Archive of the TechTicker Category

Avid Releases Pro Tools 9.0.2 Upgrade

Avid has released the Pro Tools 9.0.2 upgrade that fixes 26 pages of bugs from previous versions. Fixes include annoying problems with Control Surfaces, Plug-ins,pt9-upgrade-902.jpg File and Disk Management, Video and more (read the full list here). The upgrade requires previous installation of Pro Tools 9 software and a Pro Tools 9 iLok license.

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Apogee Announces Product Development for Thunderbolt

Apogee Director of Marketing Sean McArthur brought more light to the company’s plan for the new Thunderbolt IO technology announced by Apple in the release of their new MacBook Pro laptops.

“Simply stated, Intel’s Thunderbolt technology on the Mac marks the end of difficult choices and the beginning of unlimited symphony-io-cover-off.jpgperformance,� he says. “In the near future, Thunderbolt will take the confusion out of choosing a professional connectivity standard for audio production.� McArthur continues, “Too often we have seen our customers frustrated by the options: Should I go with USB 3, FireWire 800, PCI cards and when is that LightPeak thing coming? Now we know, as manufacturers and customers, where we are headed.�

Apogee R&D designed architecture perfectly suited to embrace Thunderbolt. Symphony I/O’s modular, user definable system was the first step. AD/DA conversion modules (our primary technology) were designed to be independent of the Symphony I/O Chassis. This allows Apogee to address interfacing from the Chassis level without impacting I/O module implementation.

Powered by Thunderbolt, the Symphony I/O platform is the foundation of future digital audio production systems. Any Mac equipped with Thunderbolt technology and paired with Symphony I/O will deliver incredible, high-performance recording from the Hollywood soundstage to the hotel room nightstand.

More info coming soon on Apogee’s website

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Meet Thunderbolt

Today, Apple made a game-changing move with the introduction of Thuderbolt in its new MacBook Pro laptop computers. Developed by Intel and formerly known as apple-13-inch-io.jpegLight Peak, the pipeline is more than 12 times faster than FireWire 800 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0 and twice as fast as USB 3.0. Already, Avid and Apogee have released statements about it on their websites:

“Thunderbolt technology is connectivity without compromise and will enable the full promise of Symphony I/O, Apogee’s professional digital audio recording platform.”
– Betty Bennett, CEO, Apogee

“We are very excited by the capabilities of Thunderbolt technology. To have two 10Gbps, bi-directional, multi-protocol channels in a single cable is a great step forward for high performance audio and video solutions.”
– Max Gutnik, Sr. Director, Product Management, Avid Technology

For now there are no audio products that offer Thunderbolt IO, but watch for it to start becoming available in digital IO devices very soon.

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Fight Loudness, Win Gear

In an effort to bring awareness to the loudness wars, drd.gifMarch 25th is Dynamic Range Day in the UK and it’s being supported by some major manufacturers and engineers.

You can win an SSL X-Desk, Bowers & Wilkins CM-1 speakers or a mastering session at Fluid Mastering

They’re looking for support in the following ways:

Post your nominations for great, dynamic music in the comments section of their site
Add a Dynamic Range Day banner to your site or blog
Follow @DynamicRangeDay on Twitter – start talking and using the #DRD11 hashtag!
Put a post on your site or blog telling people about the day – include a link to this page
Sign up to the Production Advice Newsletter on their site

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Meet The Sonnox Game-Changing Plugin

Just released at NAMM and slated for a Spring launch, the new Sonnox Pro-Codec plugin has all the earmarks of a must-have plugin for those delivering audio in multiple formats. Produced in collaboration with mp3 creator, Germany-based Fraunhofer IIS, the Pro-Codec plug-in makes it possible precisely audition 5 multiple codecs in real time from within your DAW. All major sonnox2.jpgcodecs, including mp3, mp3 Surround, AAC-LC and HE-AAC are supported, as are lossless codecs such as mp3 HD and HD-AAC. Sonnox has developed an intuitive FFT display to illustrate the input signal, output difference signal and a unique graphical indication of the audibility of codec-induced noise.

Bit-stream integrity meters reveal potential decode overloads. Instant A-B auditioning enables engineers to glitchlessly switch between codecs. A ‘blind listening mode’ (ABX) augments codec comparisons by letting the engineer hear the outputs of multiple streams in a row without knowing the source. Then after making a true choice by ear, you can see which codec won the shootout by pushing the “Reveal” button.

I got the $10 tour in the Sonnox booth at NAMM and this plugin is well-designed and slick. You can instantly see if you’ll have any overs before committing to the burn, and also see and hear what artifacts the process is creating. This gives engineers yet another way to improve quality while saving the time it would take to produce these products on a one-off basis. You’ve got to love a product that gives you more control over your output while making your job easier.

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Avid Shutters PCI/PCIe Exchange

Early last week I got an email from an engineer who went to turn his Pro Tools PCI cards in for PCIe cards per Avid’s long running discount/exchange program and avid1.gifwas turned down by Sweetwater. I approached Avid and they said there was no announcement at this time about the exchange program ending. Two days later, I heard from my source again saying another retailer (Alto Music) had reiterated that the program was no longer in place and “someone high up at Avid emailed him (Alto music) and said the program is absolutely, positively DONE.” After more digging, I found out there is a new program in the works and much to Avid’s dismay, the news got out early to the dealers about the end of the exchange. More on this as the story develops. There should be word very soon on the end of the program and what’s going to take its place.

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Pro Tools 9: Rethinking IO Setup

One of the most noteworthy changes to Pro Tools 9 is how it manages outputs and buses. It’s main-screen.pngall good news here with Pro Tools 9 taking on a fresher view of IO with a more organized approach. Simple and often-repeated workflow tasks that used to take multiple steps are now more integrated and automatic. To get your head around Pro Tools’ new IO attitude, let’s get some “historical� perspective.
Track Submixing and Aux Sends
Like an analog console, Pro Tools allows you to use buses, inputs and outputs to route signal around inside the box. For instance, a bus can route audio from a number of track’s outputs to an Aux input for global control, or you can Send audio from a channel, post-fader, to an Aux input which could carry a plugin or group of plugins for effects such as reverb, delay and more.

In past versions of Pro Tools, this was accomplished as separate tasks, but now Pro Tools 9 integrates all these steps into one operation with the addition of the New Track option on every track and send output. (see fig. 1). After choosing New Track, you can specify the type of track (Audio, Aux or Instrument), then name the bus path and track in one step (see fig. 2). Pro Tools creates new or renames an existing bus for your specified task and lists it on the newly redesigned bus page (see fig. 3). It’s a very simple method that dramatically cuts workflow time. You can also assign multiple channels this way by first selecting a group of channels, then hold opt+shift before you pull down and select New Track from the Send or Channel output.
Paths and Subpaths
Pro Tools 9 has also changed how IO setup traditionally routed audio to gear outside the box. For instance, from IO setup, you used to designate and label outputs to route signal to specific locations, then carve them up into subpaths to better address separate or multi-channel inputs on hardware. But now, in Pro Tools 9, as never before, the output and bus functions are linked. This theoretically streamlines the process of moving sessions between Pro Tools 9 systems by letting you take your bus settings along with you, then remapping them to another system’s IO from the bus page.

Pro Tools 9 achieves this in part by moving the ability to make subpaths from the output page to the bus page. It’s easier to understand if you think of it this way: The output tab in the IO setup is your 30,000 ft. overview of the physical analog and digital interface outs, while the Bus tab is your zoomed in “street view” representing a breakdown of these master paths.

Creating Your IO World
Pro Tools 9 is versatile and you can run it old school style with buses and outputs numbered by the system. But in my opinion, to take full advantage of Pro Tools 9s new IO setup capabilities, it’s best to start with a blank output slate. You can do this by going to Setup – IO – Output tab, and select all outputs by holding option then clicking on any path. Once all paths are selected, use the Delete key to remove all paths. Then do the same on the bus page. (see fig 4). Inputs are not effected by this new setup so should be managed as they always have, whichever way you’re comfortable and accustomed to.

For starters, let’s dream up a system and use it for our sample setup. Let’s say our Pro Tools rig has a 5.1 playback system, a hardware 5.1 capable reverb using digital IO, and an 8 channel analog cue system for tracking that can be used as combinations of stereo or mono signal paths. Of course we’ll have to own an über amount of IO and cards to handle all this so let’s say we have an HD3 with 3 HD IOs providing 32 analog plus 24 AES/EBU digital in/outs.

Let’s start from the output tab under Setup IO. Here we’ll create master outputs for our system without worrying about specific subpaths because we will handle that on the bus page. Click on New Path, name it HD IO 1-6, choose 5.1 from the pulldown, and be sure to check the “add default channel assignments� box before you click Create (see fig. 5). If you don’t click this option, you’ll have to manually load the paths by clicking on the first empty box to the right of your path name and Pro Tools will lay out the channels according to your preferred multichannel setup.

Now let’s go to the bus page and see what happened (see fig. 6). Pro Tools 9 created a bus path (left of screen) that is mapped to the physical output path we just created under the output tab and named them both. This next step is key: Rename the bus path (left) to Surround Master (see fig. 7). By doing this, you can choose this output from any send or track out, and see the actual signal path. This is a great way to document what’s going on in a complex system especially on a system with multiple users (see fig. 8). Also notice on the channel output, the bus subpaths have been automatically created by Pro Tools 9. As you can see, this can get a bit cluttered so you may have to clear out unnecessary paths to clean up your output list.

Then create a path for the remaining two outputs on the first HD IO by clicking New Path on the Output tab, name it HD IO 7-8 and choosing stereo as the format. These are stragglers but should be accounted for. Pro Tools will create bus subpaths automatically on the bus page.

Once you have the idea of this, you can make the paths for your other hardware. If you follow the model above, you will see both the name of the gear and the physical output it is mapped to from the output or send pulldown, without going to Setup IO.

There is one last thing to keep in mind with this new setup. Buses mapped to outputs don’t count against your total bus count: despite it looking like you are using a bus, it goes behind the curtain and you get your bus back. So there are plenty of buses to go around in any size system.

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Pro Tools 8-9/Apogee Rosetta FAIL

Since Pro Tools 8 was released and now with Pro Tools 9 HD TDM, anyone using Apogee Rosetta 800 welcome_to_fail.gifconverters and a Big Ben on a rig using a Sync IO or HD have had problems with their setup. I’m close to two systems of this type which have repeatedly exhibited snatting, TDM bus overload errors and system crashes during sessions. None of the usual or suggested fixes like upping RAM, upgrading cards to PCIe, changing cables, trashing preferences, system resets/reboot and re-installing of firmware fix the problems. It is plain and simple a product mismatch that most likely will never be resolved. And it’s not just me, the Avid DUC has a thread on the topic chronicling the frustration of a number of users.

There are a few ways to fix this. One is to eliminate the Sync HD from your rig all together. However, this means you must switch sample rates manually on your Apogee hardware and give up trying to sync to tape or any other outside source using SMPTE for sync.

Another fix is to sell your Apogee hardware and purchase sanctioned Avid HD IOs or legacy 192/96 IOs. Or, according to DMEN writing on the DUC, “I got rid of my Rosetta and now I’m using an AD16x and a DA16x. All my problems have disappeared!!” However, buyer beware: since Avid does not sanction the use of third party converters for use with Pro Tools, what works today may not work tomorrow.

Because of the cost of purchasing new converters, the solution used here is to have a dual boot system. One drive running 10.5.8 Leopard OS X and running Pro Tools 7, and another running 10.6.4 Snow Leopard OS X running Pro Tools 9. The only stipulation is that your Sync HD firmware absolutely must be the release included with the install of Pro Tools 7. If you boot using the Pro Tools 9 drive, be sure your Sync HD is off. You must then manually set your sample rates on the Big Ben. Before booting from the Pro Tools 7 drive, turn on your Sync HD and your system will be solid as a rock, automatically changing sample rates and synching to outside sources without digital trash, crashes or pop-up error boxes.

Another issue is that Delay Compensation for hardware inserts in any version of Pro Tools does not work properly with Apogee Rosetta 800s or Mytek converters. I wrote about the fix for this in 2008 and just tested it again in Pro Tools 9 with the same results.

NOTE: Many thanks to Sean Conkling, Tony Nunes and Phil Nichols for their help with this post

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Needle Addict! My Vinyl Hours

I had a holiday full of audio epiphanies after listening to vinyl over the last few days. The audiotechnica_at440.jpgexperience got me thinking about technology and how it shapes our feelings and way of thinking. Not only had I forgotten how good the medium sounds, but how the listening process is so linear.

This all started because my wife bought me a turntable for Christmas. I had a blast setting it up then listening to lost treasures. My rig is by no means audiophile but it has good bones. My turntable is an inexpensive Numark but from there it’s all custom. I’ve had a new Audio Technica at440ml/occ cartridge sitting in the box for 10 years waiting for a deck so I set that up on the tonearm, switched the output of the Numark to phono and plugged the RCAs into a Parasound P/PH 100 phono preamp. From there I went into a Hafler 915 preamp on the way to my Genelec 8020A monitors and Hafler TRM10s subwoofer. It’s a simple, low-cost home system that sounds very good.

My first listen was transformative. I put on the movie soundtrack from West Side Story and when I put my head between the speakers it sounded fantastic. It was warm and full, with a great stereo image and of course noisy but it WORKED! What I noticed most was that on a well-mixed record, the mids and lows all seemed to work better than on the digital alternative with which I’m very familiar. I know this gets into the fragility of auditory memory and discussions on “Perception vs. Realityâ€? but I’ll leave those rants to others.

What I’m talking about is the emotional impact of vinyl. Time flew by as I put on side after side which included a lot great old records: Pat Martino’s ‘Consciousness’, Stan Getz’s ‘Getz/Gilberto’, Journey’s ‘Evolution’, Al Jarreau’s ‘Jarreau’ and more. After 20 minutes, I was off on another adventure. I sat and thought about the concept of the record, the recording quality, the players, arrangement and more. Then of course there is the album artwork and wealth of info on the credit list to dive into. All this isn’t something that’s impossible with digital playback, but I never do it because of the format’s ability to jump around and lack of physical collateral. There’s something more grounding and “organicâ€? (if you will), about vinyl. It was relaxing, seating my thoughts on the music, the sonic quality, the players, the production process and more.

I know I said I wouldn’t rant, but I also think that the lack of sampling has something to do with my experience. Rupert Neve agrees, thinking you must include audio up to 75kHz to truly experience anything near analog quality. He quotes Japanese studies that have shown that lack of music-related frequencies above 20kHz and the presence of switching transient noises produce unhealthy brain radiation resulting in feelings of discomfort, frustration and even anger. After my vinyl vacation, I tend to agree with him.

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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.

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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