Archive by Kevin Becka

Top Gear from 2010

This year saw a lot of great hardware and software hit the market as recession worries eased a bit and manufacturers invested in their future. The picks below are purely my own and humanely culled from a herd of worthy candidates. Please feel free to add your own in the comments below or on my Facebook or Twitter feeds. Talk amongst yourselves.

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1. API Channel Strip – Just released at AES in San Francisco, the API Channel Strip is comprised of a 512c mic pre, 550A EQ, 527 Compressor and 325 Line Driver.

2. DPA 5100 Surround Microphone – This covert and light surround mic was used extensively to record production audio for dpa.jpegHBO’s Treme. Read Joe Hannigan’s review where he used it to record in the 3,200 seat Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

3. Genelec 8260A Monitors – This slick new monitor from Genelec sounds great and brings a new and stealthy twist to a 3-way speaker making the reviewer call it “the reference standard in 3-way coaxial design.”

4. Focal CMS40 monitors – Lots of bottom end for a small enclosure coupled focal_cms40.jpgwith great stereo imaging makes these affordable desktop monitors a winner for up close listening.

5. JoeCo Blackbox Recorder – This sturdy, single rackspace box for live joeco_blackbox.jpgcapture is just the ticket for rock solid, multi-channel field recording.

6. Josephson C715 microphonejosephson_c715.jpgBringing new tech to the game, the transparent C715 from Josephson features a Lundahl transformer and a unique take on the protective grill/windscreen.

7. Nuendo 5 – This major upgrade has made Nuendo even more Post friendly and a great recording tool for studio use. Grammy winner Chuck Ainlay reviewed it in Mix’s October issue.

8. Nugen StereoPack plugins – The Nugen Stereo Pack plugin suite brings a whole new attitude to stereo placement.

9. Pro Tools 9 – One of many new products from Avid in 2010, Pro Tools 9 ports a lot of TDM features down to an affordable, scalable version of the world’s favorite DAW.

10. SSL Nucleus – This solid desktop DAW controller from SSL literally brings a lot to the table, including ssl_nucleus_audio_hub_aes_2010web.jpgenvied SSL preamps and plugins.

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PT9 Won’t Launch? Here’s The Fix

I installed Pro Tools 9 today on my MacBook Pro laptop (2.26 Intel Core 2 Duo/4G RAM) and ran into a snag when I launched it for the first time. I got the error:

“Pro Tools could not initialize the current playback device. Please make sure that the device has been configured correctly.”

After searching the web, I found the fix:

When the splash screen appears on the screen, hold down the “n” key on screen-shot-2010-12-02-at-24600-pm.jpgyour keyboard, which will eventually open the Playback Engine dialog for Pro Tools. At the top of this window, you will see the ‘Current Engine’ drop-down menu. Choose Pro Tools Aggregate I/O) and Click OK. Once you fix this, the problem will never return no matter what IO options you choose including built-in output/input or others.

By the way, I opened up the demo session provided on the install discs and with a few tweaks to the playback session it is running very well. It has over 30 audio tracks and 80+ plugins and 5 instruments. Impressive.

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Honey Honey Live from the Esquire House

I’ve been involved on the tech side of things at this year’s Esquire House studio in LA. We’ve got an SSL Duality, a Pro Tools HD3 system with the new Avid HD IOs, speakers from Genelec, a wide array of mics from Blue, instruments and amps from Fender, Moog, Korg and more. One of the bands who have made it up to record at the house is Honey Honey. Check them out:



Honey Honey – Back To You from Toy Human on Vimeo.

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Get Gobbler!

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I just found a new piece of software called Gobbler that organizes your sessions (across multiple DAW platforms) then allows you to archive and share them on an offsite, military-grade server. The files are encrypted and losslessly encoded and because they’re in the “cloud” you can share them more quickly than via straight upload and download. Comment below or via Facebook, and I’ll include your thoughts in my online review of the product.

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iPad Apps Control Pro Tools

Offering yet another reason to buy an iPad (but wait until January for the rumored new iPads with neyrinck_v-control_pro.giffaster processing and better battery life) Neyrinck has introduced V-Control and V-Control Pro. The apps, downloadable from the iTunes store ($19.99/$49.99), provide access to transport, editing, and mixing functions of any Pro Tools system connected to a Wi-Fi network. V-Control provides core features for portable, mouse-free recording and mixing while V-Control Pro provides fully-featured, professional control comparable to expensive hardware control surfaces. Both apps utilize the iPad surface and the iOS operating system to provide innovative features such as a big counter overlay, swipe gesturing to bank channels, and a popover plug-in editor.

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Pro Tools 9: OPEN for business

Thursday afternoon, in a worldwide pre-AES convention press/user event at the W Hotel in San pro_tools_9_box.gifFrancisco, Avid released the latest version of Pro Tools that fulfills the wish lists of users and then some. Completely re-written and compatible with Windows 7 and Apple OS X Snow Leopard (exclusive), the next generation of Pro Tools software offers more capability and flexibility than ever before. The new version replaces Pro Tools LE and spans upwards to Pro Tools HD TDM (Pro Tools M-powered remains untouched for now.)

Features include:

Compatibility with any audio interface including ASIO and Core Audio compliant devices (yes you can run PT9 without an audio interface by simply plugging in the new iLok interface)

Complete EuCon integration

ADC (Auto Delay Compensation)

Timecode OMF/AAF/MXF and MP3 export support

96 stereo tracks, 256 buses, 64 instrument tracks

If Pro Tools 9 for $599 is not enough for your workflow, you can step it up with the Complete Production Toolkit for an extra $1,299. This enables you to do virtually everything that Pro Tools 9 TDM can do, excepting HEAT and TDM plug-in integration. One of the questions that came up at the event was, “can you ‘freeze’ the effects of TDM/HEAT and port it down to non-TDM systems and the answer was “we’re working on it”.”

Prices are as follows:
Pro Tools 9 (stand alone SKU) $599
LE to Pro Tools 9 crossgrade $249
MP to Pro Tools 9 crossgrade $349
Pro Tools HD 9 upgrade $349
DVTK to CPTK2 $299
MPTK to CPTK2 $1,599

Click on the thumbnail to see Pro Tools system comparisonspicture-1.jpg

The only hole in the boat I can see is that Avid failed to bring 5.1 integration down to the basic system as does their competition (Logic, DP etc…) Other than that, the pricing and packages are competitive and once and for all proves that Avid is listening to and responding to the requests of its users.

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AES Preview: Miles in 5.1

Monster Music is about to release fresh 5.1 mixes of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain and Seven Steps, two of trumpeter’s collaborations with Gil Evans. The mixes were done at Germano Studios in New York by engineer David Rideau using new transfers taken sketches.jpgfrom the original 3-track masters.

I had a chance to listen to the transfered tracks in stereo and they are stunning. I own original vinyl and remastered CD versions of Sketches of Spain and the realism of the newly transfered tracks offers an unparalleled listening experience. For starters, (and I hope this makes the record) Gil Evans gives instructions to the players then counts off Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez. The transients of the castinets, harp and even the breaths of the flute players are captured faithfully at 96kHz-24-bit and puts you in the room. It literally raised the hair on my arm and is a top 5 listening experience. What’s most interesting is “seeing” the edits they made of the original takes, in one case the right channel dropping dramatically where the tape was cut, but it works in the context of the arrangement and has become part of the feel of the piece.

I can’t wait to hear the final in 5.1. If you’re in the neighborhood, the debut playback will take place at AES in San Francisco on Saturday Nov 6th, 4:30 til 6pm in Room 124 at the Moscone Center.

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Meet Pro Tools HD Native

In the third big product announcement this year, Avid has unveiled Pro Tools HD Native, a product aimed at filling the gap where LE leaves off and Pro Tools HD DSP starts. The new platform has more in common with HD DSP than LE, boasting a redesigned mix engine and greater access to the higher end features of Pro Tools at a fraction of the cost. Pro Tools HD Native consists of Pro Tools 8.5 (Snow Leopard and Windows 7) and a single PCIe card sporting two Digilink connectors each offering 32 channels.

The Pro Tools HD Native system offers:

  • The same feature set as Pro Tools HD DSP (minus TDM plug-ins, Heat and limited to 64 channels)
  • Delay compensation on hardware and software inserts
  • Input monitoring, speed control, destructive recording and Quick/Track Punch
  • The same track count and buffer count as HD DSP (192 tracks, 128 buses)
  • Full access to the new HD IO, HD OMNI, HD MADI plus Legacy “blueâ€? IOs (192 IO, 96 IO etc.)
  • Compatibility with Sync HD and Sync IO, Control 24, VENUE: DShow, MixRack and ProFile, ICON and Video Satellite
  • Lower latency figures than the native DAW competition (1.6 ms roundtrip delay at 64 sample buffer at 96kHz)
  • Full compatibility with RTAS plug-ins
  • Full hardware support for third-party ASIO and Core Audio apps

For near zero-latency monitoring in tracking situations, you can designate a single output as a “low latency monitor path�, meaning audio can be assigned from any input directly to this low latency path without hitting the computer. Once the track is taken out of record or input, it is then routed through the software mixer as usual.

Support for LE and M-powered will remain as is for now. I have a feeling there’s another product in the works but Avid is very tight lipped in this regard. On the downside, it’s not possible to monitor Pro Tools HD Native through the computer’s output without having an IO attached. Another limitation is that you can’t expand the system beyond 64 channels by adding another card. You’ll have to jump to Pro Tools HD DSP to go beyond the maximum.

For now there are three versions of Pro Tools HD specific to each hardware setup. Pro Tools 8.0.4 is for those using Legacy “blueâ€? IOs with HD DSP whereas Pro Tools 8.1 is for those using the new HD IO, HD Omni and HD MADI. Pro Tools 8. 5 is specific to Pro Tools Native. Eventually Avid will integrate all these into one app, but for now you must have the correct software for each setup and can’t easily jump from one setup to the other.

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HEAT Explained

Since posting my Top 5 Questions About the AVID Pro Tools HD Gear, I’ve opened up a dialog with the company. AVID recently sent me a link to a video interview with HEAT creator Dave Hill where he explains what the processor does and how it compares to his Phoenix plug-in. Dave is one of the few audio designers that is able to take his analog knowledge and successfully port it over to the digital realm. The video is a great insight into his thinking process when he creates analog models.

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5 Things I Learned at Mix Nashville

Mix Nashville ended a week ago and it was the best and most successful show the Mix crew has done to date. The panels were great and as always, I came away with solid insights into musicmaking and what’s on the audio horizon. Here are 5 of the best things I came across during the show.

  1. Grammy winning engineer Vance Powell (Jack White, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) is making a record with Seasick Steve. If you don’t know who that is, you should. He is an Oakland, CA native blues musician who is absolutely huge in the UK and Europe. Vance told me it was an all-analog record cut to 8 tracks and if it’s anything like Vance’s past work, it should rock. See the video at the bottom of the page from the Jools Holland show.
  2. Forget what you thought about downloads being the majority of new music sales. At an eye-opening dinner with Andrew Kautz, General Manager of Big Machine Records (Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood), he stated that for new releases, CDs still account for 80% of sales through outlets like WalMart and Best Buy.
  3. Mix Nashville panelists Shane Wilson and Russ long have DVDs available on the AudioInstruction website that take you through recording and mixing sessions. Knowing what these guys have done, I can only guess that these DVDs are packed with great info.
  4. Limitations are your friend. During the event, panelists stressed over and over the importance of knowing your limitations and using them to your advantage. For instance, Dave Brainard, producer of Jerrod Neimann‘s chart-topping record Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury, cut the entire record in a small office/recording space in Nashville with no budget. Neimann had been dropped by his record label and Brainard took the project on spec. He played a lot of the parts himself with the help of musician friends and Neimann sang all his own harmonies. Vance Powell also rang the “less is more” bell in his panel by stating that “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” So whether your limitations are based on circumstance or self-imposed. Embrace them.
  5. Like Candy Red Rocks. The band who closed our event consists of a three-piece rhythm section and three singing sisters that rocked the parking lot at Soundstage. Panelist and Nashville engineer Terry Christian introduced me to the drummer and told me that he and producer Michael Omartian often use the core of the band for production because they are solid as a section, know when NOT to play and are all great players. All true. Add the sisters who offer great vocals and eye bling and you’ve got an entertaining evening. Check the vid just below.

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