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Mix Webcast: Tracking The Band

On September 30th, please join me for a free, live webcast I’m doing titled Tracking The Band. Registration also enters you in a raffle to win a Mackie 1640i console/interface valued at mackie-onyx-1640i.gif$2,199. Register Here

This webcast will illustrate how, with the right tools, you can make tracking, overdub and mix workflow mimic that of a large pro studio, even on a tight budget. Mix technical editor Kevin Becka will track a song, start to finish using an Onyx 1640i and Pro Tools M-Powered on a MacBook Pro. Using iMovie and audio, Becka will break down the recording process, from mic choices and setup on drums, guitar, bass, piano and vocals, all the way through to the mix. He’ll also interface an array of new mics and other gear into the workflow plus great tips on processing.
After the presentation, there will be a live Q&A, straight to your desktop where you can ask Kevin, and representatives from Mackie directly about the experience. If you’re looking to tune up your music production skills, come join us for this special webcast, Tracking the Band, and learn how to make your recordings sound like the pros.
Registering for the Webcast enters you in a raffle for the Onyx 1640i, a $1600 value
Topics covered by the webcast will include:

1.    Recording guitar, bass, drums, piano, synth, sax and vocals
2.    Proper mic choice and placement
3.    EQ and compression tips
4.    Studio communication
5.    Jumping between tracking, overdub and mixing workflows
6.    Setting up headphone mixes while recording, both to and from the DAW
7.    Interfacing outboard gear such as compressors and time-based processors
8.    The benefits and methods of analog summing.

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Top 5 Questions About The New Avid Pro Tools HD Gear

As you’ve probably heard, Avid has released new Pro Tools HD interfaces and software. This release has been anticipated, to say the least, as Digidesign (now Avid) has not upgraded their IO since the initial release of the products in 2002 then the release of Accel a year later. The release is substantial but their press release leaves some questions unanswered.

  1.  Why not change the cards too?
    Besides the color and new logo, the new HD IO doesn’t look much different on the outside, however the interface has been redesigned from the bare hd_i_o-front.jpgbones. There is a new clock, converters, power supply, filters, lower latency figures and it will support 16 analog ins and outs. It seems Avid has seen improvements third-party companies like Black Lion Audio have made to existing Pro Tools IOs and have stepped up their game. Nonetheless, the HD DSP cards (HD1, Accel etc.) have not changed. This is a bit surprising as chip technology has gone through the roof in the last 8 years. I’m also surprised Avid hasn’t more fully embraced FPGA technology that companies like Fairlight, Calrec, Digico and others have used for some time now. Yes it’s an upgrade, but there’s nothing really groundbreaking here.
  2. What about Sync HD?
    This is a simple answer. New Sync HD units will undergo a cosmetic change only to match the new hardware.
  3. Why doesn’t HEAT offer individual channel controls?
    HEAT ($495) is the new software option co-designed by Crane Song’s Dave Hill who created the similar Phoenix plug-in ($450). HEAT is not a plug-in but a global software add-on that can be individually turned on and off per channel and placed either pre or post insert. There are only two controls, Tone and Drive that manage HEAT changes across multiple tracks. While it’s nice to have this as a Pro Tools built-in, it falls short of the Phoenix plug-ins capabilities and is more expensive.
  4. Does Pro Tools 8.1 fix promised bugs?
    Last October I wrote about some annoying Pro Tools bugs, some of which didn’t make it into 8.0.4. I was promised by a Digi rep that some of the other bugs were put on a fix list for 8.0.5 which was bypassed with this new 8.1 release. One of my pet peeves has to do with Pro Tools and the C24 controller. The Sends buttons on the C24 will not switch the sends view in Pro Tools necessitating a trip back to the mouse. This has been an issue with Pro Tools since the C24 was released in 2008 and especially disappointing since this feature worked on the Control 24 , the surface that the C24 replaced.
  5. What about Euphonix? At the 2010 NAB convention in April, Avid announced they had purchased Euphonix and “will deliver a broad range of audio and video control surfaces and consoles designed to meet the needs of customers ranging from the independent professional to the high-end broadcaster.” So what’s the status? It seems that this release would have been a great opportunity to include Euphonix. Perhaps Pro Tools EUCON compatibility? Hello? Beuller?

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Avid Bows New Pro Tools HD Products

I’ve been sitting on this news for a while but now it’s official. Avid has released three new Pro Tools interfaces, two of which offer a built-in soft-knee analog limiter. There’s also a new software option for Pro Tools HD called Heat ($495) designed with Crane Song’s Dave Hill, maker of the Phoenix plug-in. Avid is also releasing Pro Tools 8.1 in conjunction with these new products which they say is a minor upgrade. Despite the hoopla surrounding the products, the release leaves some unanswered questions about the new gear.

I’ll be seeing and hearing these interfaces next week at a studio in LA I’m helping put together for Esquire magazine. It’s a very cool project and I’ll have more news and pictures on this installation and what my experience is with the new gear very soon.

Here’s the product descriptions released by Avid today:

HD I/O, HD OMNI and HD MADI interfaces for Pro Tools|HD enable customers to achieve the hd_i_o-front.jpghighest-quality audio with improvements to digital audio conversion quality, a variety of new configuration options and increased support for open digital standards like the popular MADI protocol.

Features include advances in design, filtering and clocking and flexible digital I/O connectivity, which offers support for a variety of formats. Additionally, Curv, a new soft-knee analog limiter hd_omni-fntwht.jpgin HD OMNI and HD I/O, cuts the time customers spend re-recording and editing by tracking hotter signals when recording, preventing distortion when overloading inputs. The new I/O options include:

HD I/O (8x8x8 Analog/Digital $3995; 16×16 Analog $4995; 16×16 Digital $2495): Enables customers to achieve the highest-quality audio record and playback with three optional space-saving configurations—16×16 analog, 16×16 digital and 8x8x8 analog and digital—in a 2 RU rack mountable interface.

HD OMNI ($2995): Frees up customer workspace by integrating the functionality of numerous costly outboard components into an all-in-one premium sound solution for recording, mixing and monitoring. Features include state-of-the-art conversion, two world-class mic pre-amps, headphone outputs, a full-featured surround monitor section and a 14×26 channel persistent mixer that functions even when the computer is off—letting users listen to CDs, MP3 players, keyboards and drum machines without the need for an additional mixer.

HD MADI ($4995): Opens up workflows and speeds production time for broadcast, live sound and post production sound professionals by offering the ability to easily connect Pro Tools|HD systems to industry-standard MADI infrastructures, without the need for a format converter. Built-in sample rate conversion on all inputs and outputs allow customers to integrate into hd_madi-front.jpgworkflows with multiple sample rates (upstream and downstream) using a single, 64-channel 1 RU rack mountable interface.

HEAT ($495)— Premium Analog Warmth in a Digital Package, Minus the Plug-Ins
Designed in collaboration with digital/analog engineer Dave Hill of Crane Song, the HEAT software option for Pro Tools|HD systems is an innovation for mixers who value the warmth and sound qualities of tubes, tape machines and analog consoles, but want to eliminate the complications and expenses of using tape machines and vintage outboard processors, or managing plug-in changes across multiple tracks. Customers can now directly add the best sounding euphonic qualities to every track in the Pro Tools mixer using a single, global control, dramatically enhancing sound quality and improving settings management.

Bundle Prices:


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Airfield Audio Liminator 2

This week, I’m doing a pre-production recording session for a Mix Recording The Band webcast on Sept. 30th and just got a new toy in to play with during the session. Airfield Audio’s Liminator 2 is a airfieldliminator.jpgstereo solid state compressor that features dual input transformers. One of the cooler switchable options is a choice between Jensen or Sowter input transformers for a grittier or cleaner tone. Other controls include variable Threshold, Attack, Release, Ratio and switchable meters (in/out/GR). We popped the top and all pots are matched and the entire unit is handmade. Good stuff!

More info later on the webcast which features the Mackie Onyx 1640i console as the in/out solution for a session recording to a laptop running M-Powered Pro Tools. I’m using great mics and a lot of OB gear inserted during tracking and mixing. Should be very cool and I’m already having fun setting it all up.

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Apogee Unveils New Symphony IO

With pricing for the base unit starting at $1,695 and additional IO at $1,995, the Symphony IO sym_io_fp.jpgfrom Apogee looks pretty slick. It speaks Pro Tools, Logic Pro and Core Audio and is packed with options being rolled out in a staged fashion with different IO add-on modules bowing monthly. Features include:

  • The latest in Apogee conversion and clocking technologies
  • 32 simultaneous channels of user-configurable, scalable IO
  • Five add-on I/O Modules to include:
  • 8 Analog I/O + 8 Optical I/O
  • 8 Analog I/O + 8 AES I/O
  • 8 Mic Preamp
  • 16 Analog IN + 16 Optical OUT
  • 16 Analog OUT + 16 Optical IN
  • Audio Interface Mode (AIM): Easily configure Symphony I/O from the front panel for these modes:
  • Symphony (connect to Symphony PCIe card or Symphony Mobile Express/34 card for ultra low latency use with Logic or any Core Audio application)
  • Pro Tools HD (connect directly to Pro Tools PCIe card)
  • USB (connect to high-speed USB 2.0 port)
  • StandAlone (I/O inputs routed directly to I/O outputs)
  • Front panel control including two encoder knobs for selectable input gain and output level adjustment and sixteen (16) high-resolution meters, audio system and clocking indication
  • Two (2) studio quality headphone outputs
  • Four (4) word clock connections
  • Future proof with Ethernet and USB computer connectivity to be available with a future firmware update.


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Auto-Align plug-in: Snake oil or not?

I’m always skeptical of products making hard-to-believe claims, but the new Auto-Align plug-in from Sound Radix might have something here (within reason). I’ve asked for a review copy for Mix for further evaluation across a wider range of examples but the two YouTube videos below explain a lot. The first example is a recording of an amped guitar using two mics at different distances that clearly exhibits comb filtering when combined, the result after running them through the plug-in is impressive. However in the second video which is a drum recording, the jury is still out. Yes there is more low frequency content after the plug-in is applied, but how does this aligned OH and snare sound with the rest of the mics on the kit (kick etc.). In the big picture, phase alignment is a good thing and you could technically align every mic perfectly on a drum kit using this or other methods. But does that really sound “right”?

Sound Radix has put some thought and innovation into their interface. The meters display frequency content with lower frequencies represented by wider bars while higher frequencies are thinner. There’s also a spectral phase correlation meter and noise floor reduction adjustments which all seems pretty intuitive. It’s $149 and would be a valuable tool in some cases, so based on just these examples, I’d give it a BUY.

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Top 10 Pro Tools Speed Tips

Pro Tools Quick Keys and other features can increase your workflow resulting in more $$$ in your pocket. The following ten tips are my favorite for jetting between screen sets and other tasks in short order.

1. Window Configurations – Jumping between screen setups is a breeze with this handy feature. They can also be saved and imported into any session.

2. Shift + Command + G – Suspending/Unsuspending Groups quickly gives you better individual control over your mix

3.  Command + Comma – Creating Sync points allow you to spot a specific audio event (such as a drum hit or sound effect) anywhere on the timeline. First, move the cursor to your sync point and push Command + Comma to make your sync point. Then move your cursor to the location where you wish to move the sync point and push Control + Shift and Click on the region to lock it to the new location

4. Command + = – Quickly jump between the Mix and Edit window with this command

5. Command + 4 (10-key) – Use this to gain quick access to the Automation Enable window to see what’s being written when you put a track in Write and push the space bar

6. Command + 5 (10-key) – The memory location window give you quick mouse access to your markers, even when they’re off screen

7. Command + M – Mute sections of a region and bypass cumbersome automation controls all together with this command. First, select a section of audio you wish to mute, separate the region with Command + E. Then use Command +M to mute the region. You can do this with Pro Tools playing or not allowing you to mute sections live or offline using markers.

8. Option + Page Up – No matter where you are on the timeline, use this command to scroll your Pro Tools screen to the left

9. Shift + Control + P – This command will select an adjacent track in the Edit window. Use Control + P to jump between tracks.

10. Command + Option + B – After making a selection on the timeline, jump quickly to the Bounce To Disc menu with this command.

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What’s a Pomplamoose?

Pomplamoose is a word derived from pamplemousse, the French word for grapefruit but it’s also picture-2.jpga fresh and inspiring musical collaboration between the Bay Area’s Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte. The duo writes and performs their own music and some incredible covers all which are posted on their YouTube channel and iTunes. The covers are numerous and range from Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose to Lady Gaga’s Telephone which has over 4 million hits. It’s all produced at home and deceptively low-tech while offering high-end results.

Their musicianship is excellent, arrangements skillful and their videos are playfully edited and addictive. It’s all performed on a simple and revolving range of instruments with Nataly’s vocals artfully stacked on top.

Nataly and Jack have embraced the web and turned it into a creative outlet that has taken them beyond the Bay Area to collaborations with the likes of Ben Folds. They were recently interviewed on NPR where they explained to host Linda Werthheimer how they’ve made a living off of YouTube, despite never printing or selling a single CD, being signed to a label or having a publicist.

With nearly 28 million upload views and over 150,000 subscribers, it will be interesting to see what comes out of their work with Folds and other musicians in the future. Keep your ears (and eyes) on Pomplamoose.

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Moving Audio and Markers in Pro Tools

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of analog to digital transfers from 2� tape to Pro Tools. Sometime I’ll have a problem where my Pro Tools session timecode and the SMPTE striped on my 2� don’t line up. When the math is simple, like compensating between 1:00 on one format and 3:00 on the other, adding an offset in Pro Tools is a simple solution. However, other times where the time gap is greater or an odd amount, I like to move the audio so it will line up with the tape.

Moving Right
In this first example, my session, SMPTE start time and audio pic1-zerostart.pngall start at zero. For simplicity sake, let’s say the audio needs to be moved to a 1:00 SMPTE start time (to the right). It could however be any SMPTE number later in the timeline.

Because a session can consist of a lot of regions, the safest way to proceed is to select all tracks and regions and make a region group before you move them. To start, Option + click on any track name to select all channels. Then in order, click your cursor anywhere on a region, hit Return then Command + A to select all regions. Then, to make a region group, press Command + Option + G. It’s now simple to move it to any timecode location by putting Pro Tools into Spot mode then selecting the group with the grabber tool (hand). pic2-spotting-region-group.pngThe Spot Dialog window will pop up where you can type the SMPTE start time in the Start window.

The audio is now moved to the new location but any song markers are still at the original location. You can move the markers by clicking and dragging across them in the marker area and copying them with Command + C. You can place them at the beginning of the new audio location with a Command + V. To finish the job, ungroup the regions by selecting the group and pushing Command + Option + U.

Moving Left

The second example is moving audio from later on the timeline to an earlier location pic-a-regions-and-markers-at-10.png while maintaining the original SMPTE start time. In this case, the audio’s timecode start time is 10:00, but the session start time is at zero leaving a huge gap before the song starts. The intention in this case is to move the audio closer to zero min/sec (left) while maintaining my original SMPTE start time of 10:00.

Start by making a region group as described above. Next, set the session start time to pic-b-new-session-start.png9:00, a minute before our target SMPTE number of 10:00. This will offer a minute grace period for synching or punching in before the first track plays.

Once you select ok, the audio will move to the left side of the timeline. The markers will be out of place but can be moved as in the first example. The audio and markers are now near the left border of the timeline with the a 10:00 SMPTE start time.pic-f-finito.png

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Adobe Audition Coming to the Mac

Adobe Audition for Mac, coming in a future release, will bring modern audio post-production to the platform of your choice. Familiar tools for audio editing, multitrack mixing and recording will meet expanded device support, greater workflow flexibility, and optimized performance. Plus, best-of-breed audio restoration tools make it easy to clean up production audio. A public beta of Audition for the Mac will be available in Winter 2010

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Mix The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the Briefing Room for the latest press postings.