Archive for March, 2009

What’s On My Desk??

instasnake.gifThe ETS InstaSnake PA200 ($154 each) is a passive unit that sends audio signals up to 1900′ (dynamic mics) or 850′ (phantom-powered mics) over Cat-5. Cool solution for long XLR cable runs without signal degradation. You can also mix and match Mic/Line, Line or AES/EBU signals.

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GDC Exclusive: 5 Minutes With Sound Designer Rodney Gates

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Sound Designer Rodney Gates works at High Moon Studios in California where he uses a variety of remote recording and in-studio gear to produce sounds for some of Activision-Blizzard’s top games like DarkWatch and the Bourne Conspiracy. Click here to listen to my interview with Rodney where he discusses the toys and techniques he uses to make the sounds that make the game.

Click here to see photos of Rodney’s gear and location recordings.

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How’s YOUR Power?

furmanprodmc.gifHaving clean power and surge protection in your studio can make the difference between getting the job done professionally or suffering from noisy tracks and down time. Read our latest Mini Review where Barry Rudolph takes the Furman PL-PRO DMC Power Conditioner/Surge protector for a test drive. Download our product comparison chart to see how it adds up against the competition.

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M-Audio’s New CX5 and CX8 Monitors

M-Audio’s new CX5 ($399) and CX8 ($499) powered monitors feature either 5″ or 8″ bass drivers, a new m-audiocx8.gifwave guide and other features unique to this new line. Click here to listen to my interview with Richard Ngo-Tran, segment marketing manager with Avid Technology who explains the features and design philosophy behind these new speakers.

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What is this?

jeffcomp.gifThe Federal TV AM 864 u Peak-Limiting amplifier was manufactured for the US Army during the 50′s for use in AM broadcasting. Jeff Harris, a buddy of mine who was tech at The Village in Los Angeles for 16 years bought this baby in the picture for $100. Jeff altered the output, which is too hot for an audio console and brought it into the studio this week where I heard it across the inserts of a number of tracks. Jeff hasn’t done any restoration on this unit so it has a bit of noise when used on sustained instruments such as a bass guitar, but when inserted on a snare the noise is masked and you can hear how sweet it is. It reminds me of an LA-2A in its smoothness and “knee”. Click here to listen to a snare recorded with an SM57 then crunched through the 864. You can also download the original manual and schematics. The manual offers a bit of history that is worth a look just for the cool factor.

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Mini Reviews Launched

I’m excited to announce that the new Mini Review section at Mixonline.com is now ready to go. alesismastercontrolinterface.jpgThe online format lets us offer more resources than ever, in this case a video tutorial and product comparison chart. The first product is the Alesis MasterControl which is a surprising piece of gear for the price and scored 4 out of 5 stars. Click here to read the review

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Who’s Making Money?

I might as well be direct in my first post: It’s tough out there, no question about it. The fact that Wall Street was up four (!) straight days last week made front-page news, but it doesn’t change the fact that people are being laid off across all economic sectors and travel and retail are hemorrhaging. Nobody knows this better than we in the media. The Rocky Mountain News closure was soon followed by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (now online only). The Washington Post may be up for bid, and the rumors swirl about an employee buyback of my hometown San Francisco Chronicle. Like I said, it’s tough out there…
But I didn’t want to kick off “Things We Hear� with down news. There’s enough of that everywhere you turn. So I asked myself the obvious: Who’s making money?
Console makers, it turns out. Mid- to large-format. While I’m sure there are hundreds of 08-09 success and survival stories out there in the recording industry at large, recent news out of Solid State Logic, Fairlight, Euphonix and API tell us something about the state of console/control and the dynamics of emerging markets.
Phil Wagner, president of SSL, was up in the Bay Area a month or so back. His company was up 12% in 2008 and keeping it up in the first quarter. It wasn’t that long ago that SSL was pretty much a large-format console maker and Wagner was outfitting L.A. and points East with 9000 J and K Series boards. The industry changed (though there always seems to be a market for large consoles; just a shrinking one), and after a couple of years of hard times, Peter Gabriel and David Engelke purchased the company, Piers Plaskitt returned, and Wagner became head of U.S. operations. Since then, the company has entered the video and workflow markets, split off its channel strip, found homes for the C100, 200 and 300, struck dealer deals with Guitar Center Pro, released the popular AWS900 and combined it all in Duality, an analog/digital hybrid that has found a home in schools and top studios. Over breakfast, Phil told me about two new C200s that were about to go into two going into high-def trucks being built at the Sony facility in San Jose. One for the Latter Day Saints (who also purchased two C300s), the other for Mansion Media.
Over the past 25 years, Wagner has probably sold more big consoles to more big music studios than anyone else in the industry. He loves tradition, he loves music, he loves the 9000 at Record Plant. But of late he’s been telling all who will listen that the future of music is tied to picture. He’s even written about it. Not in a music video way, or even a concert DVD way. What’s new this time, he says, is that people are consuming music in different ways—sharing through Facebook, at their computers, straight to their phones . We talked about music piped into movie theaters, houses of worship, large-scale events. The demand is there for music and media, whether on a large scale or a small. Either way, production is tied to picture.

Fairlight
has always believed in sound tied to picture, though even they admit that they’ve had to reintroduce themselves to the U.S. market a few too many times and despite real investment in high technology and products that blaze, they’ve never really been able to crack the music market. They’ve done gangbusters in Asia, fueled by a longstanding relationship with leading Japanese broadcaster NHK, and done well in Europe with post and broadcast. Now they’re back in Hollywood and setting up a North America dealer network headed by Audio Agent. Business was up double digits in 2008.
I met up with CEO John Lancken and Xynergi evangelist (and two-time British Academy Award winner) Cliff Jones for a run-through of the new HD3D system, aimed at cinema, broadcast, post, gaming…you get the idea. We have videos up on mixonline.com about the high-def video recorder/player that comes with it, the 3D panner (customizable, but think 7.1 manipulation of sound sources, with top-center and top-rear, to give height), the 280 channels with independent effects. Lancken has long wanted an audio product to match the quantum leaps made in 3D video technology, and by combining the extreme processing speed of FPGA technology with the creative toolset for re-recording mixers, he may now have it. The video alone is worth the price of admission. The no-render-time speed is phenomenal. You’ll be seeing more of this.
Meanwhile, I haven’t had a formal sitdown with Euphonix since the AES show, but the company’s most recent release reported 2008 as their best year in the last 10, along with a move to new corporate HQ in Mountain View, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley. Here’s a company that virtually invented the workstation controller with its hybrid CS3000 (I can remember them showing a CS3000, with a Fairlight MFX3 dropped in the center section; it even made a Mix cover at Waves in L.A.), but the business has never come easy. It appears that the System 5 and its EuCon architecture, a surge in broadcast sales, and the release of the Artist Series of controllers has brought a new dynamism to the company. More later.
And finally, API. A great company, standing at the head of the never-say-die analog contingent that brings life and soul to our little corner of high technology. They’ve put out a channel strip, continued to build large-format Visions (this year: U of Michigan, Middle Tennessee State University, commercial studio in Europe to be announced next week at MusikMesse) and hit a home run with the release of the 1608, certainly affordable to many an independent producer/engineer at $50k. Read our 1608 review.

The company doesn’t generally like to publicize how many 1608s have been sold, though I’m not entirely sure why. I talked briefly with head of sales Dan Zimbelman, me from the office and he at his Maryland restaurant/bar/inn, where he was inventing a new cocktail for the menu (Jameson’s whiskey, a wisp of sweet vermouth and the juice of a blood-red orange; he’s calling it The Pope’s Revenge). He has told me before that the first 20 were sold before manufacturing began, and the next 20 were presold while the first 20 were shipping. Now, he says, with a wink and a nod, they’re “approaching 100� sold. And they were used on recent projects by The Fray, the Killers and Maroon 5.
There’s a lot of reasons that console makers can grow in a rough economy, and conversely have a tough time when the bigger picture is solid. Dan Zimbelman summed it up nicely, saying that “consoles are at the center of everything we do, and when you buy one you want to stick with it. We can’t do upgrades every year; but we can offer them tremendous value for the money.�
Please feel free to comment and send along your success stories!

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Hallmark Mic

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I recently had a birthday and got one of those cards that play audio. I de-constructed it to see what was inside and found a small 2″ speaker. I brought it to the studio where an XLR was added for fun, making it into a dynamic narrow bandwidth microphone. The results will vary and depend on the size: a larger the speaker will offer more low-pass filtering while a smaller the speaker will result in more hi-pass filtering. This is the concept behind Yamaha’s SubKick, which makes a great kick drum mic when paired with a proper mic like an AKG D 112 or Shure Beta 52.

In the example for download below, there’s a bit of compression added from a UA LA-4 which adds to the trash factor by bringing up the room in relation to the transients. Wiring old speakers in this manner is an inexpensive way to get a low-bandwidth vibe without having to resort to plug-ins, EQ and filtering. Since the XLR is three-pin and a speaker is just hot and cold, solder the speaker’s hot lead (red) to pin 2 on the XLR and the cold lead to pin 3 leaving the ground floating. Click here to listen to the 2-inch “Hallmark” mic placed 8 feet in front of a drum kit. Be sure to follow this blog on Twitter.

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What’s on My Desk?

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I just received the new Royer SF-24V stereo ribbon mic today for review. I’ll put some audio up once I get this into a session. A review is imminent.

Next to the mic in the pic, you can see the Alesis MasterControl Studio Interface which I’m reviewing for this blog. Keep an eye here for that next week.

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Welcome to Things We Hear

In Things We Hear, Mix editorial director Tom Kenny reports weekly from
inside the professional audio industry—in-studio, from the concert floor, on
the dub stage. The changes taking place in technology, production and
distribution are happening at a dizzying pace, and in Things We Hear, we’ll
provide the context that charts those changes and brings the news back
home. Stay tuned!

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