been for most every show there since the
late ’70s, was provided by Sound On Stage of
Hayward, Calif. The Avett package included an
L-Acoustics rig: 18 VDosc and six dVDosc for the
mains; six Arcs for outfill; four 8XT for frontfill;
and 16 SB-218 subs. All powered by 24 Crown
Macro Tech 5000VZ and six Macro Tech 5000i
amps. Onstage were 12 115XT speakers powered by eight Lab.gruppen fp6400s (there were
also four Sennheiser EW 300 IEM systems) The
FOH console was an Avid Venue SC48; monitor
console a Yamaha PM5D, manned by Bob Paiz,
of SOS (For years, especially during the bar/
club days, Glanville mixed monitors from FOH,
back in the club days; now they pick one up in
each town; Seth Avett, he says, usually walks
the guest engineer through soundcheck). Crew
chief/systems tech for SOS was John Neilson,
with the company since 1990. He knows the
Greek as well as anybody.
“The Greek is such an amazing venue,” Neilson says. “I’m from Berkeley, and I started going
to shows here as a kid in the early ‘80s. This is
where I found out I loved audio engineering. I
think it’s one of the best-sounding venues anywhere. It’s more than 100 years old, and obviously it’s modeled after a Greek amphitheater,
so you really do have the acoustics working for
you. But it’s a lot of concrete, so the space does
change pretty dramatically from soundcheck to
show, when you have bodies in there.”
“John was great and really helped me at
soundcheck, showing me what to anticipate,”
Glanville says, “With any venue where I think
the crowd will make a drastic difference, I try
to make very small, if any, adjustments on the
stereo bus’s graphic EQ. Then I use the first few
songs of the set as measurement. When it’s show
time, the energy is 100% different as they just
tear into their instruments.
“I’ve been with them coming up on seven
years, in so many no-soundcheck situations, that
I’ve developed a distinct focus on the first few
songs to try and rope in the mix quickly and efficiently,” he concludes. “I mainly ride faders from
song to song. and I usually have a rough mix to
start with. After I quickly slide the vocal faders
into position, I’ll move a few VCAs and await
the next big change in the song. There are a few
songs where the energy of the songs builds and
builds until a breaking point, where I’ll just bump
the Master up a couple dB at the right time. I can
see and feel the difference from the crowd. And
that’s what it’s all about.”
Live > News & Notes
House of Blues Goes
With Soundcraft
The House of Blues (HOB) contracted Sound Image of Escondido, Calif., to
upgrade the front-of house mixing facilities in its New Orleans and Anaheim,
Calif., locations with a combination of Harman’s Soundcraft Vi4 and Vi6 digital mixing consoles, and a Vi1 console in use at the HOB Mandalay Bay venue
in Las Vegas. With 13 venues across the U.S., the House of Blues says that it
has been standardizing its sound reinforcement systems to better accommodate artists and attract a higher level of performers. “Engineers are familiar with
Soundcraft consoles and like the fact that they can get consistently excellent
sound from venue to venue and even use their same console configurations and
settings,” says Sound Image’s Jason Schmidlapp. “It saves time, makes life easier
and reduces the stress of mixing a live show.”
McCartney Rocks
with Adamson
Sir Paul McCartney’s On The Run tour concluded with a stadium
show in Bogota, Colombia, where Adamson Systems Engineering had recently placed its first E15 system in Latin America with
sound company and new Energia Beta partner, C. Vilar Amplificacion Professional. Ewan McDonald and Leo Vilar of C.Vilar
provided the system design with left and right main hangs, each
made up of 15x E15s above two SpekTrix 5-degree enclosures, and
two SpekTrix W 15-degree enclosures. The design for side hangs
featured 12x Y18s with an underhang of four Y10s per side, while
16 T21 subs on the ground took care of the low end. Four Y10s
per side were stacked on top of the T21 subs for frontfill, and four
SpekTrix were evenly spaced across the stage as lip fill. Six delay
stacks were distributed around the edge of the stadium to cover
seating areas; four risers held four stacked E15s in each—two facing left and two facing right—and two delay stacks of eight Y10s
each were loaded on scaffolding facing out toward the middle of
the seating area, where most of the audience was concentrated.
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The Bangles perform at the House
of Blues in Anaheim, Calif.
Ultimate Music Festival
Hands Four Stages to
Audio Formula
Miami-based sound reinforcement company Audio Formula and its CEO, Nick Assunto (pictured), have handled audio production for a portion of Miami’s annual
Winter Music Conference and related events since 2002, when Assunto assumed the
role of production manager for one of its peripheral shows, the Ultimate Music Festival. This year, Audio Formula took charge of four UMF stages offering simultaneous performances in two different locations: at Nikki Beach and the Raleigh Hotel.
Assunto placed a pair of DiGiCo SD9 consoles at the Raleigh Hotel, and an SD11 and
SD8 at Nikki Beach with a pair of SDRacks to run the two locations remotely.
“Our responsibility at the event is to make sure we have the latest technology
available for the performances,” Assunto explains, “from the P.A. system to all the
peripherals involved. In addition, we’re responsible for tuning the system for the demanding SPL requirements and making sure we get the nicest definition out of the
system. My favorite feature of the DiGiCo is having the ability to have everything
separated in the matrix and in different layers. It’s handy to be able to remove all the
non-essential buttons from the layers to have easy access of all the required channels
in one page without having to flip around. Also, the SD9 with remote snake was very
small and fit perfectly under the DJ booth with no problem.”
All Access
Photos and Text
by Steve Jennings
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
Now in its fifth year, the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival pulled into the Shoreline
Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif., in early July. The P.A., as it has been since its inception,
was all Peavey, with Crest amps, supplied by the companies and partially owned by Jägermeister, a
major sponsor of the tour.
David Summers
“Peavey and Jägermeister and I have had a long and great relationship,” says David Summers, tour and production manager for the
Jägermeister Mobile Stage. “Jägermeister has been a sponsor and
a partner with the tour since the beginning, and I’ve done every
Mayhem show since its inception. We’re using the Yamaha M7CL
48-channel console for the Jägermeister stages. A little over two years
ago we knew we needed to go digital. We need [the digital consoles]
for the ease of memory, recall, and the reduced size and weight.
“My drive rack consists of a Numark iDEC iPod controller/
dock, and I have an older laptop to control the system processor,” Summers continues. “I have a Furman top-of-the-line power
conditioner; next is four channels of Rane DEQ 27 band EQ—I
use two channels for left and right, two more channels for frontfill
and outfills. Then two dbx 160As for the main left and right; they
work great for some soft compression. Last are two [Peavey] Media
Matrix 8-in/8-out digital system control.”
Anthrax headlined the Jägermeister stage this year, along with Asking Alexandria and other
acts. The main stage headliners this year were Slipknot and Slayer.
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“All the amp racks for the P.A. and monitors are custom made
Jägermeister/Crest amp racks,” Summers explains. “We use a total
of 49 Crest 200 Series amps—32 for the P.A., and 17 for the monitor rig and fills. For sidefills we have doubled our normal amount.
With the change in width and depth of the Stageline 320, we needed
more coverage and more overall power. We are using two QW-218
per side and two QW 2F boxes per side; they’re powered by Crest
9200 and 8200 power amps and Peavey 26 crossovers.”
Ivan Greilick
“This is my first encounter with a digital desk, and the Yamaha M7CL has been very user friendly,” says
Monitor Engineer Ivan Greilick. “We are straight out of the buses of the desk, into Peavey’s VSX 48 processors, then into the Crest Pro 200 amps and on to the QW wedges. We use the ‘graphs’ in the M7, and while
this is a completely usable way to do it, lately I’ve been using the parametric EQs on the M7 bus outputs and
the EQs in the VSX 48. I ring the rig more aggressively because you can’t go for pretty with metal bands. It’s all
about sound pressure, and they’ll tell you as much.”
Peavey Versarray 212 cabinets are flown 10 per side.
“They are a great three-way
box with amazing smooth
top end,” Summers says.
“We fly the system quickly
and the coverage is great.”
Also pictured are QW
wedges being loaded in,
124 of which are carried
by production. “They’re a
great wedge that have great
clarity and volume when
needed,” Summers says. “We
run them bi-amped and use
10 on the deck all the time,
with a couple spares.”
Summers uses two of the
212s. “I run them in mono
off a separate send from
the console,” he explains.
“That way I can completely control what’s in front.
For the outfills, I have four
Peavey QW 1s.”
The Jägermeister stage featured 16 Versarray 218 subs,
shown here with the P.A. going up. “I group them in clusters of four to control the ‘power alley’ so that they don’t
couple so much in the middle and I get better overall
coverage across the crowd area,” Summers says. The subs
are powered by 16 Crest 9200 amps.
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
in a “New Dimension”
hese are good days for Aerosmith. The Boston Bad Boys, now two
years past their 40th anniversary, just completed their first album of
original material in 11 years—Music from a New Dimension, due out in
early November. The debut track (and video), “Legendary Child,” has
been warmly received by longtime fans and radio alike, and beginning in mid-June
the band embarked on a huge summer jaunt with Cheap Trick dubbed the Global
Warming Tour. Intra-band relations appear to be good at the moment, and at least
one past point of contention between singer Steve Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry was
resolved in mid-July: Tyler has vacated the judge’s chair he’s occupied for the past
two years on American Idol to give Aerosmith his full attention once again.
Music from a New Dimension reunites Aerosmith with legendary producer Jack
Douglas, who helmed four of the group’s groundbreaking albums in the ’70s—Get
Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks and Draw the Line—as well as countless live
and compilation albums by the band, the 1982 Rock in a Hard Place (sans Perry and
guitarist Brad Whitford) and the 2004 blues bash called Honkin’ the Bobo, which
was their last studio album. (Douglas’ CV also includes scores of albums by a wide
range of artists, including John Lennon, The Who, Cheap Trick, Patti Smith, Alice
Cooper, Slash, Graham Parker, the Michael Schenker Group, Michael Monroe and
many others.)
Joining Douglas and the group—Tyler, Perry, second guitarist Brad Whitford,
bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer—for this outing was British-born
engineer (and occasional producer) Warren Huart, whose Swing House Studios in
Hollywood had been used by Douglas on a few projects. Huart has made a name
for himself working with such acts as The Fray, Better Than Ezra, James Blunt
and Howie Day, and shares Douglas’ passion for great analog equipment and
natural-sounding albums. Also, Douglas says, “He’s a very hard worker and I needed
somebody who was willing to work ridiculous hours and pretty much give his life
over for almost a year.”
As it turned out, Music from a New Dimension took “only” nine months
to make—though it was not nine solid months. Roughly speaking, the flow of
the album’s recording went this way: The first three months, which consisted
of songwriting and recording of basic tracks for most songs, took place at
Aerosmith’s Boston studio, Pandora’s Box. The studio was originally built a decade
ago by Douglas, designer John Storyk and the group’s longtime (now former)
engineer Jay Messina, then updated by Douglas about a year ago. Additionally,
Perry recorded some guitar parts at his own fabulously equipped Boston studio,
The Boneyard. From there, the action shifted to Huart’s (and co-owner Phil
Jaurigui’s) Swing House complex.
Many overdubs, some re-tracking and ground-up work on two cover tunes—
The Temptations’ obscure “Shakey Ground” and The Yardbirds’ “I’m Not Talking”—
as well as a new ballad by Diane Warren called “All Fall Down” (featuring Carrie
Underwood) were done at Swing Time. Additional recording (such as Underwood’s
lead vocal) and some mixing took place at Huart’s personal studio, Spitfire.
Several tracks were mixed by Neal Avron (Linkin Park, Fallout Boy) on an SSL
4000 G-Plus at Paramount Studios in Hollywood; others by the prolific Chris LordAlge on the 72-input SSL 4000 E Series board in his Tarzana (L.A.) studio; the rest
were handled by Huart and Douglas on Spitfire’s 40-input SSL 4000 G.
Join us over the next several pages as we offer a photo essay by noted SF Bay
Area photographer and video director Michael Coleman (you love his SoundWorks
Collection Website devoted to film sound), who captured the entire process of
making Music from a New Dimension from its formative days in Boston to final
overdubs in L.A. Accompanying the photos are quotes and information supplied by
Jack Douglas and Warren Huart.
Photos by Michael Coleman; text by Blair Jackson
ack Douglas on first sessions in Boston: “First is
the writing process. The idea of the album was to
write it and make a record that really sounds like the
band. They come into my office with dry [acoustic]
guitars and I have an old cassette machine and I start
recording. I’m writing stuff up on a chalk board behind me,
with fake titles attached to the different riffs and ideas.
[Notorious Boston mobster] Whitey Bolger had just been
captured so we had one song that was called ‘Welcome
Home, Whitey!’ There was one called ‘Butt Weight’ [as in the
late-night commercial offers that say ‘But wait!’]. There was
another with the working title ‘We Know Where Your Kids
Are.’ Then we would take them to the next room over, which
is a bigger conference/rehearsal room where we had a piano,
some small amps and their instruments, and we would record
into my computer and start to work the licks up. Everybody
is sitting at this big table and each guy is putting in ideas. We
would work stuff up in there, record it and listen back to it
for a couple of days, make changes, and as soon as it got to be
a recordable song, we’d go right into the [main studio] room
and cut it while it was fresh.”
More on Pandora’s Box: The control room at
Pandora’s Box is equipped with what Douglas calls
a “Frankenstein console,” originally put together
by Douglas and Jay Messina using mainly Class-A
components from ’70s and early ’80s Neve consoles,
as well as API line amps. One Douglas innovation
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at Pandora’s Box was taking four patio umbrellas,
stuffing them with foam and felt, and then deploying
them as needed in the recording room. “I can raise
them or lower them over drums,” he says, “or turn
them around depending on whether I want them for
dispersion or absorption.” Douglas adds, “We have
tremendous flexibility [in Pandora’s Box] because it’s
built in a gigantic warehouse, and the way I designed
the room you can open double-doors in the back
and spill the sound out to many thousands of square
feet of open space, so its like a natural chamber. We
had mics everywhere—30, 40 feet up.”
Warren Huart on Steven’s vocals: Most of
Steven Tyler’s keeper vocals were cut at Swing
House with a Neumann U 48 that Huart had
used previously on The Fray, James Blunt, Adele
and others. Other pieces of the chain included
a Brent Averill Enterprises 1073, “and then I
mult to two sets of compression and I parallel
compress. I have two [dbx] 160 VU’s, which I set
pretty lightly, like 2-to-1 or 3-to-1. I split those out
of a mult and then each of those goes to an 1176
set to limit on 20:1 and they just catch the peaks.
I’ve got one for verses and softer vocals, attacking
it lightly, and then when he goes into that
louder, crazier Steven thing I have another set
of compression set at half that. They’re multed
back together and that’s the vocal sound. What
it does is give you huge, fat vocals all the time. I
ride the 1073—I’ll click the gain settings up and
down depending on where he is on the vocal. It’s
pretty old school. As an engineer, you’re blessed
to work with a singer of that quality, because he
makes your life very easy.”
On Tape and CLASP: Douglas and Huart joined
the growing ranks of producers and engineers
to embrace the Endless Analog CLASP system,
which Huart says “gives you a sound only tape can
give you. You can’t fault it on drums—it gives you
a nice little low that’s never going to be the same
if you just EQ. You can also boost the top end on
your overhead in the mix without it sounding
brittle.” For this project, the recording team used
CLASP in conjunction with three Studer A800
two-inch analog recorders—a 16-track (for drums)
and a 24-track at Pandora’s Box, and another
A800 24-track at Joe Perry’s Boneyard.
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Douglas on Swing House: “The vibe [at Swing House] was
totally relaxed. It’s like a clubhouse. Crystal Method was in
there awhile, Marilyn Manson. And we had visitors, too—
Richard Lewis, Rick Nielson, Jack Black, Johnny Depp, so it
was a lot of fun.” Depp and Julian Lennon are among those
who helped on backing vocals.
Douglas has done so much work at Swing House over
the past five years that he has merged much of his personal
equipment with the studio’s, including his (now-rare) SPL Charisma dual-channel processors and some
Retro gear, such as the 176 (the modern version of the 1176), which he lauds for its highpass filter. “Also,
their version of a [1950s-era] Gates Sta-level [compressor] and passive EQ are very good.”
Other favored pieces of gear included Pulse-Tec’s modern versions of the classic Pultec PQ-1 and
PQ-2; and the Vertigo Sound Quad Discrete VCA Compressor, which Huart likens to the “the classic
dbx 202 VCAs that are in the original [SSL] 4000 bus compressor, though the control over it is much
better. What I like about it is the highpass filter, which is very modern. It’s set at 60 and 90 and it really
allows the bottom end to breathe.”
Both of Swing House’s two main rooms were used for the Aerosmith project. The control room
of Studio A includes a vintage 20-channel API console, a Cadac sidecar and an assortment of Calrec
and Neve mic pre’s. Studio B features a gorgeous vintage 24-channel, 8-bus Neve 8058.
Joe Perry’s Guitars: “I always let Joe go first,” Douglas
says. “He’ll pick a guitar and an amp and maybe an
effect, and that gives me an idea of what he’s thinking.
This is an artist’s record; it’s not a producer’s record. So
the first person I want to hear from is the artist. He’ll
say, ‘I have this in mind.’ ‘Okay, that’s a good idea, Joe,
but we’re going to have to work to fit that sound into
the track, so we might need to do this with it, or try
this alternative, which is similar but slightly different.’”
In addition to double-close-miking the wide
variety of large and small amps Perry used—
everything from Fender Princetons, Deluxes and
Champs to Marshall Plexis, Vox AC15s and AC30s
to Bogen and RCA P.A. heads modified to be guitar
heads—Huart says that the guitars were always also
captured with room mics and recorded direct. For
the close mics on the amps, typically they used a
Royer R-122V tube ribbon and a Shure SM57. “We had
multiple rooms going,” the engineer notes. “I had the
large room going with maybe a stack or a half-stack
out there, and then an overdub room
on the right-hand side where we put
combos and we’d record those at the
same time. We also did things like take
a DI signal, put it through a 1073, and
overdrive it.” Douglas: “The direct was
after all the pedals, so if there wasn’t
quite enough of something later when
I was mixing I’d have more control.”
Joey Kramer’s drums: “When we were in the main
tracking room, I’d use multiple mics and I’d take the
kick and the snare and the toms and feed them back
through a P.A. behind the studio tracking room and
then mike up the room. That’s an old Jack Douglas
trick from [Aerosmith’s album] Rocks. The best low
one were these new Lewitt mics, which are [AKG]
414-style mics. Those had the warmth we needed,
and then the high rooms were Shures [KSM313s] that
were amazing. I used different [drum] overheads
for different applications. We got a matched pair of
Peluso P67s [styled after the Neumann U 67], which
were fantastic. On those I’ll either use an X-Y over the
top or I’ll do a spaced pair, and then I’ll use an RCA 44
or some equivalent ribbon mic pulled back as a mono.
I’ll set it up like an equilateral triangle over the drums.”
Tom Hamilton’s bass: “There’s a lot on
the album that was tracked using his
original [Fender] Jazz bass,” Huart says,
“but we also used a Duesenberg on the
cover of ‘I’m Not Talking,’ The Yardbirds’
song by Mose Allison. We also used his
blue Sadowsky Tele bass.” For miking, one
of the favored models for the bass cabinets
(Ampeg flip-tops, Marshall guitar heads,
etc.) was a Sontronics Delta ribbon. As for
the bass DI, “I have a Demeter and Countryman and these others, but what I liked
best was a Radial DI,” Huart comments. “I don’t want to have an argument with
GearSlutz people over this, but we printed them all and we actually believed the
Demeter was the Radial. It’s really clean—it gives you a beautiful signal.”
Sontronics also makes a Blumlein ribbon mic called the Apollo, which
Huart says was used on such musical touches as Tom Scott’s horn parts and
a string by the Section Quartet.
Brad Whitford: Though not the maniacal collector that Joe Perry is, Brad
Whitford knows his axes, too, and revels in the different sounds and textures
each offers. Huart says a Shure KSM313 ribbon “was a major component of Brad’s
guitar sound. We mixed that with 421s, 57s, 414s and all the usual suspects.”
Douglas: “Knowing a band from the formative stage really makes a difference. When we made
those early albums, we were all kids growing up and learning together and experimenting
together, and that makes a difference with how we work together now. This album is exactly
where they should be. They’re all playing great. They all still have a lot of enthusiasm. Steven’s
voice has more character than it ever had. He’s older now and it’s got that nice edge to it. He
used to try really hard to get more dirt out of it; now it’s got rocks rolling around in it naturally.
He’s smart, funny and he drips charisma.” n
Studio Consoles
Music Production Mixers for
Space-Challenged Control Rooms
As music production moves increasingly into smaller
recording studios, manufacturers are responding by
creating consoles combining modest footprints with
grandiose capabilities. And while the pace of new product introductions has slowed recently, the technologies
being offered break fresh and exciting ground.
From the guy in a garage band who’s cutting his teeth on engineering, to the
seasoned producer mixing an established act’s single, owners of small studios present a wide range of up- and down-market requirements and budgets.
Manufacturers are addressing both niches with compact digital mixers that
cost as little as $1,300, and small-frame analog consoles boasting sterling vintage circuitry that run in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Contemporary Trends
FireWire and USB-formatted I/O are becoming ubiquitous. Inexpensive digital mixers are being bundled with entry-level DAWs to present turnkey solutions to new engineers. For example, the PreSonus StudioLive
16.0.2 comes with the company’s proprietary Studio One Artist
DAW, and the Yamaha 01V96i comes bundled with Steinberg’s Cubase AI.
Computer-based editor-librarian software—
programs that remotely manage scenes and
effects presets for mixer channels—
have been around for years, and
it’s now practically expected that a new digital console will include such a
program for free. What’s
new is that some consoles
are now using iOS apps (run
by Apple devices such as iPads and
iPhones) to control ancillary computer cum
mixer software from afar, allowing applications
such as “more me” personal monitoring.
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By Michael Cooper
Built-in effects processing for low-cost digital mixers is becoming more
sophisticated, too. Effects that model vintage analog processors are no longer the sole domain of DAW plug-ins but are being incorporated into Yamaha digital consoles. Digital effects algorithms from popular outboard
processors are also being ported into these consoles.
Digital mixers differentiate themselves in other ways. Less-expensive consoles might keep costs down by offering non-motorized faders and hard-coded
I/O routing (where input 1 has fixed routing to channel 1, input 2 always goes
to channel 2, and so on). Consoles that provide freely assignable routing, on
the other hand, allow you to route any input to any channel; for example, you
can route a 2-track return to an input channel equipped with EQ or quickly
conform a client’s DAW routings to your console’s mixing template. Motorized
faders provide continuous WYSIWYG feedback of current levels while mixing,
which is especially critical when new scenes are recalled.
New analog consoles are also meeting the needs of smaller studios. Automated Processes, Inc. (API) is loading its reissued vintage signal processors
into small-frame consoles and adding new features—including 5.1 mixing
and monitoring, and boutiquey à la carte signal chains—that oblige modern production techniques. Companies such as Toft Audio and Wunder Audio are installing knockoffs of classic Trident, Neve and API channel strips
and buses in small console frames, lowering the entry price
for high-end vintage sound. Meeting at the
crossroads of analog and digital
technologies are Solid State Logic’s AWS Series consoles, which
offer pristine analog audio paths
and DAW-control hardware under the same roof.
Let’s take a closer look at the
innovative small-frame studio
consoles introduced recently and
their practical applications. We’ll specifically explore those consoles having 25
The PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 digital console has a
footprint measuring less than two square feet and provides
innovative remote-control capabilities.
fader strips or fewer, multiple buses to accommodate multitrack recording, facilities for cue monitoring and a
desktop (versus rackmount) configuration. I’ve excluded from this investigation dedicated control
surfaces and boards that have a matrix section
(found on consoles primarily intended for
live sound reinforcement).
An innovative suite of proprietary software programs
bestows a host of remotecontrol capabilities on
the PreSonus StudioLive
16.0.2, a Lilliputian mixer that provides hard-coded 16x16 I/O via a built-in FireWire 400
port. (The console provides 32 additional mic/
line inputs, but only 16 inputs in total can be accessed at
once.) Open the included Virtual StudioLive (VSL) software, and you
see a complete visual representation of the 16-channel console on your
FireWire-equipped Mac or PC. Inside VSL, you control key functions of
the mixer using a mouse, trackpad or trackball. For example, you can load
your custom gate, compressor and EQ settings—individually or as a channel strip—into any channel of the 16.0.2 simply by dragging and dropping
a preset onto the desired mixer channel in VSL’s GUI. Console-wide snapshots (mixer scenes) can also be loaded in a drag-and-drop jiffy. You can
download (from the mixer) an unlimited number of scenes to your computer, name them, and then send them on a disk or via email or IM to a buddy
who also owns a StudioLive mixer.
VSL can be used together with two apps (both available for free from the
Apple App Store) to control your 16.0.2 from afar. The StudioLive Remote
app turns your iPad into a remote controller for the mixer, while the QMix
app (released at this year’s Winter NAMM) gives similar capabilities to an
iPhone and iPod touch. Using StudioLive Remote, you can use your iPad
to see and control signal-processing (gate, compressor and EQ) parameters,
aux levels and so on in VSL, which then passes the control signals on to your
16.0.2 via FireWire.
Also, if each band member owns an iPhone or iPod touch, download the
QMix app to each device, and they will automatically and wirelessly sync to
the aux channels of the 16.0.2 console, creating up to four
independent “more me” mono cue mixes (or two stereo cue
mixes if the auxes are linked).
Analog Emulator
The 24-bit Yamaha 01V96i digital console is giving leading DAW plug-ins a run for their money with its Virtual
Circuitry Modeling technology. VCM effects emulate classic analog compressors, equalizers and stompbox phasers
from the ’70s and the tape and circuitry characteristics of
Swiss and American tape recorders from the ’70s and ’80s.
Fans of the Yamaha SPX2000 Multi Effects Processor will
also appreciate that the REV-X reverb algorithms have
Analog-modeled effects, freely
assignable I/O and motorized
faders are some of the key
features offered by the Yamaha
01V96i digital mixer.
been ported over to the 01V96i.
The 01V96i provides up to
40 simultaneous inputs—including 16 bidirectional channels via USB 2.0, eight channels
via ADAT Lightpipe and 16 mic/line
inputs—and 20 buses at up to 96 kHz
sampling rate. The 40 inputs are assigned
to banks (fader layers) that are alternately allocated to the console’s 16 motorized channel
faders. Like other contemporary Yamaha digital
consoles, the 01V96i features freely assignable I/O.
Eight user-defined keys can be configured as mute-group
masters, copy-and-paste prompts for channel settings or
virtually any other console function, providing shortcuts for
your most frequently performed tasks.
All the console’s parameters can be controlled using the included Editor
software. With Editor, you can store your mixer scenes and patch lists offline
and load them into any 01V96i console. The patch lists comprise your console
routings for inputs, outputs, inserts and direct outs, as well as assignments of
effects presets to multiple channels.
Hybrid Solution
Solid State Logic’s AWS (Analogue Workstation System) consoles combine
pristine, high-headroom SuperAnalogue circuitry with DAW-control hardware. The latest model in the series, the AWS 924, features 24 inputs (with
as many faders), two classic EQ curves for every channel (the EQ is 4-band),
two assignable SSL Dynamics, the legendary Stereo Buss Compressor, Total
Recall and 5.1 monitoring with bass management. A 48-input variant, the
AWS 948, is also available.
The 924 interfaces with your DAW via MIDI over Ethernet and provides
dedicated transport controls (buttons to initiate play, record, rewind, fast-forward and stop), LED-fitted V-Pot rotary encoders, digital scribble strips and a
TFT display. The 924’s faders use the Mackie Control protocol to tweak your
DAW plug-ins from the console, while the TFT display shows plug-in param-
Solid State Logic’s AWS 924 console
pairs high-end analog audio with
sophisticated DAW-control hardware.
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eters. The V-Pots can execute routing assignments or show
DAW channel and send levels on its LEDs. The classic Ultimation-based automation facilities have been recently
updated to include a new A-FADA mode, in which the motorized analog faders follow DAW automation data.
The 924’s jog/shuttle wheel can be used to scrub your
DAW tracks. You can zoom and select DAW objects directly from the console. Other controls mirror most
of the functions that would otherwise be executed by a
QWERTY keyboard, making the 924 a virtually self-contained DAW-control environment.
Analog Bastion
API’s 1608 console updates the vintage API 1604 mixer with
new, modern features. Each of the 8-bus console’s 16 input channels incorporates a classic API 212L mic preamp.
Twelve input channels are fitted with the ’60s-era API
Console Manufacturers
There are many consoles on the market besides those featured in this article. Some have more channels and I/O suitable for very large productions. Others are primarily boards
designed for live sound but which can do double duty multitracking in your studio. And don’t overlook older digital mixers;
some have had potent software updates that greatly expand
their capabilities.
Allen & Heath
Automated Processes, Inc. (API) apiaudio.com
Avlex Electronics
Harrison harrisonconsoles.com
Oram Professional Audio
Solid State Logic (SSL)
Sound Performance Lab (SPL) spl.info
Toft Audio
Wunder Audio
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550A three-band equalizer, the other four
channels with the vintage API 560
10-channel graphic equalizer
(from 1969). Both equalizers utilize the legendary
2520 op amp and proportional-Q circuitry, which
progressively narrows the
filters’ Q at extreme boost
and cut settings.
The 1608’s rear jack panel has
more routing capabilities than air traffic control. In addition to the expected mic and line
inputs and insert send and return jacks, every
input channel provides a post-fader direct output, ¼-inch high-impedance instrument input
and ¼-inch jacks for the equalizer input and preamp output. One application is you can patch an
The API 1608 incorporates the classic 212L mic pre
and 550A and 560 EQs.
outboard mic preamp directly to a console channel’s API 550A or 560 equalizer and then send the
equalized signal to other outboard gear via the
insert send jack (which is immediately post-EQ).
The 1608 is fitted with eight empty echo-return
slots which you can fill with any API 500 Series modules. Each slot has a balanced input and output jack,
allowing you to build a custom signal chain of highend API mic pre, compressor and EQ for recording
directly to your multitrack recorder or DAW.
Classic-Analog Revivalists
Fans of the vintage Trident Series 80
console who can’t afford the hefty
The Wunder Audio Wunderbar
analog console provides three
vintage-flavored stereo buses,
the outputs for which can be used
discretely or mixed together. A
12-channel configuration is shown
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The Toft Audio ATB08M features the
classic 80B equalizer that was the
hallmark of the legendary Trident 80
Series console.
price or accommodate the large footprint, you’re
in luck: The Toft Audio ATB08M is an 8-channel
mixer that features the identical 80B 4-band equalizer (plus 80Hz highpass filter) that largely defined
the sound of that classic console. Additional features
include eight mix buses with outputs,
direct outs on every input channel, inline monitoring (switching the monitor
return to the channel fader), eight subgroups (with inserts), six aux sends, eight
stereo aux returns and a meter bridge.
The aux returns can be used as 16
more inputs during mixdown.
4-, 16-, 24- and 32-channel
configurations of the ATB
Series console are also
available. The 4-channel version, the ATB04M, differs from the
others in that it has only
two subgroups and two auxes. The meter bridge,
switchable to show levels for either the channel inputs or monitor returns, is optional for 16-channel
and larger configurations. All outputs
are electronically balanced.
The Wunder Audio Wunderbar console gives you three vintage flavors to choose
from at once: Wunder, Neve and API. Inputs can
be routed to one of three stereo buses, each imparting one of these flavors. The Wunder bus is identical to that used in the custom-made, 1971-era
Allotrope console owned by John Paul Jones (of Led
Zeppelin fame). The Neve and API buses are based
very closely on the Neve 1272 and API 312 preamps,
respectively; the only differences are some of the
components are new. The three vintage buses can
be used as mono or stereo subgroups and their signals blended together on the Wunder bus, or they
can be used to simultaneously print three discrete
stereo mixes (one for each flavor).
The Wunderbar’s 8-channel monitor section
can be used for aux returns or extra inputs and
can be bused to the three vintage-flavored stereo buses. Every input channel features a transformer-balanced direct out and insert and the
Wunder PEQ1-style equalizers (incidentally,
one of the best-sounding equalizers this author
has ever heard). The modular console is available in frame sizes from 12 to 60 input channels
(in 12-channel increments) and features in-line
monitoring. Third-party ShadowMix automation is available as an option.
Advance Guard
Expect to see more iOS apps for and analogmodeled effects processing in the digital mixers
of tomorrow. Deeper integration with DAWs is
quickly unfolding. Witness, for example, Avid’s EUCON Phase II update, which adds
more than 500 additional Pro Tools commands and complete Pro Tools menu access
to the touchscreen controllers on Avid System 5 and Fusion consoles.
Despite ever-expanding capabilities on the
digital side, however, there will always be a demand for knockoffs of vintage analog channel
strips loaded into console frames. Pick your
pleasure. No matter how you like to work,
there’s a console designed to be a perfect fit. n
Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper (myspace.
com/michaelcooperrecording) is a mix and mastering engineer based in Oregon.
Photos by Dave Vann
The Beach Boys, on a summer tour led by Brian Wilson, played an afternoon slot at Bonnaroo 2012.
adiohead, the Peppers, Phish, the
Beach Boys, Skrillex, the Roots,
Sharon Jones, Alabama Shakes…
nowhere else is the musical variety so pronounced as at Bonnaroo. Once
again, Eighth Day Sound, of Cleveland, Ohio,
provided sound support for the five main
stages plus satellite venues.
Beach Boys FOH engineer Mark Newman, left,
and Mike Mordente, Audio Systems Engineer for
Schubert Systems Group and crew chief for the
Beach Boys’ ongoing summer tour. “Bonnaroo was
such a great experience,” says Mordente. “We
were able to bring in our entire control package,
100 percent of the audio for the stage and FOH.
Then the d&b J Series P.A. from Eighth Day was
just outstanding.” Newman adds, “Everyone is
blown away by Brian’s vocal. He’s now on a Shure
Beta87C and his tone is spot-on, with only a tiny
tweak from the Midas XL42 pre. It’s thrilling to see
30,000 people singing these lyrics and dancing.”
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The Red Hot Chili Peppers rocked the What Stage on Saturday night.
The Shins, led by front man James
Mercer, closed the Which Stage on
Sunday afternoon.
Crowd favorites Phish once again closed the festival on the What Stage,
bringing out Tennessee legend Kenny Rogers for a most-rare collaboration.
Now playing to his multi-generational appeal, Alice
Cooper played the midnight slot in That Tent on Saturday night.
Many of the bands put on private shows
in a makeshift studio/trailer backstage
and broadcast over Radio Bonnaroo.
Here ALO follows up their set with a
five-song performance over the air.
The Roots kicked it Saturday night on
the What Stage, setting the audience
up for the Peppers.
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Photo: Olaf Heine
Photo: Bruce Sugar
Joe Walsh Meets 2012
A nalog M an in a D igi tal W o r ld
by matt hurwitz
oe Walsh is finally coming around, but it’s
been a long time coming. “The last album
I made, we had recording tape and knobs,”
the veteran rocker laughs. “This album, we
had a hard drive and a mouse. I don’t know what
happened! What happened while I was gone?”
With the release of Analog Man (Fantasy) in
early June—his first album in 20 years—Walsh
has indeed joined the ranks of his fellow modern
recording artists . . . and learned to use Pro Tools.
“Joe is definitely an ‘analog man,’” says his engineer, Bruce Sugar. “So he had to learn a whole
new way to record.”
Walsh has fiddled around in a hodgepodge of
personal studios over the years, including a converted room in his Studio City home, followed by
a slightly more professional space when he moved
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into a new home in Benedict Canyon three years
ago. He had been actively touring with The Eagles
for years at that point, and found himself with a
collection of bits and pieces of songs, but with no
motivation to do anything with them. “When I’d
come home from an Eagles tour, the last thing I’d
want to do was play guitar,” he says. “I had some
songs that were half-done, but I never really got
any momentum going because I didn’t exactly
know how, with no more record labels around.”
He played the songs he had for his wife, Marjorie, who urged him to complete them. “She
said, ‘I really believe in you, and this stuff’s good.
You ought to get up off your butt and think about
finishing them. And by the way, here’s Jeff Lynne’s
number.’ She’s a closer. So I listened to what was
out there and tried to figure out whether I fit in
anymore—should I pay attention to what people
were listening to or reinvent myself. Eventually,
I just figured, ‘Nah—I don’t hear anything like
what I do out there. I’ll just do a Joe Walsh album.
I know how to do that.’”
While he held off on calling Lynne, Walsh did
put in a call to Sugar, Ringo Starr’s engineer, who
began showing him the ins and outs of Pro Tools. At
Sugar’s urging, Walsh had engaged the help of studio consultant Zack Fagan of Under the Wire, who
set him up with a Pro Tools 7 rig (which was upgraded to versions 8 and 9 over the three-year production period) and a Digidesign D24 control surface at his old studio. Walsh put the board together
himself, including wiring his own patchbays. “Joe’s
very hands on; he can build just about anything,”
Sugar notes. “He builds his own ham radios and his
Bruce Sugar and Joe Walsh Calling Mr. Lynne
For some songs, Walsh felt he just wasn’t able to create the kind of recording he was looking for, so he followed his wife’s advice and contacted Jeff
Lynne. “I met Jeff socially and, at one point, he said, ‘Why don’t you bring
your tracks over, and we’ll have a listen?’ So I did. And he had some comments and a few ideas and suggestions. Jeff just has this knack for seeing the
finished track in whatever you play him. You can bring stuff that’s half done,
and he sees how it would be when it’s done and helps you get there.”
Lynne notes, “Sometimes Joe would come in with a really good riff and
some chords, and we’d both plug directly into the desk and jam with it and
flesh it out a bit. On other occasions, he’d have the song already in demo form,
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and we’d make the recording using that structure.” Lynne, working with recording engineer Steve Jay, typically contributed drum tracks for the tunes, as
well as guitars and keyboards.
Of the album’s title track, Lynne says, “He came in with a very rough
demo, but I recognized something special in it. We played around with the
arrangement a lot, until it locked in and felt right. I also wanted to feature
Joe’s slide guitar playing more, so we extended the solo section. I love this
solo by Joe.”
Sugar mixed his and Walsh’s tracks at the Benedict Canyon studio,
occasionally working on some tunes at his own home studio, which features an identical monitor setup to Walsh’s: JBL LSR4328Ps and Genelec
8030As. Sugar also counted on Tube-Tech’s SMC-2BM stereo multiband
Photo: Howie Weinberg
Mastering engineer Howie Weinberg, producer
Jeff Lynne, engineer Steve Jay, Joe Walsh Photo: Ringo Starr
own guitars.” Jeff Lynne adds, “Joe is crazy about old radios and
amplifiers. I have to say, he is very knowledgeable about them
all. He even knows the color codes of resistors!”
Despite a touring schedule that kept him on the move,
Walsh was able to start giving his songs some shape. “Bruce
would come over and get me set up,” Walsh says. “We’d get a
basic groove, with a drum machine or some samples [many of
which Walsh would program himself], then he’d set me up and
go home and, over two days, I could record some basic tracks.
We’d pick the best stuff from several passes; that’s why it sounds
like a musician playing along rather than overdubbing.”
An invited guest artist, or Walsh himself, would add bass,
and drums—played by his brother-in-law, Ringo—were recorded at the old house. About a year into the tracking process, the Walsh’s Benedict Canyon home was ready, as was its
studio, allowing Walsh and Sugar to continue overdubbing in
the new room, using an identical Pro Tools setup and miking
whatever amp Walsh was using in a simple way, using a Shure
SM57 or a Neumann U 87, and passing the signal through a
Tube-Tech MEC-1A mic pre.
“When I decided to record again, I went back and listened
to a lot of the old stuff I did,” Walsh recalls. “What I used to
do a lot was record the rhythm guitar with an acoustic guitar, and then double or triple it. Because when you hear it on
the track, it’s there, but it’s not present, like an electric guitar
would be. You hear it as a percussive instrument. You hear it
differently; it’s transparent, but it’s there. You don’t make the
track busy that way, and there’s still a lot of room for other
guitars. That’s the secret to good layering of guitars.”
On one track, “Lucky That Way,” the guitar bed includes
both 6-string and 12-string acoustics, as well as an electric
12-string made for Walsh by luthier Roger Giffin. “I put an
acoustic, and then did another one, but behind the first in volume, so it’s shadowed,” Walsh explains. For the song’s rousing
solo, the artist recorded as many as 15 tracks of guitars. “I could
have done it all with one guitar, but I wanted to layer those in.
So I took the lead part and dissected it into different phrases
played on different guitars, and then pieced them together in
Pro Tools. Then you put those at different places in the stereo
mix, and it opens the track way up.” Sugar adds, “He has some
lines doubled and some harmonies, too. That’s a really good
example of how Joe made use of Pro Tools’ capabilities.”
compressor for post-mix adjustments. “It just
adds a final stage of compression and equalization on the back end of the mix, after your stereo bus, and warms it up again. It’s one of my
favorite things to mix through because you can
really dial it in.”
Howie Weinberg at Howie Weinberg Mastering mastered the album, with both producers and engineers present. “It was great having
all of them there because you get immediate
feedback,” Weinberg says. “There’s no gray area,
if something I’m doing doesn’t work for one of
them and needs adjustment. I like working that
way. And Joe doesn’t like things that are overly
bright or overly bass, with a lot of sub-bottom.
That’s the sign of a guy who comes from the analog era, 100 percent. And I’m from that era, too.”
Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering cut the album for vinyl release, as well as for
a promotional-only cassette. “I’d make 8-tracks if
I could,” Walsh says. “That cassette sounds great
in my car.”
Walsh intends to continue his move into the
digital age as he builds a new, formal studio at his
house, again with the help of Fagan. The new facility will be 2,300 square feet, with a 400-square-
foot Tech Room, and will feature an SSL AWS 924.
“The faders on the board control the Pro Tools
faders but, with the push of a button, the faders
control the analog signal path of the console,” Fagan describes. “It’s working just like a regular analog 24-input, 8-bus console would function. And
for an analog artist like Joe, this made more sense
than keeping his C24. We’re building him a professional studio; it just happens to be at his house.”
Walsh clearly enjoyed his first Pro Tools
experience, while remaining cautious of the
pitfalls of digital recording. “It’s too tempting
to fix what doesn’t need fixing,” he says. “It’s
tempting to make it perfect. If we’d had Pro
Tools when The Eagles were doing Hotel California, we’d still be working on it. And you can
lose that human feel. It’s not like the old days,
when you’d get the whole band in there together and press Record. It’s all virtual.” Or, as
he says in the song “Analog Man,” “The whole
world’s living in a digital dream/it’s not really
there, it’s all on the screen.”
“I’m not saying analog is better,” he concludes.
“I’m just asking, ‘Now what do we do?’ People ask
me what’s my advice to young musicians? I don’t
know. I’m trying to figure it out, too.” n
The Talk Box
What Joe Walsh record would be complete without the Talk Box—Walsh’s (and later, Peter Frampton’s)
signature effects device, heard on “Rocky Mountain Way” and other classic recordings? Analog Man’s
“Spanish Dancer” features the box, whose history and operation Walsh revealed to Mix.
The James Gang, of which Walsh was a key member prior to starting his solo career in the early 1970s,
were all great fans of country singer Dottie West and her husband, pedal steel guitarist Bill West. “Bill
invented two things: the first fuzz tone and the Talk Box,” Walsh explains. West created the device for
fellow pedal steel player Pete Drake in 1953, for a recording called “Forever.” “After that song, it went
into Bill West’s garage.”
Whenever The James Gang would play Nashville, after the show, they would visit the Wests. “They
would invite a bunch of pickers over, and after a James Gang show, we would sit around the living room
and pass the guitar around. All kinds of people would come—Glen Campbell, Ray Stevens, anybody was
liable to show up.” On one such visit in 1971, he recalls, “Bill said, ‘Wait a minute—I got something for you.’
And he went out and dug around in the garage and got this old dusty, horrible-smelling thing and gave
it to me. He said, ‘This goes in your mouth, and plug this in . . . you’ll figure it out. You need this.’ He gave
me the original one.”
Bob Heil of Heil Sound is largely credited with taking the “talking guitar” and turning it into a popular
device called the Talk Box. It’s his version that is heard on “Rocky Mountain Way.” The box, as Walsh
explains, contains a speaker driver, which is connected to the output of the player’s guitar amplifier.
Without a speaker cone present, the sound produced by the driver, playing the guitar amp output, is
much like that of an electrolarynx, the buzzing device used by throat cancer patients who have lost their
larynx. “By itself, it’s unlistenable,” he says.
The driver is housed in an airtight box with a funnel attached to the front of it, to which is connected
a piece of surgical tubing. The other end of the tubing is set adjacent to a microphone near the player’s
mouth. The player places the tube in his mouth and, says Walsh, “You move your mouth and hold your
breath, like you’re talking. And the guitar sound from your amp, then, gets modulated in your mouth, and
that’s picked up by your vocal mic. So it’s your guitar talking.”
Another Green Day
for Mark Isham
By bud Scoppa
ark Isham’s five-acre estate is spread over rolling countryside in the horse-centric West Valley community of Hidden Hills. The renowned film composer’s daily commute
involves nothing more than a short walk across the lawn
that separates his home from his well-appointed studio, housing two
large composing spaces and a pair of writing stations.
Along with his film work—he has two movie scores out this summer—Isham has a regular
gig scoring the ABC series Once Upon a Time, the rare live-action show that uses an orchestra. Each week during production, he composes new music to picture, which is then
recorded with a full orchestra at The Bridge in Glendale. Aside from those weekly trips
down the Ventura Freeway, he rarely has to leave his complex.
“I’ve elected to work in a more intimate environment, as opposed to Hans Zimmer,
for example, who bought a building,” Isham explains. He elected to work at home in
order to be close to his wife and four kids, but convenience was a factor as well. “If I have
an idea after dinner, I can run next door and realize it,” he says. He bought the property
with the intention of converting the horse stables into a studio, but soon discovered it
would be far more expensive to convert than to build his facility from scratch. “We put
the studio where the turnout area used to be,” he says. “And then my boys decided horses
weren’t for them, so the riding rink came down, and the stables became a storage facility
for both home and studio.”
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Isham followed a winding road, figuratively speaking, to this high-tech oasis
amid sylvan splendor. A classically trained
trumpeter enthralled by jazz, he took a
simultaneous interest in electronic music,
Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports
serving as his bible. “My two worlds were
hard-core jazz and ambient music, and my
focus and first-life’s dream was to bring
those two poles together,” Isham explains. He sent out cassettes of some of his early
hybrid experiments, which led to his first film-scoring gig, for Never Cry Wolf, in 1983.
“I worked my ass off seven days a week for four-and-a-half months, realizing I don’t
know how to do this,” he recalls. “But I’m a smart guy, so I can get some help from the
smart people around me and figure it out. And I delivered the score for a fairly major
motion picture. That kick-started my career.”
Isham has gone on to compose dozens of film scores, including Crash, A River Runs
Through It, Quiz Show, In the Valley of Elah, Fly Away Home, The Mechanic, Warrior and
Dolphin Tale, while also making records for Windham Hill, Virgin and Columbia. Since
1996, this homebody has been doing it all right here.
He does the bulk of his writing in Studio A, working in Logic and then Pro Tools, in
front of a pair of Mac Pros and a Sony TV hooked up to an M-Audio Oxygen 88 piano/
controller, with Dan Wallin custom speakers and a Vienna Ensemble Pro 5 serving as
the mixing host. The setup contains every conceivable plug-in and virtual-instrument
software package. And if the need arises, he’s just a swivel
of his Aeron chair away from the Euphonix CS3000 console
that dominates the back half of the space.
Isham then leads a guest across the lawn to the main
house. “With about 25 percent of my writing, I still use paper
and pencil,” he says, walking past a grand piano in the living
room. “Right there—old-school. For certain types of projects
it’s just easier to do. It’s just quicker, and the sound of a 1928
Steinway is always great.”
Two years ago, Isham added a screening room to his
house, and it now serves double duty as a 5.1 mixing environment. “For mixing,” he says, “everything is done in the
box, with a big, powerful computer [Mac Pro 2010 2.4 GHz]
controlled by a series of Euphonix fader modules; we pull
out as many as we need, depending on the size of the project.
There’s a connection under the couch. And if we want to
watch a movie, we just unplug, move the gear out, and the
8-year-old can run around and not break anything. It’s a great
room—all Tannoy monitors with two big 18-inch subs.”
On the landing that leads into the screening room, the double entry doors are
flanked by stacks of gear. “The front end’s powered by the old Cello Class-A amplifiers,
and all the video goes through a big pro scaling unit, so it looks and sounds really
good,” Isham says. “The computer, clocking and interfaces are all here.”
For the final mix of an episode of Once Upon a Time music, files of the orchestral
cues are dropped onto a hard drive at The Bridge and returned to Isham’s home
studio. When the mix is completed, it goes into a dropbox for pickup by the show.
An individual piece might start at the Steinway, move into Studio A for mocking
up, go to The Bridge for the orchestration and finally to the screening room for the
mix. “That’s the simple route,” Isham clarifies. “It can make a trip to Studio B or to
the music editor; on the paperwork side of it, it makes a trip to the orchestrator and
meets us at The Bridge.”
And that, in a nutshell, is Mark Isham’s world—not counting several trips to
Shreveport in the fall to watch his son Nick, who’s the starting quarterback for the
Louisiana Tech football team. “I have no idea where that gene came from,” he admits
with a fatherly smile. n
The Apprentice
By Gino Robair
ne of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t
learn the crafts of my forefathers. On
the Italian side, my paternal grandfather
made wine like they did in the Old Country, while
my Hungarian maternal grandfather was a farmer and beekeeper. (I
should include distilling in that list of artisanal crafts I missed out
on, as my maternal grandmother’s family supplemented their farming income with a still during Prohibition.)
Sure there are books on these subjects if I wanted to gain enough
general knowledge to get started. But the nuances and subtleties of
each practice that were passed down through the generations have
been lost. The best I can hope for now is to find a class in one of these
subjects or to apprentice with an “old-timer.”
The same is certainly true for the recording arts: Experience is the
best teacher. You can read all the books or watch all the videos you
want on the subject—and there are plenty about recording, mixing and
mastering—but hands-on learning is the only way you’ll become a pro.
While accredited institutions can teach the skills required to operate state-of-the-art equipment, there remains an important body
of knowledge that can only be gleaned outside of the sheltered classroom environment: Once you have your Pro Tools Operators certificate and you know how to solder cables, set up mics and set optimum
gain levels, there is the ever-changing day-to-day business of finding
and retaining clients, project management and the task of keeping a
studio up and running through OS and software upgrades. In other
words, there is a lot more to it than what you learned in that seminar
called “Studio Management.”
When I Was Your Age…
Compared to other art forms, the recording tradition is still in its infancy.
Yet many of the skills used to create the classic recordings of the last century are in danger of disappearing because of advances in technology. So,
while there is resurgence in vinyl as a delivery format and in analog tape
recording, there are remarkably few qualified institutions that teach the
skills required to work with either medium. That’s where the traditional
master/apprentice relationship comes in, and there are plenty of precedents in our field. For me, one particular example stands out.
In his breezy autobiography Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust (2012,
Alfred Music Publishing), engineer Ken Scott describes the typical
career path for the nascent recording engineer during the ‘60s within the world’s most famous studio. You started by working in the library, learning how to manage the vast quantity of recording assets
known as tapes. Stick with that job for a few months, and you gradu-
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ated to “button pusher,” where you operated the tape machine from
a secluded room. If you survived that endurance test, you moved up
to mastering, where you perfected the fine art of transferring audio
from tape to disc, the primary delivery format of the day. Once you
figured out how to manage the limitations of lacquer and acetate,
you were ready to move up into the recording booth as an engineer,
where the real education began.
At each stage, you were shown what to do by example, watching
over the shoulder of the person ahead you in the food chain. Then,
you were left on your own to improve your skills. Just as importantly, you were within the milieu of the recording business, and if you
were on the ball, you picked up as much information as you could
from the environment, which you could put to use in the future. This
form of education went beyond simply mastering the technology;
you learned studio etiquette—how to run a session, deal with clients,
and complete a project. You learned from mistakes, whether it was
your own or those of your colleagues.
Will Work For…Experience
The students in my recording classes routinely ask for advice on getting
into the profession. My answer is always the same: find an internship;
get on-the-job training and work your way into the biz, whether that
means helping somebody record live shows or acting as “audio janitor”
in the game-audio biz. Of course, the catch is that there aren’t as many
jobs at commercial studios, thanks in some part to the personal studio revolution. Consequently, traditional internships are far and few
between. Yet, a number of engineers I know who closed their pro studios in order to have a leaner, meaner private setup still need help on
occasion, whether it’s someone to do setup and teardown, fetch coffee
and deli trays, or to document what’s on those drives and discs in their
closet. That’s where a recording student might come in handy.
If you’re interested in mentoring someone, you might start by
contacting a local school that has a recording program to see if any of
the students there are motivated, trustworthy and hungry for work
experience. Although you’re exploiting them to a small degree for
their time and energy, they’re getting valuable experience in return
(especially when you take the time to explain what you’re doing).
Share the information you gained from your career. If things go well,
you may wind up training a second engineer whom you can trust
for those sessions that require more active assistance. In addition,
you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference
in someone’s life and career. And if you’re lucky, you may learn something valuable in the process.
Tech // new products
MOTU Track16
Desktop Interface
Compact, Feature-Laden I/O
Track16 from MOTU (motu.com, $595) is a 16x14 desktop studio
interface with mixing and effects. The compact device connects
via FireWire or high-speed USB 2 to a Mac or PC and features
optical digital I/O, MIDI I/O and SMPTE time code sync by way
of the included breakout cable. Features include a 16-bus digital
mixer with reverb, EQ, compression, audio analysis tools such as
an FFT with spectrogram “waterfall,” and an instrument tuner.
The base unit (approximately 5x8x1 inches) is constructed from
solid aluminum cast metal and provides a large multi-function
knob, 10 backlit buttons and four pairs of 7-segment level meters. The front panel provides a hi-Z guitar input, 1/8-inch stereo
“mini” line input and two mirrored headphone jacks. Track16
can draw bus power from the FireWire port, which is enough to
drive 48V phantom power for two independent mic preamps.
KS Digital
CX Monitors
Pack Your Racks
Expandable System
MAGMA from ILIO (ilio.com, $199) is a virtual studio rack that comes with 65 new effects in singleunit interfaces enabling users to stack dozens of
interchangeable effects in a seemingly infinite
number of combinations, all in one plug-in. Effects
include compressors, EQs, preamps, reverbs, filters
and more. MAGMA offers drag and drop of effects
to any rack position, four easy-to-use Virtual Racks
and a presets browser window for managing the
600-plus supplied presets.
AudioTools Server
Quick Change Artist
Minnetonka’s AudioTools Server (minnetonkaaudio.com, starting
at $3,695) is a software system for file-based workflows allowing
users to manage and process linear PCM, Dolby E, Dolby Digital
and Dolby Digital Plus content, as well as the audio essence in
MXF and QuickTime clips. The scalable system is sold as an individually configured, turnkey software package that can be upgraded as needed by adding codecs and processing functionality to an existing AudioTools Server installation. Some, but not
all of the functions include Loudness measurement and correction according to current ITU, EBU and ATSC standards;
channel management and program replacement; watermarking; sample-rate conversion; pop, click and dropout detection; upmixing and downmixing to both LtRt and LoRo; and more.
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The CX System Monitor from
KS Digital (ksdigital.de/en)
is a scalable two-way studio
reference monitor for freefield use. It can be expanded
to a three-way system with
one or two 12-inch subs per
side, or one or two 15-inch
subs per side or with a combination of the two. Components comprise the Top
C 120 12-inch + 2.8 coaxial
midfield self-powered twoway full-range ($9,900); Top
CB 120 12-inch self-powered
subwoofer ($8,400); and Top
CB 150 15-inch self-powered
subwoofer ($9,600). The CX
System uses FIRTEC DSP
technology and has selectable
controls that include “sweet
spot” optimization and room
tuning. There is also onboard
access to full digital equalization including highpass and
lowpass shelving, subwoofer
contour, time delay and polarity reverse.
Brainstorm Electronics
SR-112 Time Code
Time Code King
Brainstorm’s (plus24.net) new SR-112 Time Code Distripalyzer
($1,500) is a timecode reader, distributor, reshaper, analyzer and
generator in a single-rackspace unit. Intended to replace Brainstorm’s SR-15+, the SR-112 features an analyzer that indicates
format, frame rate, errors and video phase, and outputs a comprehensive report. The 1x12 distributor reshapes the signal; the
optional generator repairs dropouts and generates new code. All
SMPTE and EBU SD/HD rates are supported. Ethernet is included
for reporting, updating firmware and setting parameters.
Firelight Technologies
New FMOD Studio Mixer
Game Changer
Audio Over IP
Lawo (lawo.de/en) recently introduced the RAVENNA HD Core Card,
and the 8-channel RAVENNA I/O
modules, bringing IP to a range of
audio devices and setups. RAVENNA
provides 128 channels at up to 96kHz
sampling rates with the HD-Core
promising latency of one sample.
Lawo provides two RAVENNA slot-in
cards: the I/O card for the HD-Core,
and the master card of the DALLIS I/O system. The I/O card presents the Lawo router with its door to the RAVENNA network, while
the DALLIS master card is its counterpart on the Lawo DALLIS
stagebox. Cost-effective CAT cables can be used as well as single
or multi-mode fiber, allowing cabling over varying distances while
managing cost.
Unit audio
Summing Mixers
Passive, Not Massive
The FMOD Studio Mixer (fmod.org) brings mixing for games to a
familiar level using a common channel-strip interface with buses,
sends and returns, VCAs, effect chains and sidechaining. VCAs can
be used to scale or control a group of buses at once, adjusting their
levels relatively. The “effect deck” allows the user to add effects, including processing from iZotope, McDSP, AudioGaming and SpectrumWorx. The new FMOD Studio API has been designed to make
common tasks simple while still allowing full access for advanced
usage. Other features include virtual events, mixer snapshots,
localization allowing the programmer to switch between multiple
languages at runtime, and new codecs (CELT and Ogg Vorbis) assuring high-quality, royalty-free compressed sound.
The Unit,
Milli-Unit and
Micro-Unit passive summing
mixers from
Unit Audio
com) are handwired point
to point using
like Neutrik
connectors and
Xicon resistors.
The Unit ($335) is the flagship 16x2 mixer featuring 16 balanced line
inputs on two D-Sub connectors, plus two pan switches; the MilliUnit ($148) is a simple 8x2 summer with no panning; and the MicroUnit is an upgrade from the Milli, bringing simple L/R panning
switches to the mix ($199).
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New Sound Reinforcement Products
PreSonus AudioBox 1.2
Free and Feature-Packed
dbx PMC
PreSonus (presonus.com) AudioBox 1.2 is a free update that significantly enhances the performance and versatility of
PreSonus’ AudioBox 1818VSL interface, plus their AudioBox USB, AudioBox 22VSL and AudioBox 44VSL audio/MIDI interfaces.
Support has been added for AB1818VSL Remote for iPad, allowing users to control every parameter in Virtual StudioLive for
AudioBox 1818VSL, including volume, pan, aux sends, FX buses and Fat Channel parameters. This allows an AudioBox 1818VSL
and USB-connected laptop to serve as a full-featured mixer/recorder for small gigs, rehearsal spaces and mobile churches, with
the iPad serving as a touchscreen mixing surface. AB1818VSL Remote is a free download from the Apple App Store.
Individual Stage Mixer
The PMC from dbx (dbxpro.
com) is a remote-control
mixer located near the performer that lets them easily
set up and control their own
personal mix of up to 16 channels of audio. Controls include
EQ, panning, stereo width
and effects, including a choice
of built-in Lexicon reverbs.
Performers can control their
mix on the fly in real time and
save as many as 16 user-preset
mixes. The PMC works with
traditional onstage monitor
systems, powered personal
monitors, in-ear monitors
and headphones. The dbx
Personal Monitor Controller uses a BLU link audio bus
from either the dbx TR1616
or any BSS London system to
control 16 channels of digital
audio (expandable up to 256).
The PMC can be configured
to operate with either 48kHz
or 96kHz D/A conversion, and
its built-in dbx PeakStop limiting prevents the possibility of
signal overload.
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Alto Professional
Black Series
Alto Professional’s Black Series comprises five speakers: the
Black10, Black12 and Black15 loudspeakers, and the Black15S
and Black18S subwoofers. Features include M10 rigging points
and rugged, powder-coated speaker grilles; DSP technology;
and wireless connectivity. Each Black Series loudspeaker contains the same elements: a 1.75-inch HF driver, 2,400 watts of
Class D power and carefully selected complementary components, a 90°x60° coverage field and an extensively tested HF
waveguide, which has also been crafted to deliver maximum
sonic impact. Other features include wireless capability and a
speaker app (iPad or iPhone), for active live sound control.
Sennheiser AVB Microphone
Groundbreaking Transducer
Still a prototype but newsworthy nonetheless, Sennheiser (sennheiserusa.com, $TBA) has announced the first AVB
microphone. The networking standard has applications in consumer, auto and pro audio and has been embraced by such
companies as Meyer Sound, Avid and others. At the recent InfoComm 2012, Sennheiser featured a prototype product in
its booth that is compatible with the AVB standard. Announcements will be forthcoming on its availability.
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By Michael Cooper
Tech // reviews
Brainworx bx_saturator
Split-Band, M/S Saturation Plug-In
x_saturator is a new processor belonging to Brainworx’s dry audio at the band’s output. A pop-up menu
Rock ’n’ Roll line of plug-ins, but it’s a scion of sorts. The above each band’s drive control allows you
Try This
For a burpy and thunderheart of the mid/side (M/S) plug-in is its XL saturation to select one of two so-called compensation
ous electric bass sound,
algorithm, which was first introduced in the outstanding bx_XL modes of operation; they reduce the band’s
boost only the Mid Lo
output level to counteract any boost in output
plug-in, a mid/side mastering limiter.
band’s drive control on
the track. Set the mid
You can apply XL saturation (adding third- and fifth-order caused by turning up the drive control for the
channel’s crossover to 200
harmonics) independently to four frequency bands, two for each band. In response to my press for more details,
Hz and the XL control to
channel: Mid Hi and Lo, and Side Hi and Lo. (Mono operation uses Brainworx would only say the compensation
roughly 50 percent wet/
dry mix. Nosedive the
two bands total.) But facility is not the main talking point. Its ex- modes work in non-linear, dynamic fashion
post-drive gain for the
but not like a compressor or limiter. In my
cellent sound quality is what makes bx_saturator enthralling.
Mid Hi band 80 dB to kill
The cross-platform plug-in is available in AU, VST, VST3, tests, compensation mode 2 always provided
all dry signal above 200
Hz. The harmonics generRTAS and AAX formats. I reviewed Version 1.0.3 of the AU plug- louder output than compensation mode 1. You
ated in the low band will
in in Digital Performer 7.21, using an 8-core Mac Pro running can turn gain compensation off, if you wish.
add bass and midrange
The gain control for each band can be set
OS X 10.6.8.
grit, while attenuating the
high band will keep the
Brainworx belongs to the Plugin Alliance, a strategic con- to adjust gain either before (pre setting) or
overall sound from besortium of plug-in manufacturers that also includes SPL, elysia, after (post) the drive control. The pre setting
coming too bright.
Chandler, Noveltech and Vertigo Sound. The Alliance licenses allows you to optimize the level of dry signal
and distributes member companies’ plug-ins and provides af- feeding the drive control. The post setting
lets you adjust the output level
ter-purchase service. All Alliance
of the band without affecting the
plug-ins are activated with just
Fig.1: bx_saturator adds independent harmonics processing to
two frequency bands for mid and side channels each.
amount of distortion dispensed
one disk-based license and can
by your drive control setting.
be used on as many as three comMaster XL and drive controls
puters. No iLok or other hardadjust the XL and drive amounts
ware dongle is required.
for all four bands simultaneously
while maintaining the offsets
The Lay of the Land
among them. Once you have the
In the center of bx_saturator’s
ratio of processing among the four
GUI, separate sliders for mid- and
bands the way you like, you can
side channels adjust the crossover
use these master controls to boost
frequencies for their respective Hi
or attenuate the overall amount
and Lo bands (see Fig. 1). The two
of processing without screwing
sliders can be linked so that they
up your carefully wrought balmove in tandem when either one
ance. The slaved controls animate
is adjusted.
when you adjust their master,
Each of the four frequency
providing useful visual feedback.
bands features independent roXL saturation processing can
tary controls for adjusting the
be bypassed independently for
amount of XL processing, drive
each frequency band and globally.
and gain. The drive control reguWhen you bypass a band, its siglates the amount of distortion
nal passes through at unity gain.
generated in the band, while the
The global XL bypass does not afXL control sets the relative balfect the Mono Maker or mid- and
ance between the processed and
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side-channel output level controls (located in
the bottom strip of the GUI). The continuously
variable Mono Maker control allows you to narrow to mono the soundstage of all frequencies
below the corner frequency you select.
You can solo an individual band in one of two
ways: Either click on its dedicated solo switch
or activate the Auto Solo function for the entire
plug-in. The active Auto Solo function automatically solos a frequency band’s output when
you mouse-click and hold its drive or XL control
(until you release your mouse). Soloing makes it
easier to hear how much distortion the XL processing is adding in a particular band.
Separate output-gain controls are provided for
mid and side channels. Link the two gain controls
to adjust the plug-in’s overall output levels. Unlink the controls to tweak the stereo image; for
example, boost the side-channel’s gain to increase
the track’s stereo width and overall ambience. An
innovative Mid/Side meter shows the relative balance in output between the two channels. Dual
LED-style meter ladders show output levels for
left and right channels. An Over indicator lights
when your stereo output clips.
The top toolbar in the GUI allows you to bypass the plug-in, execute as many as 32 steps each
of Undo and Redo, and store your custom control
setups in four discrete workspaces for comparison purposes. The toolbar also provides oneclick access to the operating manual.
Soaking Tracks
I could use bx_saturator on loads of tracks
with impunity, as it imposed very light
drain on my CPU. The plug-in’s operation
was easy to learn. When you instantiate
bx_saturator on a mono track, the Mono
Maker and all side-channel controls become grayed out and unavailable, as is logical (see Fig. 2).
On kick drum, I set bx_saturator’s crossover to 5.8 kHz. I cranked the Mid Hi band’s
drive and XL controls in compensation
mode 2, then lowered its post-drive gain a
couple dB to keep the kick from sounding
too clicky from the added high-frequency
distortion. The flattering result was a kickdrum track that popped more.
bx_saturator sounded outrageous when
I used it on drum room mics on a rockin’
country production. I applied generous
amounts of drive to the Mid Lo channel
below 200 Hz and to the Side Hi channel
product summary
COMPANY: Brainworx
PRODUCT: bx_saturator
WEBSITE: plugin-alliance.com
PROS: Excellent sound quality. M/S and splitband processing. Easy to learn. Light CPU drain.
CONS: Wet signals lack LPFs. No stereo or
dual-mono mode. Heightened signal peaks
require following the plug-in with a brickwall
limiter for mastering use.
above 8 kHz. Setting the Mono Maker to 97 Hz
tightened up the bottom end, and goosing the
side channel’s output gain cranked the ambience and widened the stereo field. Linking the
output-gain controls allowed me to adjust them
both simultaneously and proportionally to optimally drive a downstream compressor plug-in
set to stun. The result sounded explosive.
I could get a variety of great vocal sounds
using bx_saturator. Light XL processing above
12.7 kHz and moderate post-drive gain added
sweet air to a female vocal track. Lowering the
crossover to 422 Hz made the track sound more
broadly present, if perhaps a tad too bright when
Fig. 2: When used on a mono track, Mono Maker and
side channel controls are grayed out.
the vocalist sang at the top of her range. The
solution was to boost the Mid Lo band’s gain a
couple dB (without applying XL processing to
that band). That restored body to the track and
perfectly complemented the sparkling clarity
added by XL processing in the Mid Hi band. The
only downside was that sibilance was slightly
amplified. I found myself wishing for an adjustable lowpass filter (LPF) for each of the Hi bands’
wet signals. LPFs would help quell sibilance and
generally allow greater processing depth without sounding edgy.
bx_saturator sounded great on stereo electric guitars, adding crunch (XL processing added
primarily above 200 Hz), tightening the bottom
end (setting the Mono Maker control to 104 Hz)
and widening the stereo image (setting the side
channel’s output gain a couple dB higher than
that for the side channel).
I got mixed results using bx_saturator in a
mastering session. Applying extremely light XL
processing equally across all bands made the
mix sound richer, but the additional gain inherent to the processing forced me to lower the
plug-in’s outputs around 6 dB to prevent snare
hits from exceeding 0 dBFS. Doing so lowered
the mix’s RMS levels and made it sound significantly quieter. The Brainworx bx_XL mid/side
limiter plug-in is a better tool for mastering, as
it places a defeatable brickwall limiter after
XL processing in the signal chain to rein in
excessive peaks.
bx_saturator also lacks stereo and dualmono modes that would be useful for both
mixing and mastering. For de facto stereo
operation, set the crossovers for mid- and
side channels to the same frequencies and
match the control settings for identical
frequency bands.
The Upshot
bx_saturator would provide even greater
harmonious latitude for processing depth
if it offered adjustable LPFs for its Hi bands’
wet signals. But even missing this refinement, the plug-in is an outstanding tool
for adding sparkle, luster and grit to tracks
during mixdown. There are many saturation plug-ins on the market, but bx_saturator is one of the best sounding of the lot. n
Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper
(myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording) is a
mix and mastering engineer based in Oregon.
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
By Steve La Cerra
Tech // reviews
Lectrosonics Venue HH
Systems-Based Approach to Wireless Transmission
he RF environment for pro audio has turned into a
nasty place. Increased activity, decreased bandwidth
and more competition from broadband devices make
life over the air anything but a breeze. The Lectrosonics Venue Handheld Wireless System was engineered to fight
these issues and deliver rock-solid performance.
The HH transmitter provided for review was furnished with
Lectrosonics’ HHC Cardioid Condenser Capsule, which threads
onto the transmitter body (the transmitter also accepts capsules
from Heil Sound, Audix, Shure, Electro-Voice and Telefunken).
Two AA batteries power the HH with a rated life of five hours for
alkaline—we easily got two soundchecks and two shows per pair on
the recent Blue Öyster Cult tour—and eight hours for lithium. The
battery compartment has an eject lever for removal, and though
changing batteries was a bit fidgety, they’re secure once installed.
The System
Because the transmitter is but one part of a larger system, it bears
explaining how it all goes together. The Lectrosonics Venue Receiver (VR) is a “mainframe” accommodating up to six independent receivers that quickly snap into the chassis. Two different receivers are available: the VRS (Standard) and the VRT (Tracking),
the latter employing narrow-band RF filters to improve selectivity
in busy RF territory. Each receiver is factory-configured to tune
across one of nine 25.5 MHz blocks (frequency groups) ranging
from 470.1 to 691.1 MHz for use in the U.S.; VRs operating over
different frequency ranges are available for use outside the States.
Receivers may be tuned to any frequency within a block.
A VR chassis with multiple receivers may be configured in several
different modes. Switched-diversity allows each receiver to operate
independently from separate transmitters. OptiBlend (ratio diversity) pairs two receivers set to the same frequency for use with a single
transmitter. Choosing ratio diversity for one of the paired receivers
automatically sets the other receiver to the identical channel. Frequency Diversity employs two transmitters and two receivers set to
different frequencies. Audio from the receivers is mixed and routed
to both XLRs in the pair, so you can patch the outs to one or two
channels on a mixing desk and have redundant RF systems.
Hold My Hand
The HH transmitter’s control panel features six membrane
switches, two LEDs and an IR port for future use. When turned
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The Venue HH Transmitter
runs for five hours on two
AA batteries.
on, the HH does not transmit RF; you have to either continue to
hold the power button or select via the RF on/off menu. Other
menu functions include gain, transmit frequency, button function, highpass filter (35, 50, 70, 100 and 125 Hz), compatibility (the
HH is backward-compatible with other Lectrosonics receivers),
tuning increment (25 or 100 kHz), transmitter power (50 or 100
mW), phase and backlight timeout period.
If you open the body of the HH and place your mouth in
front of the grille, you can view the two modulation-level
LEDs (-10 and -20 dB). With the menu on the gain page, it’s
easy to watch the LEDs while speaking into the mic and adjusting the gain setting. The manual suggests allowing the -20
LED to flicker red while the -10 LED glows green. In situations where gain is extremely high (both on the mic itself and
the P.A. system), we heard very low-level “zipper” noise when
adjusting gain. When the HH is powered down, it remembers
its previous status.
Six hot buttons below the VR’s screen provide instant access
to parameters for each installed receiver and route the receiv-
er’s audio to the headphone jack. Once a receiver has been selected, you can choose a tuning
group, scroll the group’s eight frequencies and
watch the signal strength meter on the LCD. If
the meter does not show signal, the channel is
clear. You can also put the VR into scan mode,
whereby it analyzes the local RF spectrum and
displays activity. After the scan stops, the graph
remains onscreen. You can zoom in, scroll to an
inactive frequency, and the reception channel
is automatically set to that frequency. Match
the transmitter frequency and you’re done.
front panel is accessible in LecNet2, including
frequency, RF signal strength and transmitter
battery status. LecNet2 can store and recall entire VR setups—a great tool for rental houses
with steady clientele in different locales.
It’s a Winner
It’s safe to say that there is no grass growing
under the feet of the folks at Lectrosonics.
The combination of the Venue Receiver and
HH Transmitter easily meets the needs of the
most demanding applications for wireless microphones. RF performance was outstanding
and—despite the system’s depth and versatility—the user interface was a breeze. If you
need a no-compromise solution to handheld
wireless, you need to look at the Lectrosonics
Venue HH. n
Hit the Road, Jack
We dragged the VR/HH combination on the
road for a few weeks from New Jersey to North
Dakota, back through Chicago and Wisconsin.
In all cases, setup was quick and easy. At one
venue we arrived late and the headline act already had their wireless world running, including several sets of wireless ears, instruments
and microphones. No problem. We ran the scan
function, found an open frequency and set the
transmitter to match. Audio output level was
easily set from the front panel for each receiver,
and a 1kHz tone was sent as a test signal to the
mixer’s input.
The HHC capsule exhibits moderate proximity effect. At a distance of more than 4 or 5
inches away, response is pretty flat (accurate),
but once you get inside that range, bass response
increases. As such we would not recommend the
HHC for singers who eat the microphone, or
whose voices need help cutting through a mix
and like to work close. The low-frequency rolloff control helped tame this characteristic, as
did a few dB of boost from a 4 or 5 kHz shelf EQ.
Off-axis response is strikingly consistent, with
barely a change in timbre out to 90 degrees and
rejection at 180 degrees was excellent.
In all situations, RF performance was
f lawless. Never a glitch, a dropout, a hiccup
or a “ fffffttt.” The system was as solid as a
wire. The VR system uses Lectrosonics’ exclusive Digital Hybrid Wireless technology,
through which analog audio is converted to
digital information. Digital audio is encoded back into an analog signal, which is then
broadcast via FM. We never got the feeling
that the transmission process was altering
the dynamics of our audio.
We took the VR for a brief spin with LecNet2
control software which (grrrr) runs only under
Windows. Anything you can do or see at the
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
By Kevin Becka
Tech // reviews
Lauten Atlantis FC-387
Large-Diaphragm Condenser Offers Three Personalities
odern large-diaphragm, multi-pattern condenser mics often carry the expected pad, rolloff and pattern switch, but the new Lauten
Atlantis FC-387 blows the lid off expectations.
The mic offers three distinct circuit paths that
were created with the help of New York engineer Fab Dupont. When testing early versions
of the mic, Brian Loudenslager, founder of
Lauten Audio, offered a prototype to Dupont,
who made suggestions on voicing the microphone for different applications. What
evolved after many iterations was the ability to switch between three different circuit
paths on the board inside the mic, titled
Gentle, Neutral and Forward (G/N/F).
According to Loudenslager, the three
settings are not just a simple EQ shelf;
each path is tweaking a number of frequencies across the spectrum via different sets of resistors and
capacitors. For instance,
Gentle is mellowed out at
2 to 5 kHz so a singer can
come forward on the
mic and not sound
harsh. The Neutral setting is
lifting the 2k to
10k range and is
smoother from
100 to 500 Hz
and is intended for
male vocals. Forward brings out more
top and is more in line with the trends
of modern-day recording.
The FC-387 has two 31.25mm diaphragms and can be switched
between cardioid, omni and figure-8 patterns. Other features include a +10dB, 0dB and -10dB switch for high or low SPL recording
situations. At the -10dB setting, the mic can take up to 130dB SPL
at 0.5 percent THD at 1 kHz. The mic comes in a sturdy, velvet-lined
wooden box that contains the mic and a well-made shockmount.
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Around the Studio
I had a pair of FC-387s and used them across a wide range of applications. I often used the pair around a drum kit. After many
sessions experimenting with the FCs in an x/y about 1.5 feet
above the cymbals, I found myself loving
the Forward setting. Cymbals
were crisp but not harsh
while toms and snare were
beefy. I often found that
the overheads, snare and
a kick mic were all I’d need
for some recordings. When
you reduce the number of
mics in a drum recording,
the issues of phase are greatly
reduced, cementing the kit to
the track—the Lauten made
eminently possible. I used a
Try This
single FC-387
When placing the FC-387s
in stereo pairs up close
outside a kick
on a guitar and piano,
experiment with the G/N/F
with a Shure
switches on each mic,
even counterintuitively.
Beta 52 inside. I
For example, try the Forused the Gentle
ward setting on the low
setting and the
end of a piano or guitar,
or the Neutral setting near
-10dB pad, which
the bright side of an inbrought out the
strument. Each instrument
roundness of the outhas a bright and a dark
side, and using the three
side head and was pervoices can give you combifect when paired with
nations that may bring out
the Beta52, which offered
attributes that better work
with your track.
the attack of the beater.
On the same session, I used
the FC to record the top of a
low tom. In this case, the Neutral setting gave me
the perfect balance of the stick hit and body of the tom. I also
tried a single FC-387 as a mono overhead and another back in
the room. I used the Forward setting for both mics, and they
delivered a nice close/far picture of the kit, which I could then
use to add flavor in my mix.
It’s FABulous
product summary
The unique three-position switch on the
COMPANY: Lauten Audio
Lauten FC-387 lets
PRODUCT: Atlantis FC-387
you get the sound corWEBSITE: lautenaudio.com
rect before you go to
PRICE: $1,599
the DAW. This ability
PROS: Three-voice and gain boost/
lightens the EQ usage
cut switches are very versatile. in your mix, which is
CONS: Mic’s size may deter tight spot
always a good thing.
And although the
FC-387 was created
with vocal recording
in mind, it would be a
shame to put it into such a small box. The mic offered great sonic deftness
when recording acoustic guitar, around a drum kit, acoustic piano and hand
percussion. I found myself using the G/N/F switch over and over. The switch
is smartly placed on the rear of the mic for easy switching in situ. And it’s not
just a feature Ninja, the mic sounds great. It has a beefy midrange and clean
top end that doesn’t sound harsh. Although $1,499 is a lot of money for some,
when you consider that the three voices make this transducer more versatile
than any in its class, it takes the sting out of the sticker. This isn’t just one
mic, it’s a triple threat. n
Kevin Becka is Mix’s technical editor.
Frequency response graphics for three polar patterns
and contour switch settings.
The FC-387s sound great when placed as an x/y on acoustic
guitar just off the soundhole. I tried many switch combinations here, using the Neutral on the mic facing the lower
part of the guitar, or even Gentle if the guitar lacked body.
The Forward setting was great for getting the sounds of the
pick hitting the strings up in the mix. I can’t say enough
about the switches in this application; it’s fantastic to be
able to tailor your mic’s response to the instrument.
Next I set the FC-387s up to record a Yamaha C3 6-foot
1-inch grand piano. The mics were placed close to the strings,
one near the center of the hammers and the other closer to
the low-end strings. The piano was in a large live room with
other players, and the cardioid pattern offered excellent rear
rejection. For this particular track, which had an acoustic
guitar, soprano sax and a vocalist, the Gentle setting was
perfect. It let the piano sit down in the mix, not being overly
bright or adversely competing with the other players.
On percussion, the FC’s three-position setting came in
handy depending on the “toy” being played. For instance,
the Forward setting was great for shaker, bringing out the
silky top end with no need for EQ. On a VibraTone, which
can get very strident when hit with a stick, the Neutral setting was the obvious choice. It took off a bit of the top while
still letting the hits be apparent enough in the track.
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
By Mike Levine
Tech // reviews
Steinberg UR824
Feature-Packed, 8-Channel DAW Interface
he 8-channel UR824 is a 1U rackmount, USB 2 audio
interface that offers many handy features; plentiful
I/O; latency-free monitoring with reverb, compression and EQ; and good-sounding preamps. The unit
integrates automatically into Cubase, but also offers full functionality with other Mac OSX and Windows hosts.
The unit ships with Cubase LE AI6 Software, a compact
version of Cubase with a 32-track limit. Also included is a disc
containing the software drivers and the dspMixFx_UR824 software—required when running hosts other than Cubase, if you
want the hardware-monitoring and effects features.
Jacks Are Wild
The front panel is nicely set up, giving you input control knobs
and pad switches for each of the eight analog inputs. There are
front-panel inputs for channels 1 and 2 on Neutrik combo TRS/
XLR jacks, and hi-Z switches let you set those inputs for highimpedance sources. The rest of the I/O, save for the two 1/4-inch
headphone outputs, is on the back panel.
Rounding out the front panel controls are 48V phantom
power switches for each channel pair (1-2, 3-4, etc.), volume
controls and 1/4-inch TRS stereo jacks for the headphone outs—
each of which can output a separate mix, an LED clock-source
and sampling-rate indicator—and a large master volume knob.
The rear panel contains six more combo inputs. Unlike inputs
1 and 2, these don’t have a hi-Z option, so are only for mic or
line sources. The UR824 is equipped with Steinberg’s D-PRE
Class-A mic preamps.
The analog outputs are on balanced 1/4-inch TRS jacks. Next
to those are two pairs of optical Toslink ADAT I/O, which give
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you an additional 16 ins and outs, or S/MUX-compatible 8-in and
8-out at 96 kHz.
Also on the back are BNC jacks for wordclock in and out (the
UR824 is equipped with JetPLL ultra-low jitter technology), a
WCLK Switch that toggles the Wordclock In jack between input
and output, a USB jack, and the input for the 16V
AC power adapter. The unit is not bus-powered.
One thing missing from the UR824 is MIDI I/O,
which would have been a useful addition.
Try This
If you’re using Nuendo/
Cubase for editing, you
Software Sidekicks
can shortcut a clip gain
If you’re using a host other than Cubase,
adjustment with a keystroke rather than a mouse
the dspMixFx_UR824 software will be your
move. Go to File/Key Combridge to the interface’s mixing and DSP feamands/Audio and define
tures. When you open it, it brings up a large
event volume” to any key
mixing console that has channels correspondcommand you’d like. This
ing to the UR824’s analog and digital inputs,
command will then move
and the stereo return from your DAW. Each
the clip gain up or down
by a dB. You can also creinput channel includes faders, mutes and soate a macro using multiple
los. You also get virtual switches for the highinstances of this key compass filter, phase reverse, channel strip effect
mand to do custom dB
changes depending on the
on/off and channel strip effect edit.
number of times you insert
Using these controls, you can set up four
the key command in the
separate, low-latency monitor mixes and
macro. route them to the various outputs of the interface. This is extremely helpful for tracking
with live musicians. You can also open the Level Meter window,
which has metering for all the inputs and faders, mutes and solos.
Effects can be dialed into these mixes, using the UR824’s
built-in DSP. One is the Yamaha Rev-X reverb, which sounds
good and can be tailored to your tastes. It offers
hall, room and plate algorithms, with plenty of
programmable parameters, and can be edited
either graphically or by entering numeric values.
Also available is the Sweet Spot Morphing
Channel Strip, which can be opened on any input
channel. If you’re using the UR824 with versions
of Cubase in which the VST version of Sweet
Spot Morphing Channel Strip is included (not
the case in the version you get with the UR824),
you can swap settings between the plug-in from
the interface and the one in Cubase itself.
The channel strip includes a 3-band semiparametric EQ and a compressor. Both compressor and EQ are quite good and provide a fair
amount of programmability. The compressor
has a sidechain filter that lets you restrict the
frequencies that the compressor is effecting.
With the Morph control, the more you turn
it up, the stronger both the EQ and compression
are. By messing with it as the music is playing,
you can find some pretty cool settings. Those
who own the VST version might find that it’s
even more useful as a mixdown effect.
Unlike the reverb, which can only be moni-
tored, the EQ and compressor can be printed by
setting the Channel Strip Insertion Location parameter to Ins. FX. This can be set on a channelby-channel basis.
In Cubase, the UR824s functions are integrated into the software and use Cubase’s iconbased user interface. You can set input options
from the Edit Channel Settings button on an audio track, and adjust input and output destinations from the VST Connections window.
Test Drive
Getting the unit up and running was a matter of
installing drivers, doing some authorizations (I
installed the included Cubase LE AI6) and getting used to the workflow. The UR824 itself is
straightforward and intuitively designed.
The integration with the software, whether
it’s through the dspMixFx_UR824 or Cubase, requires some manual study. The printed manual
does a good job of explaining the various buttons, knobs and switches of both the hardware
and software controls of this system, but is a bit
light on context.
When tested on a variety of acoustic-instru-
The dspMixFx_UR824 software, showing channel strips and the Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip plug-in.
ment sources, the UR824’s preamps were warm
and detailed, but not harsh. They were more
transparent than colored, and compared favorably to the preamps in similarly priced interfaces I’ve used. They’re not going to replace your
high-end mic pre’s, but they’re eminently usable.
I also recorded some direct electric guitar parts
through the hi-Z inputs and liked what I heard,
as well. The sound was clean, quiet and full.
product summary
COMPANY: Steinberg
WEBSITE: steinberg.net
PRICE: $999
PROS: Well-designed interface, word clock I/O,
preamps warm and detailed
You Are 824
Overall, I was impressed with the UR824. It’s got
plenty of I/O choices, is logically laid out both
on the front and rear panels and offers useful
software for setting up monitoring mixes and
accessing the unit’s built-in DSP. The reverb,
compression and EQ are all solid, and handy to
have access to on input.
I like that the UR824 has eight usable mic
pre’s. That makes it really versatile for studio or
live-recording situations. What’s more, its ADAT
I/O makes it easily expandable. I could see it
functioning well as either a primary interface,
or as an add-on to give you more channels on an
existing system that offers ADAT support.
The UR824 would be even more versatile
if it had MIDI I/O built-in, but overall you get
a lot for your money, whether you’re a Cubase
user or not. n
Mike Levine is a musician, producer, and music journalist, and the former editor of Electronic
mixonline.com | augus t 2 0 1 2 | M I X
I’m a Skill Fracker
By Kevin Becka
he current political cycle has trashed
the term game-changer, and I’m sick of
it, so I’ve coined a new annoying term
for this month’s column—skill-fracker. This
means seeking out information, products, and
techniques and using wake-up calls and validation to make yourself better at what you do. The process can either bring welcome news that what you’re doing is right on track, or produce
a painful realization that you’re clueless.
When I was 21, I saw myself as an up-and-coming guitar
player and idolized a few people, one of them being jazz great
Joe Pass. His style, musicality and interpretation of songs still
blow me away. During a jazz workshop I attended that summer,
I had the opportunity to be elbow-to-elbow for a lesson with Joe
in a small college practice room. I was over the moon. I prepared
for the lesson by transcribing his solo on “Cherokee” off his Two
for the Road record with Herb Ellis. I plopped the manuscript on
the music stand and waited for his reaction. “I played that?” he
said, surprised. I then asked him what he thought about when
he played that tasty, fast and perfect solo. “I think of a D chord.”
Huh? Say it ain’t so, Joe! There had to be something more to it!
There wasn’t. Joe was an artist and couldn’t explain what he
does. He just did it. This wakeup call has stuck with me to this
day and shaped decisions in my own career(s), which eventually
led me out of guitar playing and into recording.
In the past month, I fracked around during the filming and
airing of the Mix webcast with Dave Pensado, sponsored by
Avid. We had gone to Dave’s studio just a few weeks earlier to
shoot the video. It is a Q&A format with him and I just jawboning about Pro Tools 10, his techniques and his workf low. Dave
is deep. He mixes 300 songs a year and has forgotten more
than I know. But that’s his depth and what makes him so attractive to frackers wanting to up their chops. You have to pay
attention and take mental notes, even during casual conversation with Dave because you’re going to miss a nugget that will
change your game (oops). Like how he triggered a bass drum
sample off a snare drum, which he mixed in with his snare
track to add depth; or how he doesn’t put himself in a box as
that engineer who just mixes big-name pop records.
During the past four months, I’ve been using a snare drumrecording technique I learned from a George Massenburg vid-
M I X | augus t 2 0 1 2 | mi x o n l i n e.co m
eo on YouTube. It involves top-miking a snare with a 57 as you’d
guess, but then using a ribbon mic in a counterintuitive way:
You place it off-axis and very close to the side of the drum,
with the plus (+) lobe pointing up and the minus (-) lobe pointing down to the f loor. The top and bottom head are phasecorrected in the mic and it works great—lots of beefy snare
thud. It is now on my A-list of drum-recording techniques because when mixed with the top mic and the rest of the kit, it
sounds fracking great.
My new favorite way to take the nasty out of tracks is with
the UAD-2 bx_digital V2 plug-in. It has the best de-esser I’ve
used. I recently mixed a track that had a B-3 that was big in the
mix, but the stop the player used was all whistle and no body.
I used three instances of the V2 and set the de-essers at fairly
close Hz intervals to reduce the whistle over a broader range.
After that I smoothed the track further with a UAD Ampex
ATR-102 plug-in. I popped the lid on the ATR-102 and overbiased the machine to dull the top a bit. At the end I had just
what I needed, a beefy B-3 with a lot less whistle.
Just yesterday I got validation from mastering engineer
Gavin Lurssen. If you’ve been following this column for a
while, you know I’ve built my own small mix room. The first
project out the door was an 11-song set for recording artist
Gretchen Harris. I talked to Gavin before he started mastering and voiced doubts that my low-frequency decisions were
correct. I thought I was close but not certain and asked him to
be brutally honest. It was like waiting for medical test results,
but Gavin called back an hour later to say he’d listened to my
mixes and I was right where I needed to be. “Keep doing what
you’re doing,” he said.
Great fracking news? You betcha! I’ve gained confidence in
my LF and balance decisions, my room and my speakers, which
are Focal SM9s—a breakthrough product that has altered how
I listen. Being in a small room, I can now have two sets of monitors in the same speaker enclosure because the SM9s are both
a 3-way system with a passive radiator, and 2-way system, each
available at the push of a button. It’s the perfect way to check
what’s going on in the midrange and bottom end.
Skill-fracking is a big part of my day-to-day f low because
without growth I feel depressed and stuck. Stick with me and
this column for more fracking great tips as we roll on. n
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