Prism Sound Presents Free Mike-to-Monitor Workshop

Learn about audio hardware design, get the best out of your studio and talk to leading engineers as they personally take you through their mixes and reveal their tips and tricks to achieve their acclaimed, signature sound.

Prism Sound presents a workshop featuring special guests Edward J ‘UK’ Nixon, chief engineer for The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and multi-Grammy award winning producer Dwayne ‘Supa Dups’ Chin-Quee. Topics to be presented are:

  • How do the pros do it?

  • What makes great gear great?

  • How is that hit sound achieved?

  • What does it take to become a successful and in demand engineer?

The seminar will be presented live in Atlanta on March 19 and Orlando on March 21. The March 21 presentation will be webcast live for those of us in the rest of the world.

Register or get more details here.

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Vintage Trade Show Reports Posted

A friend from the rec.audio.pro newsgroup way back located some NAMM and one AES show report that he had captured from my newsgroup postings. This was from a mostly pre-web era and these reports were newsgroup posts that I made reporting what i saw at the show that day. They’re not organized by product category nor spell checked and edited very diligently, no pictures, not many URL links (most of which are probably dead by now anyway) but they’re a picture of what was happening in the late 1990s. You might enjoy reminiscing or reading for the first time what was hot back then, and being glad that we don’t have to do it that way any more.

Gil Griffith of Wave Distribution once introduced me to someone as “Mike was blogging about shows before the word ‘blog’ was invented.” These are some early blogs. Visit the Trad Show Reports page, or go directly to them here:

NAMM Winter 2000
NAMM Winter 1999
NAMM Winter 1998
NAMM Summer 1997
NAMM Winter 1997

AES 1998

 

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Focusrite Studio Console Video and Contest

Our friends at Focusrite have produced an interesting historical video about the first studio console that they designed. There were only ten of those consoles built, and the video traces each one from its first installation to where it is today. It’s kind of interesting to see how far these things have gone (one was in a New Jersey studio that suffered a lot of flood damage from last year’s hurricane Sandy) and the efforts that owners have taken to keep those consoles alive and in use

The excuse for the video (or maybe it’s the other way around) is the 25th anniversary of the Focusrite brand. To celebrate, they’re having a contest, the prize being an expense paid (hopefully including transportation) recording session at AIR Studios in London. The contest is now closed, but the video is still up and it’s an interesting story and worth watching.

Watch the Focusrite 25th Anniversary video.

 

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The 78 Project

A piece on NPR’s Morning Edition (see the link at the bottom of this page) about The 78 Project caught my ear this morning. I’d never heard of this project before, but apparently it’s been going for a few years. A couple of folks from New York have resurrected a portable (it weighs 50 pounds, but there’s a handle on the case) Presto disk recorder from the 1940s, and have been takPrestoDiskCutter_78_Projecting it around, making direct-to-lacquer disk recordings of musicians in non-studio environments, invoking the spirit of Alan Lomax and his extensive field collecting work for the Library of Congress.

The 78 Project’s work isn’t quite like Lomax in that they’re not discovering music history. Most of their work, at least that which they’ve published, has been with established contemporarly artists in the (though I hate the term) “americana” genre, Richard Thompson, The Secret Sisters, Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Marshall Crenshaw and such. They’re issuing their recordings as vinyl LP pressings with a digital download including extensive notes, and for those who don’t have a turntable, their recordings are available for download through iTunes. This is definitely lo-fi stuff, and clearly a bit of a novelty, but they’re pretty serious about what they’re doing. In essence they’re using the disk recording and playback process as a signal processor, following up with contemporary digital mastering, sort of like using Grandpa’s TEAC to “warm up” your digital home studio recordings. From the photos, it looks like they’re using the original microphone that came with the recorder, or one like it.

I’m not sure how technically hip they are (the write about desparately changing tubes before a session), and their gear lust for a Newcomb suitcase turntable owned by one of their artists is a little strange (this is the sort of player common when I was in elementary school in the 1950s). They accept the flaws and glitches of the one-take sessions, but they seem to have some good guidance and want to let people know about what they’re doing, so I’m doing my part here in the interest of maintaining vintage technology. I hope they’re using something better than the Newcomb for transcribing the masters, and that they’re taking good care of the lacquers. They have a film in the works, too, as Kickstarter funded project.

For further details, visit The 78 Project web page

Here’s the NPR story

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2014 Winter NAMM Show Report Posted

I’ve posted my consolidated NAMM show report for the 2014 Winter show. There’s some additional information here that I didn’t include with the daily reports, and it’s organized by category. Pictures and links to web sites. No videos (you can find those on the web).

I’ll leave the daily reports up for a while since they’re showing up in search engines, but eventually I’ll clean house and remove them. So if you tell your friends, refer them to the full report.

Here’s the direct link to the 2014 NAMM Show Report

Check out the Trade Show Reports page for others.

Posted in Trade Show Reports

2014 NAMM Show – Day 4

Last day, playing catch-up. I really enjoy Sunday at NAMM. All the crowds are gone, though, unfortunately, some of the best people to talk to about products are on their way home, but I did fill in a few gaps.

Behringer is now shipping all the cut-down versions of the X32 console, though their tablet-controlled mixers are still getting the kinks worked out. As usual for Behringer, they introduced a lot of new products, more than I could keep track of. Of interest are a couple of USB audio interfaces and DAW controllers. The UMC-404 and UMC-1820 are, respectively 4 in/4 out and 18 in/20 out interfaces with four and eight mic/line inputs. The 1820 also has ADAT and S/PDIF I/O. They’re pretty straightforward as these things go. The X-Touch series of control surfaces come in three sizes – X-Touch (the whole works), X-Touch Compact which loses the jog wheel and a bunch of buttons that control DAW automation, and X-Touch Mini which also loses the motorized faders but has knobs that can be assigned to serve as level controls. They all use the Mackie Universal Control or HUI protocol which makes them compatible with nearly all recent DAW programs.

The close connection between Behringer and Midas consoles is no better illustrated than with the new Midas M32 compact live sound console. At heart, it’s a Behringer X32. It runs the same software and uses same converters and digital processing components. The user interface is physically laid out a bit differently, it has real Midas mic preamps (as opposed to “Midas designed” in the X-32, and has higher quality moving faders.

Dangerous Music has a new dual channel compressor that’s designed to compress, not to add crunch, warmth, or distortion. It has a fast limiter ahead of the compressor to tame transient peaks and prevent them from dropping the level of the channel. The two channels can be operated independently or linked for stereo, In the stereo mode, gain and threshold controls are linked so that one knob controls both channels together. Even when linked, the detectors are independent, as are the compression ratio, attack and release controls. There are separate side chain sends and returns on balanced XLR connectors as well as a side-chain listen mode so that when using the side chain inserts  or one of the oreset side chain filters, you can hear what the detector is hearing. This is a Chris Muth design and his other products are noted for their transparency, so I’d expect that from this compressor.

Cathedral Pipes is the unlikely name for a microphone company, but the name withstanding (their mics are named for famous cathedrals in Europe), they hand build a range of mics in their shop in Southern California. All of their current condenser models share the same Neumann M7 style capsule that they build in their shop, There are two tube models and an FET model. The difference between the tube models is with the output transformer and some capacitors. There’s one capacitor in the top of the line mic that costs $100!. They also have a ribbon mic and, yes, they make their own ribbons too. These guys seem to have a thorough understanding of how these mics work, build them to very high standards, and sell them at fair prices ranging from $2500 down to $1000. While they started out with a U47 design, their intent wasn’t to make a clone, but rather, to make what they believe to be sensible improvements while leaving the basic sound character alone.

Great River Electronics has had a compressor using a 400 kHz pulse width modulator (PWM) as the gain control element. This isn’t a new idea, but it hasn’t been very popular due to such reasons as complexity, cost, and that, since vintage PWM compressors didn’t work all that well, there wasn’t a good model to copy as a starting point. Modern components and design make it possible to build a compressor that introduces a lower level of distortion when changing gain than the more common VCA (voltage controlled attenuator) or LDR (light dependent resistor of “optical” compressor). The Great River PWM-501 PWM compressor has finally emerged from the workbench as a 500-series module. In addition to that format being very popular nowadays, eliminating the power supply and enclosed chassis brought the price into a more comfortable zone. Designer Dan Kennedy says that it takes some time and listening skills to learn how to use it correctly, but that if a transparent compressor is what you want, this one is a cost effective choice.

I picked up an interesting-at-first-glance book from the “we don’t want to carry these home” table at the Berklee Press booth entitled Project Management  for Musicians. By Jonathan Feist. It appears to cover just about every aspect of how to do business in the music business. If it’s good, When I get time to start reading it, I’ll write a review.

Well, that’s it for the show. When I get my brain unscrambled I’ll organize things, fill in some details, and put the whole show report together. Stay tuned.

Posted in Trade Show Reports

2014 NAMM Show – Day 3

Today was really crowded and really loud. If you’re one of those people standing in a long line to get an autograph or photo op with a famous artist, sorry for the wait. I asked someone near the front of a line how long he’d been waiting and he said “about a hour.” I hope they do something about those lines. They really clog up the aisles. And speaking of aisles . . .

Blue has a new microphone in the works. The Hampton is based on their B1 small diaphragm capsule from the Bottle series, but rather than a lollypop enclosure, it’s mounted in a short tube that’s separate from the main body and pivoted so that the body can point in one direction and the capsule in another direction. This can make for a cleaner mic setup where space is tight, like around drums, or facilitate mounting as an X-Y pair. Price and release date are unknown, but the Hampton will be available as a single mic or a matched pair.

Applied Microphone Technology (AMT) is probably best known for their saxophone mic that’s suspended inside a ring intended to be attached to the bell of the instrument. This year they introduced a new miniature cardioid mic with the characteristic AMT suspension with an assortment of attachments including one that clamps on to the body of an acoustic guitar, and a double mic assembly for placing one mic on the bell and one over the keys (where the real music comes out). A two piece holder allows the same double mic setup to be easily swapped between clarinet and sax for the musician who doubles on the instruments (but doesn’t get double scale to cover the cost of two complete mic systems).

Slate Digital introduced the Virtual Microphone System which includes one each large and small diaphragm custom built cardioid condenser mics, a dual channel preamp with digital output, and a DAW plug-in that models the sound of several combinations of famous mics and famous preamps, In addition to the “realistic” models, there are also instrument-specific presets that include some frequency response shaping and saturation distortion. I’ve always been skeptical about microphone modeling in software. It’s not too hard to get close to a target sound when the source is on axis, with little reflected energy coming in off axis. However, the model doesn’t know from what direction the sound is coming so it doesn’t know how to adjust the frequency response to model that of the response at a given off-axis angle. Slate’s approach to making the model work is to start with mics that are as flat as possible and have a smooth off-axis response. If you’re depending on using the off-axis response asw a tool, you can place the mic as you want it, then tell the model the angle that the primary sound arrives at the mic. By using a known microphone rather than the cheap one you have that you wish was an expensive one, the model can give a pretty good approximation of the frequency response at any angle to the primary sound source. There was one set up next to a Neumann U-47. Could I hear a difference? With all that racket at the show I probably couldn’t tell if the model was for an SM-57 (which it indeed models, using the small mic), but it’s an interesting approach to a technique that’s never really been quite what we dreamed it would be.

Back last year I reviewed the Cymatic LR-16 live recorder, a tabletop box that connects to a mixer though the mixer’s insert jacks and records up to 16 tracks to a USB disk drive, USB “thumb drive” or to a computer via USB. Arriving just in time for the show was the uTrack 24, kind of a grown up version of the LR-16. It offers 24 analog inputs and outputs  on DB-25 connectors, word clock in and out, and MIDI in and out. An internal mixer provides a stereo mix for monitoring while recording, and an Ethernet port connects to a computer or WiFi router for remote comtrol. Recording is, like the LR-16, to either an external USB hard drive or thumb drive, I talked about 96 kHz sample rate with the guy showing it and he said that it was possible with a reduced track count when recording to a USB drive, but would support the full track count when used as an interface to the computer. The poop sheet says only up to 48 kHz. There’s a large, clear LCD and a nifty metering system. There are 24 tri-color LEDs to indicate signal, good level, and clipping on each of the channels. When a channel selected, these LEDs become a single meter dedicated to the selected channel, offering very good resolution in the range close to full scale. Ambiguous record level metering is something that I comment on in just about every interface review I’ve written, and the uTrack 24 seems to solve that problem. When a track is selected, level and pan position I the stereo mix can be adjusted with a rotary encoder. It’ll probably be out in time for the Summer festival season, at a target price of $999.

ESI out of Germany offers a wide range of audio interfaces including some on PCI cards that they say are still selling well. It’s not a name you hear very often though. Somehow, at least in the US, nobody has pushed them very much, though they do have a USB audio driver that’s used by a lot of other interface manufacturers. New at this show is an 8 channel analog I/O interface that connects to the computer via an Ethernet cable using the Dante protocol. The hardware is bundled with a licensed copy of Audinate’s Dante Virtual Soundcard software which is, in essence, a driver so the device can be recognized by the computer’s operating system. The package also includes the Dante Controller, a routing matrix and setup. It’s still in the works, expected out in the second quarter of 2014 (you know that NAMM is an acronym for Not Available, maybe May) and will sell for $1000.

Finally, the cool little product for the day is the Power Supply Mini from J & H Technology of Shenzhen, China. This is an 8-output DC power supply for stomp boxes that is in itself about the size of a small stomp box, about 4.5 x 2.5 inches. Two outputs are adjustable over the range of 6 to 12 v, five outputs are fixed at 9v, and the final output is 9v but the polarity (whether the center pin is positive or negative) can be set with an internal jumper. It has a display which shows the voltage and the current drawn from the selected output. It’s powered by a 15v wall wart. You can’t buy one yet unless you’re in China. They’re looking for a US distributor.

That’s it for the day. Tomorrow is catch-up, maybe listen to one of the training sessions, and head for the hills.

 

Posted in Trade Show Reports