Archive of the Music Recording Category

ROGER NICHOLS NEEDS YOUR HELP

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 2:02 pm

Roger Nichols
By George Petersen
ONE OF THE GREAT ENGINEERS OF ALL TIME, Roger Nichols, needs your help. And he’s not looking for an assistant engineer or someone to help dust his Grammy Awards. Roger quite literally is fighting for his life.
PHOTO: Roger showing his pool mix technique. (Image courtesy Deborah Gray Mitchell)
Last summer, Roger was diagnosed with Phase 4 Pancreatic cancer. Although quite serious, many of those afflicted survive for years with proper treatment. Unfortunately, the medical costs and bills have devastated the Nichols family, leaving them nearly bankrupt, making any chance of Roger taking part in some promising new treatments nearly impossible.
Once upon a time, Roger Nichols turned his back on a lucrative career as a nuclear engineer, turning audio knobs instead, and the world’s been a better-sounding place ever since. From his decades of work with Steely Dan, John Denver and other artists, Roger proved his production prowess while stretching the limits of technology. When the available gear couldn’t do the job, he’d invent solutions, such as the 1978 Wendel sampling drum computer (the first drum replacement device) or the Rane PaqRat, which transformed a lowly ADAT or DA-88 recorder into a 24-bit mastering deck. And if that wasn’t enough, his Digital Atomics company developed a vacuum desiccation system for tape restoration that offered an alternative to tape baking. Over the years, tracks Roger engineered (such as Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly) became established as standards for speaker demos in audio showrooms and AES booths—in either case, some pretty tough customers.
On a personal note, Roger was always a caring and giving person, whether serving on NARAS boards, or volunteering his time to lecture to college students and AES sections. In fact, I once convinced Roger into spending a week with me doing production seminars for the audio community in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That was a little off the beaten track, but Roger was quick to give up his valuable time for the benefit of others. Between his amazing legacy of recorded work (Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, John Denver, Rickie Lee Jones, Take 6, Johnny Winter, Placido Domingo, Roseanne Cash, The Beach Boys and so many more) and his benevolence in helping others, he has given so much to our industry.
Now it’s time we helped HIM out.
>>>You can donate to help Roger via PAYPAL. Any amount, large or small, is appreciated and will make a difference. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
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And please pass this link to as many people as possible. Thanks!

George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.

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FAME FOR FAMED ABBEY ROAD CROSSWALK

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 6:40 pm

 abbey road album cover
By George Petersen
THE PEDESTRIAN CROSSING that appeared on the cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album, located near London’s Abbey Road studios, has been granted a national landmark. It isn’t often that a crosswalk gets such attention, but it’s now been deemed as achieving Grade II status, which recognizes it as having “nationally important and of special interest.”
Actually, the current “zebra” crossing (called so due to its familiar striped pattern), is not in the precise actual location of the one on the record cover, as the present crosswalk is a bit farther down the street from the original locale, but it’s close enough. But certainly what is close is the number of close calls and actual injuries that result from people stopping to recreate that classic pose while friends stand in the middle of the street with their back to oncoming traffic to get the shot.

For some entertaining fun, check out this live webcam view of the famed Beatles crosswalk from Abbey Road Studio’s live video feed. Here’s the link CLICK HERE for live webcam link.

But either way, it’s certainly both a globally recognized (and oft parodied) icon as well as a major spot on most tourist itineraries. For the world’s most famous, it’s a fitting honor that’s long overdue.

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>>>For an exclusive, mini-video tour inside Abbey Road Studios (hosted by Gino Robair) CLICK HERE
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>>>For some historical insights into Abbey Road Studios by Mix’s Blair Jackson, CLICK HERE
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George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.

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LOSS OF A GREAT VENUE

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 3:47 pm

 Coda Jazz Supper Club
By George Petersen
ANOTHER VICTIM OF BAD ECONOMIC TIMES, San Francisco’s Coda Jazz Supper Club is slated to close Jan. 1, 2011. Owner Bruce Hanson created a wonderful, intimate venue spotlighting the great local jazz scene, with a top-end, all-analog sound system, great bar selection and fabulous cuisine.
In a world ruled by cheaper=faster=better, the words “audiophile” and “club installation” are rarely used in the same sentence. But that wasn’t the case with San Francisco’s Coda Jazz Supper Club, a new venue that took an analog-only approach to its sound system-without breaking the bank.
System designer Michael Ricci of Ricci Sound saw the project as a challenge. “The venue was previously a restaurant/DJ club with no acoustical treatment or considerations about AC power. It was a noisy mess,” Ricci said. “I suggested an all-analog route, with a Midas Venice 320 console feeding a system with no digital system controllers or Class D amplification.”
The focus was on sonic purity. The only digital component is a TC Electronic M-One XL that can be patched into the effects bus if needed. Also, no compressors or gates are employed. “That’s a major contributing factor to the fidelity of the install,” Ricci explained. “It’s all about headroom, and the system delivers more than 6,500 Watts. Compression and gating are not always necessary if the sound engineers know how to control and apply available headroom.”
The loudspeakers are all Bag End. Ricci worked closely with Bag End’s President Jim Wischmeyer and Jedi Audio Engineer Henry Heine. They suggested three Opal-I long-throw mains for LCR, two D18E-I double-18 subs, and PTA1200-RF powered floor wedges. Ricci liked the sound of the system, and he was equally impressed with Bag End’s level of customer service. “Without that support, I could not have installed this system on time or on budget,” he added.
The amps are Crown Audio and QSC, with Bag End’s Infra-MX2 dual integrator handling crossover duties and providing system protection. System EQ is a Klark Teknik Square One (mains) and two dbx 231s on the monitors. For more stage space, JK Sound of San Francisco was brought in to fly the system (including subs), ensuring the load is properly distributed across the ceiling beams.
In keeping with the analog theme, don’t expect to find fiber optics or Cat-5 wiring. “We ordered a custom, oxygen-free copper, thin-strand snake from Radial. It wasn’t ready in time for the club opening, so we used a generic brand snake at first,” Ricci recalled. “Installing the Radial made quite an audible difference.
Working with the electrical contractor, Ricci segmented the motors and inductive loads on a separate leg that came into the main switch panel to keep things like the freezer and soda dispensers well out of the audio system. But it didn’t stop there. “We also ran a separate isolated ground wire to each outlet and used hospital-grade outlets with the extra ground lug. We added Furman power conditioning to the FOH feed and amp racks for low noise. It all cleaned things up nicely.”
Tight budgets often mean acoustics are shortchanged, but Ricci applied some high-end approaches, such as constructing the stage with extra reinforcing mass and floating the structure, decoupling it from the floor with thick rubber slabs, much like recording studio construction. He put a 12in. cutout in the back stage wall, filled it with Owens Corning 701 and 703 fiberglass, and covered it with felt to create an effective bass trap. Hung above the stage, he built custom 4×4-foot absorber/diffusers. “These work great and help control the sound pressure level of the stage volume down in the room,” he said. “It really makes it easier for musicians to hear each other on stage.”
The best part? The system works. Throughout the venue, I heard sound levels that were even, with great fidelity and consistent coverage; this enabled mixers to realize Coda owner Bruce Hanson’s dream of an audiophile listening experience that showcases the area’s diversity of jazz artists.
If you’ve never experienced Coda, get in there for one of the last remaining dates. Check it out at Coda Jazz Supper Club
When not working on MIX stuff, George Petersen operates Jenpet Records. Click here for “Voodooville,” featuring Jenpet artist Chelle! & Friends performing at Coda.

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ADVENTURES IN SURROUND SOUND PRODUCTION

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 1:56 pm

chelle & friends banner
By George Petersen
I JUST PRODUCED A SURROUND SOUND ALBUM, which evidently is something akin to admitting you have mononucleosis or herpes simplex. Consumers seemingly have no problem sitting for hours in the safe cocoon of their living room/home theater, yet these days, don’t seem to be too engaged with any kind of audio format that requires the listener to remain in the listening area. Why? The reasons are many I suppose, but being deluged with a variety of short-lived surround audio formats never helped the situation. And if truth be told, there have been far too many unlistenable surround audio releases in past years. In fact, within my own recorded media collection, only a few dozen audio-only multichannel releases stand out.
With that in mind, co-producer JJ Jenkins and I could easily have been taken to the nuthouse for even attempting to do a new surround album in this day and age, but we had our reasons. For one, the band (Chelle and Friends) actually lends itself to a surround sound medium. The project (Voodooville: A Celebration of New Orleans) is a collection of songs by/about the Big Easy, performed by four world-class vocalists, accompanied by bass, drums, hand percussion and reeds (the latter mostly playing fills and solos). As a departure from the usual approach, the group has a whole lotta vocals, but no melody instruments, which opens up a lot of spatial possibilities without resorting to the whirling pans and “ping-ponged” sounds designed more for speaker demos than musical enjoyment.
One oft-overlooked aspect of modern production is the performances themselves. Nothing sterile or pre-programmed here. This thing jumps. Voodooville’s musical genre is not easily defined—it’s jazz, funk, soul, rock, blues, gospel, Cajun, Creole, Caribbean, African and more—all stirred into this stewpot of musical gumbo that’s sweet, spicy, aromatic and definitely intoxicating.
Any performance by New Orleans native Michelle Jacques (and her very special friends) is like Mardi Gras itself. Swamp pop classics such as “Hey Pocky Way” and “Wang Dang Doodle” are followed by a breathtaking version of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans”—a song far more poignant in light of recent events. From that depth of emotion, we’re lifted up by “Fire Water” and “See You Later, Alligator” before the title track, which emphasizes “There ain’t no getting out of Voodooville,” with the infectious rhythms and mystic images that still haunt the Vieux Carre. Despite its name, “Pearly Gates” is anything but gospel, and concludes the album like a glass of fine cognac after a great meal.
voodooville DVD coverIn selecting a surround release format, we sidestepped the lure of releasing the music on a specialty format du jour, instead opting for the universality of a standard DVD-Video disk. So it’s an audio album released on a video DVD format—playable on any DVD player—but with still images accompanied by a choice of three soundtracks (5.1 surround sound in Dolby Digital or DTS formats) and an uncompressed 24-bit stereo PCM track—a pretty nice bonus item, if you ask me. Also, in creating the 5.1 masters we spent hours experimenting with various mix parameters to optimize the surround codecs and it shows in the final product.
I’m probably crazy, but the notion of releasing surround audio on a format that’s actually accessible to the average consumer has a lot of merit. Recently, my co-producer JJ Jenkins heard the familiar sounds of “Voodooville” playing in a Sears store, where the sales guy was using the disk to demo a home theater setup, and a small crowd of people gathered. They weren’t elite audiophiles and probably most of them had never heard a surround audio album, but were certainly enjoying the sounds. And that’s always the point of any musical performance—live or recorded. Works for me.
As a sidenote, I should admit that yes, we also released the project as a stereo physical CD and as Internet downloads, but mixing (and listening) in 5.1 is definitely a lot of fun and with the ease of playback folddown from surround to 2-channel, it’s too bad that a single universal surround format doesn’t exist, although I guess there’s always MP3-surround…
If you’re curious, click here to check out a taste of “Voodooville” on You Tube. Unfortunately, the clip is merely stereo, but with a little imagination, anything is possible.

George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.
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LIVE FROM MIX NASHVILLE

By George Petersen
THIS WAS A TOUGH YEAR FOR MIDDLE TENNESSEE. And it was especially hard on Soundcheck, Nashville’s premiere live sound showcase for tour rehearsals, with off-the-road storage for instruments and backline for major tours, and on-site offices for leading companies such as Meyer Sound, Shure, Digital Console Rentals, Fender, Peavey, Tour Supply Inc., and others. And back in mid-May, when the once-in-a-century rains caused the Cumberland River to rise well over its flood stages, Soundcheck was at ground zero, and in a matter of hours was completely submerged. We had planned to host our sister publication’s annual Mix Nashville live sound and recording series just days later, and postponed the event until September 13 and 14, 2010.

Meanwhile in those months since the waters subsided, Soundcheck has been going nearly 24/7 to get back on line, pulling out drenched sheetrock, tearing out soaked carpeting, re-wiring and re-building, while rare guitars and amps went into a dry triage facility, where world-class restoration specialists went to work. Now, after this almost Herculean effort, Soundcheck is back.

It took a while to line up new dates for Mix Nashville that would work for sponsors, attendees and, most importantly, Nashville’s audio community. But we’re moving full-steam ahead with our favorite event of the year. Nashville is a recording town and there are plenty of programs catering to the studio crowd, but we’re also offering expanded programming, with two full days of presentations and panels focusing on live sound.

Hosted by Meyer Sound and Yamaha, Soundcheck’s Studio D will be the central point for all things Live, with three presentations each day from the sponsors, and I’ll be moderating two stellar industry panels featuring top-level industry pros offering advice and insights from their years of experience. The first, on Monday afternoon at 2:30pm, is “Sound System Meets Venue—Selecting The Right Playback Package,�? which given the selection of range of gear available today, will look into answering some tough questions about creating the right system for any installation. At 2:30pm on Tuesday, the topic will shift to “What’s Next? Technologies That Will Drive the Next Five Years in Sound Reinforcement.�? And with all that’s going on—from consoles to plug-ins to processors to snakes to system control to wireless—this should provide a fascinating glimpse into determining what’s around the corner and on the horizon.

Best of all, the event is FREE to all greater Nashville residents, and a mere $39 for earlybird registrants from outside Davidson County. Visit the Mix Nashville website today for all information and links to registration. Hope to see you there!
George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.
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FAREWELL, KEITH BARR

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 2:14 pm

Keith Barr, 1949-2010
Keith Barr 1949-2010
By George Petersen
I’M LOSING A LOT OF FRIENDS LATELY. And not Facebook “friends�?, but real, amazing human beings that are no longer with us. The other day, it was Keith Barr, the genius who founded Alesis and was a co-founder of MXR, who passed away at 60. Besides some of the greatest stompboxes ever devised, Keith also led the team that created the Alesis ADAT digital modular digital multitrack recorder that—while mostly obsolete today (digital TAPE recorders?)—forever changed the audio world. For a more compete background on the life of Keith Barr, go to “In Memoriam—Keith Barr”
Even today, there are major holdovers from the ADAT technology, such as the LightPipe standard for carrying eight channels of digital audio over a fiber optic strand, and the company still continues, but perhaps the huge legacy of Keith Barr came from the vast number of industry pros today who were lucky enough to be part of the Alesis empire in Southern California and developed their marketing / sales / engineering / management / manufacturing chops there. The list of alumni from that great organization is substantial and they all share a bond from working within that team environment.
Farewell, Keith. You left us all too soon, but your mark on the industry is indelible and long-lasting and will continue to be felt for years to come. Rest in peace. You will not be forgotten.
George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.
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BAD, SAD NEWS ON TEEN HEARING

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 12:13 pm

By George Petersen
MAYBE I SHOULDN’T BE TOO SURPRISED, but a study in the August 2010 Journal of the American Medical Association states that the number of teens with hearing loss is on the rise over the past two decades—now about 20% or one in 5. No specific cause or culprit is stated, but maybe, just maybe it’s kids LISTENING TOO LOUD!! Way back when I was a kid, I’d listen to loud music, but not in cars with 130+ dB systems or with earbuds in my head 24 hours a day. Sometimes even ears need a little rest from the assault

NPR just did an article on the subject. Here’s the link: “Study: Hearing Loss Increases In U.S. Teens” It’s great reading. Do someone you know a favor and pass it along.

George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.
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THE FAMILY WAY: Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, 1912-2010

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 1:57 pm

By George Petersen
FEW MAJOR COMPANIES IN PRO AUDIO are family owned—among these, examples such as Meyer Sound, Peavey and Sennheiser come to mind. Yet in such cases, each of these companies has managed to retain a close-knit family atmosphere among those who work at the company. So it is with great sadness that I heard the news about Sennheiser founder Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, who passed away just a few days after his 98th birthday.
Dr. Fritz Sennheiser
Dr. Fritz Sennheiser
Born in Berlin on May 9, 1912, Fritz Sennheiser’s father wanted him to study landscape architecture, but with the 1929 stock market crash, the 17-year-old saw little future in landscaping during those perilous times and instead entered the electrical engineering/telecommunications program at Berlin’s Technical University. After attaining his PhD, World War II broke out and Dr. Sennheiser continued his research, heading the Institute for Radio Frequency Engineering and Electroacoustics in Hannover.
In 1945, post-war Germany was in shambles. In June of that year, Sennheiser founded Laboratorium Wennebostel (“Labor W�?) with a staff of seven employees in an abandoned laboratory of Hanover’s Technical University. German scientists were then prohibited from doing radio technology research, so Sennheiser used his savings to create a business making millivoltmeters for Siemens.
Soon after, Labor W was contracted to build microphones for Siemens. Later, the team designed its own mic, debuting the MD2 dynamic in 1947. The company expanded into other products, such as amps, intercoms, transformers, and headphone capsules. Based on a lab model developed in 1949, the 1956 MD 82 was the first shotgun mic. A move into wireless mics followed a year later.
By 1958, the company had 450 employees and changed its name to Sennheiser Electronic. Sales grew tenfold, but Sennheiser always returned to the community, splitting his time between running the company and teaching at Hannover Technical University—a tradition continued by his son, current company chairman, Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser.
In 1982 on Dr. Fritz Sennheiser’s 70th birthday, the management of the company was transferred from father to son, but this did not change Sennheiser Electronic’s role as a technology leader. The company has received numerous accolades in this regard, including a 1987 award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for the industry-standard MKH 816 shotgun mic, and a 1996 Emmy for developments in RF wireless.
Sennheiser Electronics is successful, but the business integrity instilled by Dr. Fritz Sennheiser remains a priority. Son Jörg Sennheiser once refused a lucrative deal to produce 200,000 weatherproof mic capsules when he realized they were to be used as land mine triggers. Yet this concern for others has always been the company way, a policy dating back to the early days of Labor W, when Dr. Fritz Sennheiser invested his savings to create jobs for his co-workers.
Dr. Fritz Sennheiser’s years of innovation, combined with a sense of caring and creating a family atmosphere at work live on in the company he started 65 years ago. He will not be forgotten.

George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.
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READY FOR NEUMANN STUDIO MONITORS?

By George Petersen
photo of Neumann studio monitor
WORLD RENOWNED FOR ITS PRO MICROPHONES, Neumann has announced it is adding Neumann-branded studio monitors to its portfolio. The new line will be based on products from Klein + Hummel—another company iin the Sennhsiser family of products. K+H monitors earned an excellent reputation in European marklet, but are less well known in other countries, particularly in North America.
“This will certainly change in the near future, because the Neumann brand is well-established in the international studio world,? says Wolfgang Fraissinet, president of marketing/sales at Neumann Berlin. “We anticipate a strong synergy effect here.?

historical georg neumann photo
Neumann is no stranger to non-microphone technologies, such as record lathes and studio consoles. In this rare photo, company founder Georg Neumann (left) experiments with an optical film sound recorder.
“In the history of the company, Neumann stands for far more than microphone technology, “ Fraissinet continues, “and over the decades we have also produced record-cutting equipment and studio consoles, for example. Our expertise in transformer design for the microphone—as well as in signal processing and digital audio technology, has already been demonstrated. In addition Neumann has a leading role in the area of high technology, which is successfully implemented, for instance, in the digital microphones of Neumann’s Solution-D series.?
Existing K+H studio monitors are being incorporated into the Neumann product portfolio as the “KH Line.? Over time, new products will be developed to fullfil the needs of high-end studio professionals. The first new studio monitors carrying the Neumann label will be launched later this year.
Neumann Synergie logo
The new Neumann Synergie logo
So far, Neumann has been secretive about the new products, other than unveiling a new logo for this symbiosis of the two technologies, known as Neumann Synergie. The circular logo shows a microphone grill on the left, a speaker cone on the right, with a gentle sine wave shape separation between the two. So the rest of us will have to wait until later in the year for more details on Neumann’s first studio monitors. Stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.
Go here for more information about Neumann’s existing K+H monitor line .
When not working on Mix stuff, George Petersen records and performs with the SF Bay Area-based rock band ARIEL. Check ‘em out at www.jenpet.com.
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UNEARTHING BEATLES ARCHAEOLOGY

Filed under: — George Petersen @ 1:25 pm

By George Petersen

Original 4-track master tape from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions. Click on image for a large detailed view.
Original Sgt. Pepper’s session master tape
CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE LARGE VERSION


NORMALLY, LOOKING AT A TAPE BOX IS NO BIG DEAL, but when it’s an original multitrack master tape from a Beatles session, we’re dealing with pure audio archaeology. And with today’s 09/09/09 Beatles hoopla, I thought I’d share a bit of Beatles history…
Years ago, while on a jaunt in the U.K., I was fortunate enough to get way, way close to this holy relic and somehow had the foresight to snap a picture of the tape in question to share with you now.
What you see here is a 4-track master on 1-inch tape from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions. Using two 4-track machines to create tunes with eight or more tracks using tape editing, track bouncing and manual sync methods, The Beatles, George Martin and crew went through a LOT of tape in the course of producing the album.
Recorded at 15 inches per second (the maximum speed on a stock Studer J37 deck) at Studio Two in EMI Record’s Studios on London’s Abbey Road on January 20, 1967, this 10.5-inch reel tape contains tracks from “A Day in the Life,” with rhythm on track one, vocals on track two, bass/drums (and apparently tambourine) on track three and orchestra on track four. The notation beneath the track listing notes that a better phrasing of the words “blew his mind out in a car” is on another 4-track tape recorded with a different take.
Recorded on February 2, 1967, the other 4-track tune on this tape is “Sgt. Pepper’s,” with rhythm on track one, effects on track two, horns on track three, and vocals (with printed echo) on track four.
The “GE” initials on the box indicate the engineer was Geoff Emerick, with PMc (Phil McDonald) assisting on the first session and “RL” (Richard Lush) on the second date.
The tape itself was EMI’s house brand.
Who says that archaeology is all about ancient history?
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George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.

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