January 24, 2017

Winter NAMM Show Overview On Episode #145 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

2017 Winter NAMMThe Winter NAMM show is always the one exhibition of the year to look forward to. Not only are some manufacturers now skipping AES in favor of NAMM, but it’s so much more fun and colorful, as musical celebs seem to be everywhere.

Here’s a report from the show, from the big picture point of view about the vibe of the show, down to some of the cool products that I saw.

It’s a short show because I didn’t want to repeat myself on some of the things that I’ve posted on my blog. Shorter is better, right?

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

Winter NAMM 2017 Overview – Part 2

Yesterday was a lot of fun looking at some of the major items that caught my eye at NAMM, but today we’ll look at some of the other audio products. Once again, this is in no particular order.

Digigrid displayed a couple of audio interfaces called M Cube that allow you to connect to a computer and to an audio network as well. They come in single and dual channel models. The MSRP starts at $549.

 

 

 

That clever Dave Derr at Emperical Labs made a 500 series module for his wife to take on live gigs that include a preamp, EQ and compressor, all with an easy setup. It turns out the DocDerr works like a champ on other instruments as well, so here it is for the world to enjoy. It retails for $799.

Electrodyne Audio is back and showed the new Summing Station, which is a 16 channel summing mixer complete with monitoring controls and real transformers. Price is around $3k.

Speaking of summing mixers, if you really want that Neve sound, then the Heritage Audio MCM-8 or MCM-32 might be fore you. You get either 8 or 32 channels of summing through a Neve-style 1073 output stage. The 8 channel model is only about $1,300.

 

Icon Audio showed some very cool control surfaces like this Icon Platform M.  Icon’s controllers start from around $350, and can be mapped to just about any DAW.

 

Those clever boffins at OWC exhibited the DEC, an expansion chassis that screws on the bottom of your new Apple laptop and gives you back all the connectors that are missing. What’s more, there’s room for up to 4 solid state drives as well. Starts at about $300 but isn’t available yet.

 

Believe it or not, Tascam is still making some pro-level legacy players for CD, DVD, cassette and BluRay. Good to know. Tascam also showed a couple of large diaphragm mics as well. Why not? Everyone else is doing it.

 

Trident came out with a little brother to its successful Series 88 console and this is the Series 78. It has fewer features, but the same mic amps and signal path and a much lower list price as well.

 

 

If you need to easily break out some 3 phase 220v power, Whirlwind has a quick and easy way to do it with its new Powerlink.

 

 

And finally, Dynamount has finally begun shipping their robotic mic stands. They have one for every situation and start at around $279.

That’s it. Tomorrow I’ll look at some of the music-related products as well as some of the oddities spotted at the NAMM show.

 

Winter NAMM 2017 Overview – Part 1

Winter NAMM 2017Winter NAMM just ended and as usual there’s a lot to talk about. I’ll be covering the various new products and oddities over the next few days, as well as a big picture overview on my podcast.The show was generally filled with enthusiasm and everyone was feeling pretty prosperous. Hope it stays that way in the age of Trump, as things could fall apart quickly if we get into a trade war with China. Let’s dig in.

On the audio side of things, this was a show dominated by in-ear monitors. So many companies large and small are trying to get into the space (even Fender), that the future on stage amplifiers and floor monitors is looking pretty dim. I won’t even begin to touch on that here because we could spend a couple of days just on the subject, but I did see one outstanding product in the space that I’ll cover on the next New Music Gear Monday.

Let’s get into the audio products at NAMM, in no particular order. Some of them might not be exactly new, but I never spent much time looking at them before so they’re new to me.

Maag Magnum KProbably the coolest audio product that I saw was the new Maag Audio Magnum K compressor. Cliff Maag (who’s a great engineer, by the way) has been talking about this for a while, and it’s now a reality. What makes this compressor so different is that it’s really 4 units in 1. It has a standard compressor with most of the features you’d expect, which feeds into another special compressor just for the midrange, with a EQ 2 in parallel to put back the lows and highs that might be lost during compression. Finally there’s a soft limiter on the output. Sounds wonderful. It’s around $2,400 for a single channel, but no other compressor on the market does what this one will do.

I love JST plugins and Joey Sturgis has come up with a couple of great new ones. The first is Soar, which is a very realistic tape echo, and the second is Toneforge which may be the best, most intelligently laid out guitar simulator on the market. There are a lot of parameters in Toneforge that can be tweaked, but they’re all easy to get to and just make sense the way they’re presented, which can’t be said for many other similar plugs. Toneforge is available for a NAMM special of just $79. Soar will be released later in the Spring.

Lynx Aurora (n)Lynx showed its new Aurora (n) interface, which will go up to 32 channels in a single U rack mount unit, in 8 channel increments. It can be connected via USB, Dante, Pro Tools HD or Thunderbolt. The prices start at $2,799 up to about $6,600 with all the options, which is pretty good for that many channels of high quality conversion.

Apogee GrooveApogee showed a neat little device called the Groove that’s one of the best sounding computer headphone amps you’ll ever hear. It connects via USB and can handle sample rates up to 192kHz. It can be found for around $265.

 

 

 

Barefoot Footprint01On the speaker front, Barefoot Sound showed their new Footprint01’s, which sounded great. There’s so much sound coming from such a small speaker that it’s hard to believe, especially on the bottom end. They’re only around $3,400, which is a pretty good price for this quality of speaker.

 

 

 

Chandler Limited presented the new RS124 compressor, which is a reproduction of the Abbey Road version of the old Altec 436C compressor. EMI boffins did a lot of technical upgrades to the original Altec unit and rechristened it the RS124, and now you have have that same legendary sound for around $2,900. The company also showed its REDD .47 mic preamp, a reproduction from the famous Abbey Road tube consoles, which is available for around $2,300.

Speaking of tubes, Teegarden Audio presented its Fatboy DI and Magic Pre 4100 mic preamps. I love tube mic DI’s, and most bass players agree that they’re really hard to beat. This one goes for around $700.

 

 

 

Nugen Audio showed one of the coolest plugins at the show with its Mastercheck Pro. The plugin goes across your master buss and will tell you the best settings for numerous distribution sources like Youtube, Spotify, Pandora and just about anything else you can think of. Not only that, it will also send it through the appropriate codec so you can hear what your mix might sound like on the service so you can adjust accordingly. This seems like it should be a must have for today’s mixer. It’s available for $149 until the end of the month.

Warm Audio had a number of new products, starting with the updated WA-12 MKII ($469) that now has an output control and socketed chips, the WA-412 ($1,199) with 4 channels of old-style API preamps, and the WA-87 U 87 clone. At just $599 it’s hard to beat if it sounds as good in the studio as it did on the show floor.

 

Speaking of mics, EveAnna Manley revealed her new Manley Silver tube mic. It will retail for around $4,000 when it begins to ship later in the year. It falls directly between the company’s Reference Cardioid and Reference Mono Gold mics.

 

 

 

 

MOTU demonstrated some new additions to its audio interface family, as did Slate Digital with its VRS-8. The company also had a new virtual mic, the MLS-2, which is the first with a small diaphragm.

That’s it, more on NAMM tomorrow.

The Clash “London Calling” Isolated Guitars

The Clash London CallingThere are some songs that get ingrained in rock n’ roll memory and become classics, and The Clash’s “London Calling” certainly fits that bill. It’s always a great treat to hear inside a song as there’s usually much more happening than we’re aware of in the full mix, and this song is no exception. Have a listen to the isolated guitars. Here’s what to listen for.

1. The famous opening riff is actually a combination of two guitars – one is Joe Strummer’s rhythm that’s playing the Em to Cm sus, and the other is Mick Jones straight Em against it. There’s also a E pedal note that gets louder as the intro goes along.

2. The rhythm guitar stays on the Em with a reggae pattern for the first half of the verse while the bass and lead guitar play the Em to C pattern. For the second half of the verse the rhythm goes back to the straight 1/4 notes like in the intro.

3. In the second half of the B section a second guitar joins with a chordal line that’s often missed when listening to the full mix.

4. The b7 at the end of the B section (some might call it the chorus) is way out of tune. Intentional? It certainly does add tension.

5. The interplay between the 2 guitars is off rhythm-wise during the second part of the 2nd verse. You don’t hear it in the track though.

6. You can really hear the backwards guitar solo pretty well here (it’s pretty buried in the full mix).

The final mix of The Clash’s “London Calling” is all kick, bass and vocal and the guitars are mixed pretty far down (listen at the bottom) so it’s fun to be able to hear exactly what’s going on. As always, there’s always a lot more there than you hear on the final mix of the record.


January 19, 2017

The Old Gibson Factory Gets Some New Life

Heritage GuitarsFor 82 years Gibson made guitars a mandolins at the factory on 225 Parson’s Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1984 the company moved all of its manufacturing to Nashville, but the skilled workers there still continued to make guitars just as they always had, only now under the name Heritage Guitars.

Now the old factory is getting a total makeover. One of the big reasons is that manufacturing was on 3 floors of the building, and the company wanted it all on the same floor to increase the efficiency. Another reason is the old building really needed a facelift. You can check out what they’re doing in the video below, but also follow the link to a full story on the history of the building and the company, as well as some great pictures.

Off to NAMM. Full overview next week!

January 18, 2017

An Inside Look At Tape Delay

Tape DelayMany delay plugins today are either trying to directly emulate tape delay or have a tape delay setting. Setting up a tape delay used to be one of the first things you learned how to do when you started in the studio back in the day, since there was no other way to accomplish the task (this was before outboard digital delays came into widespread use). On a typical mix, there may be several delay machines set up – one for a fast 15 ips delay, a second for a slower 7 1/2 ips delay, maybe even one at an even longer 3 3/4 ips delay, and usually another one for predelay to a reverb chamber or plate. The big problem for the assistant was keeping track of how much tape was available on each machine so you didn’t run out during a mix and suddenly lose your effect.

Today very few studios have a tape machine, so most engineers, producers and musicians don’t really know how the real things works. Here’s a short excerpt and diagram from my just released Mixing Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition that describes tape echo.

“In the analog days delay was accomplished by using an outboard tape machine. The delay occurred because the playback head was located after the record head, which created a time delay (see the figure on the left). As the speed of the tape machine was changed, so would the delay.

For example, a 15 IPS (inches per second) tape speed would result in a delay somewhere in the 125 to 175 milliseconds range (it would be different with different models of tape machines because the gap between the heads was different for each), while it would be double that, or around 250 to 350 milliseconds at 7 1/2 IPS.

Because of the analog nature of magnetic tape, it has the characteristics of wow and flutter of the tape path, plus a rolled-off high frequency response and increased distortion with each repeat, which most tape delay plugins try to emulate.”

For years, hardware digital delays and then digital plugins were too clean for those raised on pure tape delay, but many of today’s plugins do a great job emulating the distortion, wow and flutter and rolled off response to give you something close to the real thing.

You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it, please leave a comment on Amazon. Thanks!

January 17, 2017

Neutron Project Manager Matt Hines On The My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Matt HinesiZotope’s Neutron is one of the new generation of DAW plugins that analyze the program audio and then make some pretty good suggestions as to the EQ and compression that will work for the track.

Many engineers find this somewhat disconcerting, and are maybe a little intimidated by it, while others embrace it as just another tool. Either way, I though you should get the scoop on the product directly from someone who knows the most about it, and that’s Matt Hines, the product manager for Neutron.

On the intro I’ll take a look at the brain drain that’s happening at the executive ranks of the music business, and the latest in the debate between the A=440Hz versus 432Hz tuning standard.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

The Magic Of Foley

WB Foley StageMost people (even many audio engineers) don’t realize that the sound effects that they hear in a movie aren’t real. They’re recreated to sound more dramatic or “more real” than they actually sound. That’s the job of the Foley artist, and there aren’t many of them, even in Hollywood.

The process is named after Jack Foley, who started working at Universal Pictures back in 1914 in the era of silent films. When the first picture with sound was being made, the producers realized that the microphones weren’t picking up much beyond the dialog and the movie sound needed help if it was going to be another close to realistic. The call went out around the lot for anyone who had previously worked on radio, where live sound effects were part of many of the broadcasts. Foley stepped up and used what he already knew, and discovered many new tricks for adding sound effects to movies along the way. Most of his methods are still used today.

What’s interesting about the following video (from the Great Big Story network’s Frontiers series) is the everyday objects that are used by Warner Bros. Foley artists Alyson Moore and Chris Moriana.

I’m lucky in that I live close to most of the big Hollywood studios (I can walk down the block to 2 of them, with 2 others a bike ride away), so I’ve been in Foley stages numerous times over the years. They always strike me as someone’s messy garage, yet everything is there for a reason. This video is only the tip of the iceberg of how Foley works.

[photo: Warner Bros Sound]

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Orion32 HD Interface

Antelope Audio Orion 32 HDOne of the problems with audio interfaces is they just don’t have enough I/O sometimes. Most interfaces are either 8 or 16 channels, which is plenty in some cases and not enough in others. While the price for a single 16 channel interface might seem reasonable, when you put two of them together to meet your I/O needs, the costs can quickly get out of hand. Antelope Audio’s Orion32 has been a great solution, with 32 analog ins and 32 analog outs in just a single rack space. The new Orion32 HD takes that yet another step forward.

The Orion32 HD is unique in that it’s compatible with any DAW on the market, making it an option for users of both Pro Tools and Native systems via HDX or USB3 at up to 192kHz/24 bit. It also includes MADIADAT, and S/PDIF connectivity and 32-in/32-out analog connections via DB25. There are also two word clock or loopsync outs that allow the Orion to serve as the center of a recording setup (thanks to its outstanding internal clock), or make an easy connection with an external clock. Two monitor outputs that Antelope calls “mastering-grade” since they’re the same as the ones on Antelope’s Pure2 Mastering Converter complete the I/O setup.

Orion32 HD also includes a library of over 30 free plugins that include the latest collaboration between Antelope and BAE Audio, with two new EQ models based on their 1023 and 1084 equalizers, as well as a free version of PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW software. The unit retails for $3,495, which may seem high, but it’s still cheaper than paying for 2 high-quality 16 channel units. Find out more on the dedicated webpage or view the video below.

James Jamerson “Ain’t That Peculiar” Isolated Bass And Drums

James JamersonMost musicians and producers hold Motown in a certain reverence, and well they should, since the music has influenced a few generations of artists, players, arrangers and producers. One of the icons of the Motown studio band is bassist James Jamerson, and it’s always fun to listen to anything that shows his genius. Here’s the isolated bass and drums from the Marvin Gaye hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” that doesn’t so much show James’ technique as it does his ability to lyrically pick what to play.

1. The sound of Jamerson’s bass is a little on the distorted side, and what you’re hearing is a miked Ampeg B-15. He also muted the strings on his Precision bass with foam to get his unique sound.

2. There’s lots of leakage, but that’s because the whole band (piano, horns and all) recorded at the same time in a relatively small room about the size of a double garage. When you look at it in that context, the leakage really isn’t that bad.

3. Jamerson plays a repeating line that’s unusual in where it fits with the rest of the song, but listen to the notes he plays around the line. Once again, the notes never seem to fall into the places on the bar that you’d expect, and that’s what made him a genius.

4. The drums are pretty straight, but again, when there are fills they usually aren’t what you’d expect. The sound of the drums is also pretty flat, but that was before we knew what “big” drums sounded like.

5. The interplay between the bass and drums is fairly loose. If you’re used to being in the studio a lot, it’s even a little jarring at first, but by the end of the song it just feels so right!

Oh, for the good old days of people playing together in the studio! Here’s to the great James Jamerson.

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