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The New Anthem in D.C.
Studio Monitors 2018
Rockin’ With Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
May 2018 \\ \\ $6.99
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05.18 Contents
Photo by Dave Barnhouser/13th Hour Photography
Volume 42, Number 5
20 On the Cover:
Producer Dave Cobb
at Home in RCA
Studio A
36 New Products
38 Review: Focusrite
Clarett 4Pre USB
Sarah Shook
& the Disarmers
41 Review: Manley Nu Mu
15 Classic Tracks: Guitar
Town, by Steve Earle
18 Rams Head Live!
Hosts GTLO
24 Forever Words: A
Johnny Cash Tribute
34 Technology: Studio
Monitors 2018
Gary Paczosa and
Shani Gandhi
32 Sessions & Studio News
43 Review: Audionamix
Xtrax Stems
45 Review: RJR BAX
Mastering EQ
48 Back Page Blogs:
26 The Anthem:
D.C.’s Stellar New
Waterfront Venue
30 Profile: Parker Millsap,
An Introduction
8 From the Editor
10 Current
47 Marketplace/Classifieds
On the Cover: Super-producer Dave Cobb feels at home seated in the middle of the
spacious and legendary RCA Studio A, Nashville, where he continues to make music with
the likes of Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, while adding to the legacy of previous Studio A
caretakers Chet Atkins, Ben Folds and others. Photo: David McClister.
Mix, Volume 42, Number 5 (ISSN 0164-9957) is published monthly by NewBay Media LLC, 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor,
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Vol. 42 No. 5
May 2018
Content Director Tom Kenny,
Content Manager Katie Makal,
Senior Editor Barbara Schultz,
Sound Reinforcement Editor Steve La Cerra
Contributors: Strother Bullins, Eddie Ciletti,
Michael Cooper, Gary Eskow, Matt Hurwitz,
Sarah Jones, Barry Rudolph
Production Manager Beatrice Weir
Senior Art Director Nicole Cobban
Art Director Walter Makarucha, Jr.
VP/Market Expert, AV/Consumer
Electronics, Education & Pro Audio
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Senior Director Strategic Accounts, TV/Video/Radio
John Casey,, 212-378-0400, x512
VP/Market Expert, Broadcasting, Cable & Broadband TV
Charlie Weiss,, 212-378-0478
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From the Editor
Musicians in the Studio, Let Them Play
It’s catching on again, this idea of musicians coming together in the studio
the songs and moving on. It’s an old stereotype, but it got me thinking.
and recording live, usually with headphones, sometimes not. Looking at
And then I came across super-hot producer Dave Cobb, interviewed
each other, listening to each other, nodding to each other and letting each
this month by Barbara Schultz and photographed by David McClister
one’s playing influence the others. I keep hearing it from engineers across
in the middle of RCA Studio A, his new Music City recording home. In
the country, and every time it’s said with excitement and enthusiasm. Then
talking with him about the art direction of the cover, and where he might
we talk about how, of course, this was the only way to make a record back
want to shoot it, he kept coming back to the spacious live room, and how
in the beginning. Three to four songs in a day, mixed, cut on vinyl, then
much he appreciated the history of the players and productions that came
driven down to the radio station that night. It really did sometimes happen
before him. From Chet Atkins to Ben Folds, with a few more in between.
like that. And today, it’s even easier! A couple of downloads, then a couple
It’s a room built for players who want to play, and Dave Cobb seems to be
uploads. Put it on Spotify. Reach out on social media. The song is out!
loving it. He usually ends up playing with them.
Okay, probably not studio-to-street in a day, though it’s been known to
At the same time I was putting together a story on Sarah Shook &
happen. There are still likely to be a few overdubs, and the vocals will come
the Disarmers, interviewing producer/engineer Ian Schreier, who runs
later, but with the full band together, the foundation is there. Take away
Manifold Recording outside of Raleigh-Durham, N.C. He has a world-class
the click, don’t lock to the grid, let the bleed cross over the microphone
room, built by Michael Tiemann and designed by Wes Lachot to host a
setup, and sometimes magic happens. Of course, sometimes problems
60-piece orchestra or a four-piece rock band, with a series of four booths
come up that can’t be undone later in the mix, but if properly set up, the
that open onto the main floor. He has the space, though it’s somewhat off
studio can truly your friend.
the beaten recording path; he’s just been seeking that chart-topping talent.
Al Schmitt, in talking about his last two projects with Bob Dylan at
He seems to have found it in Shook.
Capitol, would light up when describing how the band came in, ran down
For the Disarmers’ sophomore effort, both artist and producer pitched
the songs, and just played, like the bands did when Al started out in the
heavily for the time and money to record it “right,” in a high-end studio
1950s. This time around, ten songs in a week, no headphones, Bob singing
with the space to let the band come together and find that emotion in the
in the room. Another week or two to mix. That’s it. Al loved it.
songs. Playing in the room. They got a couple weeks. They prepped, they
Times have changed, certainly, and few artists today have the luxury to
book a high-end studio for more than a week or two. Nor is the playing-live
rehearsed, and they knocked it out. And it is a great-sounding record. Just
do a quick Google on “Sarah Shook Years.”
approach right for every artist or every project. But when it’s possible, and
None of this is new. And none of it is a formula for making a record.
when it’s properly planned out and pre-production is productive, a week
It’s just a brief reminder that when great musicians come together, even
of recording live in the studio can do wonders for the sound and emotion
greater things can happen.
of a record. This all presumes, it goes without saying, that there’s a great
song or two to record in the first place.
I was reminded of all this while preparing this month’s issue, with
its emphasis on Nashville and all the stereotypes that go along with it:
Tom Kenny
songwriters, demos, stellar session players, big-name artists knocking out
Editor, Mix
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Current // news & notes
Fifth Annual Mix Presents Sound for Film & Television
The Fifth Annual
Mix Presents Sound
for Film & Television,
an all-day event
featuring exhibits
and programming
dedicated to high-end sound for picture, will be held on Saturday, October
13, on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, Calif. This year’s event
will include a new introductory track on Virtual and Augmented Reality,
which will be geared toward working professionals in sound for picture
who are looking to branch out into new distribution formats and new
means of storytelling.
“Each year we try to add some level of new programming that appeals
to audio professionals working with picture,” says Tom Kenny, editor of
Mix. “Two years ago we introduced the Production Sound Pavilion, with
its Parade of Carts, and received great support from production sound
mixers. Last year we introduced The Composers Lounge, guided by
Steven Saltzmann, and we had a full house in the room all day. This year
we figured that VR/AR is coming in some form or another throughout
the entertainment industry, so we want to introduce professionals to the
unique technical, creative and workflow demands they might encounter if
they want to broaden their careers.”
Also new this year, Sony Pictures Post-Production Services, under
the direction of Tom McCarthy, has added three new Atmos-equipped
mid-sized theaters/sound design suites in the main building that will
be showcased throughout the day by industry sponsors and creatives.
Meanwhile, the lobby areas and sponsor locations have been cosmetically
The main Mix Panel Series is currently being finalized in conjunction
with host sponsor Sony Pictures Studios and event partners MPSE and
CAS. Podcasts of the panel series from the 2017 event, including the
keynote speech by composer/producer/artist Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL,
can be streamed at
Early registration for the 2018 event is now open at
AES Milan 2018: The Power of Sound in the Air
“The Power of Sound” will go to 11 at the upcoming AES Milan Convention,
which takes place May 23–26 at the NH Hotel Milano Congress Centre in
Milan, Italy. The four-day showcase will kick off with a keynote speech
by Dr. Marina Bosi (AES past president and consulting professor at
Stanford University), who will take a deep look at the impact of digital
audio coding in her address, titled “How Perceptual Audio Coding Has
Shaped Our Lives.” She will review the history and look to the future of
coding technologies and practices, from both production and consumer
Malcolm Hawksford—emeritus professor within the School of
Computing Science and Electronic Engineering at Essex University,
Colchester, and a recent AES Gold Medal winner—will present the 38th
Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecture, speaking on the topic “Understanding
High-Quality Audio—A Personal Journey.”
Another highlight of the event will be the “New Surround and Immersive
Recordings” sessions, presented by two-time Grammy-winning producer
Jim Anderson (Anderson Audio; Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music,
New York University; past president and governor of AES), Tonmeister
Ulrike Schwarz (recipient of multiple European awards, including the
Diamant d’Opera, Diapason d’Or), and Echo Klassik (contributor to many
Grammy-nominated projects).
Visit for information about the AES Milan technical
program, exhibitors, sponsors and registration details.
Audio Masters Benefit Golf Tournament, Nashville
The 21st Annual AudioMasters Benefit Golf Tournament,
which has established itself as the best time you will ever
have playing 18 holes, will take place at Harpeth Hills in
Nashville on May 17 and 18. The first day, Thursday, is
focused on the live sound community, with Harman as the
title sponsor; the second day shines the light on the local
studio community and is title-sponsored by Sweetwater.
Additional sponsors—including API, The Recording Academy, Clyne
Media, AES, Genelec, Morris, API and Audio-Technica—set up shop at
each of the 18 holes, with food and drinks, activities and gifts
provided for up to 128 players each day.
The tournament is a two-day fundraising golf tournament
produced by the Nashville AES Section to benefit the Nashville
Engineer Relief Fund (NERF), a non-profit corporation
assisting Nashville’s audio engineers and their families in
times of crisis. Additionally, the tournament is the premier
annual social and networking event for the Nashville audio community.
For more information, visit
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U 67
Return of the Legend
Back in production, reproduced to the original specifications.
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Photo by John Gessner
From left, Phil Sullivan, pedal steel; Eric Peterson,
electric guitar; Sarah Shook, vocals, guitar; Aaron Oliva,
upright bass. Not pictured: John Howie, Jr., drums
Stellar Second Record With Ian Schreier at Manifold
By Tom Kenny
t reads awfully close to an indie film festival
screenplay, the story of how producerengineer Ian Schreier first heard Sarah
Shock sing in a small shack turned into a
rehearsal space deep in the woods of Chatham
County, outside of Raleigh-Durham, N.C. He
was there on a weeknight as part of his day job,
chief engineer at nearby Manifold Recording.
An intern at the studio, Marco Bianchi,
had invited him; he was hoping that Schreier
would agree to track “his friend Sarah,” who
was getting ready to sing, in the big room back
at the studio as part of his internship project.
In his six months at Manifold, he was required
to do some type of independent record project,
and he wanted some quality tracks to play with
when he returned home to Italy. Manifold owner
Michael Tiemann would donate the world-class,
Wes Lachot-designed space, and Schreier would
donate his time and talent. That’s how the
internships worked.
So there he was, waiting for Sarah Shook &
the Devil to finish tuning and start rehearsing.
Shook on guitar, joined by pedal steel and an
upright bass.
“I can remember being there, drinking a PBR,
and Sarah starts singing. I just stopped,” he
recalls. “Wait, is this what I think it is? Do I now
know what it means when somebody says, ‘They
have it. The X factor,’ or whatever. It was a bit
rough at that point, sure, and I’m there as part of
Mario’s deal, but there was definitely something
about her. Something there. An authenticity.”
A couple months later, Shook and her band
came into Manifold and cut a quick and dirty
seven-song LP, with Schreier tracking. Bianchi
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Photo courtesy of “What It Takes: film en douze tableaux” by Gorman Bechard
Sarah Shook with producer Ian Schreier at the
API Vision console in Manifold Recording’s main
control room
Hers is not an overnight success
story. That’s six years of working
hard and playing hard. Breakups
and beers, band members coming
and going. Playing strange stages
night after night. Writing all the
time. She had a pretty good idea
of how she wanted her songs to sound, and she
had a bona fide musical partner in guitarist Eric
Peterson, who had been with her from back in
her Devil days.
Schreier and Shook, meanwhile, continued
to stay in touch, and a couple years after making
the LP they got together and she played him
some songs she had been working on. Some she
had recorded at home, some on her phone. For
the past year it had been mostly her and Peterson
playing live, often with a pedal steel player.
“Right away I said, ‘Sarah, you need a band
behind you, an absolutely kickass rock band,”
Schreier recalls. “’You’re playing country, but it
needs to be played with rock and roll intensity,
some edge, to bring out the ferocity of these
Shook tracking vocals in the middle of Manifold’s large main room.
Photo courtesy of “What It Takes: film en douze tableaux” by Gorman Bechard
took his copy the files home; Schreier and Shook
stayed in touch.
And now, six years later, Shook, with her new
band the Disarmers and Schreier as producer
and engineer, has just released her second fulllength, Years, on Bloodshot Records. It hit the
Billboard Americana charts in its second week,
and it’s received high critical praise across the
board. It maintains the raw and sometimes
frenetic energy of the band’s debut, Sidelong,
while adding a bit of spit and polish. Not much,
just a little. The songwriting, the vocal, the
arrangements—everything just seems a little
richer and fuller. Her voice, whether in a whisper
or a scream, sounds more mature, and her
phrasing seems more her own.
Bird’s-eye view of the setup in Manifold’s large studio.
songs.’ Sarah is a punk rocker who
likes country music. All the great
ones were. Johnny Cash had the
punk rock ethos, Waylon Jennings.
Things really gelled on that first
record when it became clear that’s what was
driving the sound.
“Then it wasn’t for another two years that we
actually made Sidelong,” he continues. “First she
had to find the players, then we had to work out
a method. We actually started pre-production
without a band—just me, Sarah and Eric. In my
head, I started to hear this sort of honky-tonk
country with aggressive and powerful drums.
The guitars would be country guitars, but with
thick twang. Grit and bite to it, but not fuzzed
out. I thought that would be a good place to go.
And Sarah shared that vision. We made a lot of
decisions about the recording before the red
light went on.”
It certainly helps that the producer is chief
engineer at a top-shelf studio designed for
flexibility, a space that can house a 60-piece
orchestra or a four-piece rock band with three
big booths to spare. But that doesn’t mean that
he suffers any less in trying to figure out how
to get a great record made at a relatively low
cost. He might be able to sneak in early and go
home late, but he has to rent the space, too. It
took time to raise the money to make Sidelong
the way they wanted to make it, mainly through
crowdfunding and investors. Schreier had a
contract to engineer, mix and produce, but he
waived any producer advance.
“I knew that I wanted to work with her in
some capacity,” he says. “She is something special,
something unique that doesn’t come around very
often. She has that essence of weird that attracts
the ear. And she has authenticity. At the time, I
didn’t know where any of this was headed.”
But both Schreier and Shook knew that no
matter what they did, it would need to involve
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“Obviously we wanted our sophomore album to
be just as good if not better than our first release,”
Shook says. “We wanted to put together a ‘kick
ass and take names’ kinda deal, and I think we
achieved that. Because we track live, we rehearse
like crazy before we even get into the studio. That
pre-production is intense but totally necessary.
“This is a good group of humans,” she
continues. “We get along well, we work and
play together well. And there’s an intensity we
collectively experience in the studio where we’re
all well aware if even one of us f-#*% up, we
gotta start all over at the beginning of the song.
We’re very present and we’re very much there
for each other.”
“We all agreed that there is something that
happens when people are playing together in
the same space at the same time,” Schreier adds.
“Even if it’s rehearsed to death, all it takes is
one person hitting a string a little bit differently
and it will generate a reaction from another
player slightly differently. To me that makes
performances exciting.
In order to be efficient, they had to have a
plan; in order to make music, they had to remain
flexible. Schreier’s knowledge of the room, his
home these past ten years, allowed for both, and
it began with the setup.
“Drums were in the big booth with the doors
Photo courtesy of “What It Takes: film en douze tableaux” by Gorman Bechard
long and intensive pre-production, rehearsing
the songs down to the eighth-note and finetuning the arrangements in order to truly take
advantage of their time at Manifold. By the time
they reached the studio, there was a foundational
setup in place that allowed for accidents, those
“magic moments,” as Schreier calls them.
“I think a lot of people make a connection
that doing a live-ish recording in the studio is
just setting up and seeing what you get,” Schreier
says. “It needs to be said that doing a recording
like this, where budget is an issue, takes just as
much time, if not more, than a standard trackoverdub-mix method. It just has to be more
planned and more carefully thought out before
the process starts.”
The planning paid off. Sidelong got a lot of
attention, and after a self-release, Bloodshot
Records signed the band and re-released it, to
even bigger acclaim. Plans started developing
for a follow-up, and after some back and forth,
Bloodshot agreed to let them once again set up
shop at Manifold. Ten days.
Guitarist Eric Peterson and keyboardist Philip Sullivan light it up while tracking.
open,” Schreier explains. “We wanted everyone
together, breathing the same air, but the doors
allowed me to use gain control of the drums into
the room mics. The guitar and the steel are out in
the room and facing the drums, their amps, too.
“Sarah and her guitar are near the center of
the room in a gobo booth that I put together,
with a lid on it,” he continues. “We wanted to
keep the guitar tracking, but we’re not trying
to get the lead vocal here. She’s playing rhythm
guitar, an arch-top hollow-body, played through
and early ’60s Epiphone. Two controls. It sounds
spectacular. The only thing isolated is the upright
bass. He was in a booth, with line of sight, and
the door cracked. A lot of those bass tracks were
live and miked, with sometimes a DI and reamp.
“So that I could have flexibility in the mix,
I did a standard miking of the kit, with mostly
Josephsons on snare and toms, but the vast
majority of the sound you hear is from the mono
overhead in front of the drum, a Neumann U47,
and the room mics, Sanken TL100Ks.
“On the guitar amps, I used a Coles ribbon
mic and a Schoeps condenser. The ribbon ] is
very friendly to guitars and will take EQ well.
The Schoeps give me exactly what is coming out
of the amp, with a warm glow around them. It’s a
great combination. Plus, a lot of the guitar sound
is coming from that pair of room mics. Pulling
up those two faders takes it from a recording and
makes it a record.”
Things changed slightly for Shook’s vocal chain
between records, partly because Schreier was
more in touch with her voice. And partly because
Shook was too. “I spent some time with our first
album before we went into Manifold to record
Years,” Shook says. “I wanted more control of my
vocals, more nuance, more interesting cadence. I
feel like the overall sound of the record is bigger,
warmer, more golden this time, with a lot of space
to it. Definitely warmth and depth.”
On Sidelong, Shook sang into a Telefunken
C12. This time Schreier wanted to experiment,
having learned more about the fierce tenderness
of her voice and its rich, more filled-out timbre.
So he put her back in the gobo, in the middle of
the big room, and put up a combination that he
‘d never tried before but thought might work—a
Shure SM7B and a Brauner VMX.
“Her voice has such different sounds and
different ranges,” Schreier says. “The SM7 does
its thing and you can scream into it and it’s
awesome. The Brauner can be either solid-state
or tube and it’s super-great-fantastic-top-end
condenser. There’s nothing better than a great
condenser mic on omni in a big room Then into
DW Fearn preamps; I like those on her voice. And
the DW Fearn compressor, too. It’s a matter of
dealing with the enormous gain change between
her singing low and soft to loud and rocking. At
one point I set up two completely different gain
stages. I could then place her vocals a little more
specifically on this record.”
Years was tracked through the API Vision to
Pro Tools, with playback from Dynaudio M4S
mains and ATC SCM25 nearfields. For mixing,
he went next door to the Harrison-equipped
control room, partially for the ease and feel of
the automation, but mainly because he prefers
to mix on his favorite speakers, the GuzauskiSwist GS3As. Most of the sounds, he maintains,
were baked in from the tracking, from the
movement of sound in air. Any effects employed
were mainly for fixes or tails. He did use more
compression this time through.
Now, two records in, Schreier and Shook
have put together a pretty effective process that
allows them to make records, in today’s climate,
the way they want to. And they’ve learned a few
things along the way, too.
“You have to be prepared, 110 percent,” Shook
says. “But above all else, you have to write damn
good songs. The songs are the key components of
the best magic ever to be eked out of a board.” n
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Classic Tracks
Steve Earle
By Barbara Schultz
ith breathtaking songwriting and raw rocking guitar, Steve
Earle’s first album for MCA ignited what the artist cleverly
called the “Great Credibility Scare of the ’80s,” when brilliant
tracks by unconventional singers invaded the charts. In this month’s
Classic Tracks, we take a look at sessions for the entire album, which
included not only the Top 10 title track, but unforgettable hits such as
“Hillbilly Highway” and “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left,” and heartbreakers
like “My Old Friend the Blues” and “Little Rock ’n’ Roller.”
Guitar Town was co-produced by bassist/arranger Emory Gordy and
keyboardist/producer Tony Brown. Today we know Brown as the hitmaking
producer of George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill and others. However,
in 1986, Brown’s A&R/production career was just starting to pick up steam.
“I had been a keyboard player with the Oak Ridge Boys for a while,
and after that I went to work at record companies: RCA first and then
MCA,” Brown explains. “But I stayed a writer for Silverline/Goldline
Music Publishing. Steve Earle was one of the writers there. At the time,
he was signed to CBS/Columbia and they were trying to position him as a
rockabilly kind of act.
“Well, this one day, Noel Fox [of the Oak Ridge Boys], who was the head
of the publishing company, said to me, ‘I’m taking some writers down to
Gulf Shores for the weekend—Jimbeau Hinson and Steve Earle—and if you
want to come along you can.’
“We were down there for four or five days, and Steve was writing all
these songs that he was planning to play for Columbia because it was
coming to the time when the label would pick up his option or not. So,
I heard ‘Guitar Town’ and ‘My Old Friend the Blues,’ and I thought, ‘This
guy is the next Waylon.’ I said, ‘Man, these songs are awesome.’ He said,
‘The label’s not gonna like it. They want me to do this Stray Cats thing.’”
Brown tried to convince Earle not to reveal his best songs to the
Columbia execs, hoping that the label would decline Earle’s option and
Brown could bring him to MCA.
“Steve said, ‘I’ve got to go in and play the songs I’ve written. I can’t lie to
’em. But they’re not gonna like it,’” Brown says. Earle was right; Columbia
So, Brown took Earle’s songs to Jimmy Bowen at MCA. “I played Bowen
the demos of ‘Guitar Town,’ ‘Hillbilly Highway’ and ‘My Old Friend the
Blues,’ and he said, ‘I can’t understand a word he’s saying. Go cut me some
demos where I can understand one word, and maybe I’ll consider it,’”
Brown recalls.
“I was scared of what Steve would say when I told him that, but he said,
‘Well, let’s do it. He’s paying for it.’” So, Brown took Earle, a backing band
and a young engineer named Chuck Ainlay to the Oak Ridge Boys’ studio
in Hendersonville to recut the demos.
“The sound of those demos is pretty close to what we recorded on the
album,” Brown says, “Steve arranged all the demos with [guitarist] Richard
“The album, for me, lives on in the brilliance of his vocals and his songwriting, and just
his take on life at the time. And the fact that everybody who was performing on the
record was from somewhere else and none of us had a clue what country music was
supposed to be. Add all those ingredients together and you get Guitar Town.”
—Chuck Ainlay
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Art by DenPotisev/Thinkstock
Bennett and laid it out like a sketch of what
he wanted the record to sound like. This time
Bowen said, ‘Okay, man. I’m considering it. Now
one more thing: You gotta get his teeth fixed.
I’ll pay for it,’ because Steve had these rotten
teeth. I didn’t know what Steve would say,
but he went, ‘Oh, man, I’ve been wanting to
get these fixed for a long time!’”
With Bowen’s demands satisfied, the
project moved into Back Stage Studio
within the Sound Stage Studios facility.
The group that assembled to work with
Earle included Bowen, Gordy, Bennett,
Ainlay, pedal steel player Bucky Baxter,
organist/keyboardist Ken Moore, drummer/
vocalist Harry Stinson, and piano/synth player
John Jarvis.
“Harry Stinson had moved from L.A. to
Nashville and he had been getting a lot of work
as a background singer and as a drummer,” says
Ainlay, who had moved to Music City from
Indiana to attend Belmont University in 1975.
“John Jarvis had moved from L.A., too, and he
was kind of the hip new keyboard player. Richard
Bennett had been Neil Diamond’s guitar player.
None of these guys were ‘Nashville,’ and I wasn’t
considered ‘Nashville,’ either,” “None of us knew
a whole lot about country music. We were forging
new territory based on ignorance, basically.”
The main tracking room of Back Stage was
quite small in ’86, comprising a piano room that
barely fit a grand and a Leslie, a vocal booth for
Earle, an air-lock space for guitar amps, and the
main tracking space, which Ainlay estimates
measured about 25 by 20 feet. “That became my
studio later on, and it’s a beautiful studio now,
but we were crammed in there,” Ainlay recalls.
Basic tracks began with a scaled-back rhythm
section of Stinson, Bennett, Gordy, Jarvis on
piano, and Earle. Everything was captured via
the pre’s in the studio’s Neve 8068 console to a
new Mitsubishi digital machine.
“I had done an all-digital album on Deborah
Allen previously, and that caught Jimmy Bowen’s
attention,” Ainlay explains. “We had the 3M
digital system at The Castle where I was the
chief engineer, and that Deborah Allen record
was the first album done in Nashville that was
recorded and mixed in multichannel digital and
released on CD.
“I showed Jimmy how cool it was, and he
leapt in. He commanded so much studio time
in town, and everybody wanted his business,
so when he demanded that studios buy these
“I don’t think Richard Bennett was considered one
of the producers at the beginning of the project,
but all that work on the guitars got him an
associate producer credit on the record.”
—Chuck Ainlay
32-track Mitsubishis, they all
bought them.”
Ainlay recalls few of the
microphone choices he made
during basic tracking, other than
Earle’s Neumann U47 vocal mic, and a DI for
Gordy’s bass. However, listening back today, he’s
able to make a few observations on the drum kit:
“I probably didn’t use any room microphones
then because the room wasn’t big enough,”
Ainlay notes. “Presumably, I would have had
[AKG] 451s on overheads, a [Shure] 57 on snare
top. It sounds like there’s a high tom and a
floor tom, and they sound like Sennheiser 421s.
The bass drum is very muffled-sounding, so I
don’t think that was a 421; it may have been an
[Electro-Voice] RE20.”
Some of Earle’s vocals, backing vocals, pedal
steel parts by Baxter and guest Paul Franklin, as
well as the Farfisa and other keyboards played by
Ken Moore were overdubbed.
But what stands out most in Ainlay’s memory
is the guitar processing that he and Bennett did
together: “We would start work about 2 o’clock
with Steve and cut two or three tracks during
the day,” Ainlay says. “Then the next morning
Richard and I would roll into the studio. I had
gotten a new Drawmer 1960—a tube compressor
that had an instrument-input section. You could
put guitar straight into it, and it had an insert so
you could patch outboard gear and loop it into
the compressor.
“Around that time, there was a little guitar
effects processor that a lot of people in L.A.
were using called Rockman. It was kind of like a
Walkman-sized cassette player that you plug into
and you got this big processed wad of sound, but it
wasn’t really good-sounding,” Ainlay continues.
“My idea was, let’s take this compressor and loop
through all the outboard gear in the studio and
create our own high-quality guitar processor. It
was very experimental.
“I don’t think Richard Bennett was considered
one of the producers at the beginning of the
project, but all that work on the guitars got him
an associate producer credit on the record.”
After about five days of basic tracking, the
Guitar Town team moved over to The Castle to
mix on that studio’s SSL 4000E console. “It was
your classic ‘cut on a Neve, mix on an SSL’ that
people were doing in those days,” Ainlay says. “I
had also introduced Bowen to mixing on an SSL
and VCA automation. Nashville pretty quickly
went from being a Neve town to being more of
an SSL town.”
Ainlay also recalls that Bowen’s allowance
was generous in terms of renting outboard gear.
“We had AMS reverbs, [Eventide] Harmonizers,
Lexicon delays and plate reverbs. Just listening,
I can tell the Lexicon 224 was a big part of it. It
blows my mind when I hear it now—there’s a fair
bit of reverb on that record!”
Earle, Bennett, Gordy and Brown all sat in
with Ainlay during the mix. “It was a fairly organic
album, other than that guitar processing that we
did,” Ainlay says. “The album, for me, lives on the
brilliance of his vocals and his songwriting, and
just his take on life at the time. And the fact that
everybody who was performing on the record
was from somewhere else and none of us had
a clue what country music was supposed to be.
Add all those ingredients together and you get
Guitar Town.”
The Guitar Town album debuted on Billboard’s
Top Country Albums chart at Number One and
the song “Guitar Town” went to Number 7. The
record not only launched Earle’s brilliant career
but propelled Ainlay and Brown on their paths.
“Chuck Ainlay was a second at SoundLab
when I was just playing on demos,” Bowen
recalls. “Our careers paralleled each other. We
finished the record and, boy, it really resonated
around town. Steve was not only a critical
darling, but he brought back a sound that was
fresh, not slick.
“I think about all the albums I’ve cut on
George Strait. Wynonna, Reba—I made money
on those records. But to this day I think the thing
that shapes people’s opinion of my production
skills is Guitar Town.” n
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Music // news & notes
By Mark R. Smith
ppearances at Baltimore’s Rams Head
Live! by Get the Led Out (GTLO), the
Philadelphia-based Led Zeppelin tribute
band, have become frequent, almost a tradition.
The band rocks, the audience jumps, and as in
cities across the country, a hot regional band brings
high-end live performance to a hungry audience,
night after night, in venues ranging from standing
clubs (like Rams Head Live!) and seated theaters
to outdoor festivals and sheds, with capacities of
250 to 10,000.
FOH engineer and production manager Chris
Chalfin has been with the group since 2006.
Shortly after joining, he realized that a certain level
of consistency was needed for the GTLO sound,
and they soon began carrying an audio control
package from his production company, Saturn
Systems, of Effort, Pa.
Chalfin’s FOH and monitor consoles are
Midas Pro 2s, each with 64 inputs, and his simple
approach calls for using all onboard effects. In its
earlier days, “The Pro 2’s onboard effects were very
limited,” he says, forcing him to keep one of his
outboard effects racks, loaded with TC Electronic
and Yamaha units, in tow.
From there, he moved to a software-based
Waves Multirack setup, “which worked great for
a while, but since Midas upgraded the internal
effects in the Pro 2, I did away with everything.”
He now opts for the Pro 2’s multiple reverbs,
delays, phasers, flangers and other integral tools
to replicate “the many different effects that are so
prominent in the Led Zeppelin studio recordings.”
All effects are recalled on a song-by-song basis,
which allows him to concentrate on the mix
without distraction.
“We’ve come a long way from the first audio
package we put together,” he says, referring to
a Soundcraft Series Five, with three racks of
Get the Led Out at Rams Head Live!
outboard gear at FOH. At the monitor position
was “a Soundcraft SM-20, with a couple racks of
outboard gear. On stage, we had 12 wedges, two
drum subs and sidefills that were loud enough to
be my front-of-house P.A.”
The majority of the mics on GTLO’s stage
are models from Sennheiser and Shure, with the
exception of a Neumann KM 184 on the hi-hat
and a Telefunken M80 for lead singer Paul Sinclair;
Shure Beta58As are used for all other vocals. The
guitar riffs are captured with a combination of a
Sennheiser e-906 and a Radial JDX; on the drums
are a Sennheiser e-602 with a Shure Beta 91A in the
kick, both mounted on Kelly suspension systems.
Snare, toms and timpani are all captured with
Sennheiser e-604s, and the ride cymbal is picked
up with a Shure Beta 98. Rounding out the kit are
a couple of Shure KSM-44s for overheads. DIs are
all Radials, save for the bass, which runs through an
Avalon U5. All stacks and racks, JBL Vertec VT4888
in this case, are sourced locally by the venue or
Chalfin’s approach to achieving that famous
sound “is pretty simple,” he says. “Our job is to
re-create Led Zeppelin’s studio recordings live.
Obviously, technology has come a long way since
those recordings were made. The mics, consoles
and speakers are all so much better now that it
can be tough to re-create that ‘old school’ sound.
Instead, I go for what I think Led Zeppelin would
sound like today. Virtual Sound Check is a valuable
tool to that end, when I tune the P.A.”
Chalfin bases his mix around the drum kit,
then builds around it. “I’ll layer in bass, guitars and
keys,” he explains. “The challenge is to keep sepa-
ration between
FOH engineer/production
everything so
manager Chris Chalfin at
you can hear,
the Midas Pro 2 console.
and pick out,
each instrument. Once I’m satisfied with the band
mix, I’ll lay the vocals in on top of everything, then
make a few adjustments to get it all to gel.”
Noting that he employs 48 inputs from the
stage, plus seven stereo effects returns, he called
the GTLO mix “very dynamic. The show shifts
from a full-on electric song, such as ‘Rock & Roll’
or ‘Immigrant Song’ running an average of 105
dbA, down to an intimate acoustic set that might
average 85 to 90 dbA. My motto for mixing has
always been ‘Powerful, not painful.’ I want the
audience to feel it. I strive to keep it in their face,
but without hurting their ears.”
The ongoing challenge, says Chalfin, who has
also worked with such acts as Halestorm, Ruben
Studdard and Avril Lavigne, is “consistency. We
play a variety of venues, so I run into systems
that range from less than ideal to magical. Rams
Head Live! is always a challenge, because that
room changes so drastically between being empty
at soundcheck to when the show starts. They’ve
greatly improved the P.A. during the last year or
two by rehanging it, retuning it, adding some
proper lip fills across the stage, and getting their
sub situation straightened out. All in all it’s become
a fun venue to visit.”
Chalfin is hopeful that GTLO will soon carry
its own complete P.A. “However,” he says, “I look
at the current situation as a great way to keep
my chops up and do my best with the tools I’m
given.” n
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on the cover
Dave Cobb at Home
in Nashville
Producer Moves Into Studio A, Revels in Music-Making
By Barbara Schultz / Photos by Neilson Hubbard
Photo by David McClister
ettling in Nashville has led to the
biggest success of Dave Cobb’s career.
Since relocating from L.A. in 2011, he’s
received four Grammy Awards, three Americana
Association Awards, two CMA Awards, the Music
Row Award for Producer of the Year, and plenty
more recognition for the beautiful, top-selling,
artist-centered albums he’s produced with Chris
Stapleton, Jason Isbell and others.
After making some of those records in his
home studio for five years, Cobb was able to take
over RCA Studio A when Ben Folds departed in
2016. Now, Cobb is adding his own memories
and milestones to the legendary facility’s story,
and he revels in the resources that Nashville
holds for locals, as well as transplants like him.
“This is a place where you can be working at 11
at night on a session and you need a harmonica
on a song, and if you just make a call, the person
who shows up is the best harmonica player in the
world,” Cobb says. “Right now, Nashville feels
like the only place in the world where art meets
commerce—where there’s record labels, artists
and infrastructure all in the same place.”
Tell us about how work has changed for you
since moving into Studio A.
It’s an honor to be in a place like Studio A.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be
able to show up every day to a place like that.
It’s a beautifully purpose-built room to handle
orchestra and choir and band and singer all in
one room with no headphones, and I’ve always
fantasized about being able to work that way
It’s really changed the way I make records in
the sense that I can have multiple things set up
and stay set up, and we can move very quickly.
When you’re inspired, this room does not limit
you. I used to have to move microphones or move
other things around anytime I needed to change
Cobb takes time out during the night and relaxes under a studio lamp,
part of the studio decor left behind by previous owner Chet Atkins.
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something, and it was a much slower process.
The second side of it is, the walls have a lot
of history and music in them. It almost feels like
I need to wear a tie every day, to respect where
I am. I love that about it. I think everybody
who walks in can feel who came before us, and
I think they all put on their Sunday best in a
way, and try to be better because of who came
before us.
Did you bring all your gear from home, or did
you acquire anything from Ben’s Place?
I bought the API console from him—a ’70s
3288—and a piano. It was great to move into a
place with a nice desk that was already installed
and working. I didn’t really have down time
because of that.
Jason Isbell on guitar, foreground, with Cobb to the rear and Amanda Shires cutting vocals in Studio A
So the rest of the equipment is from your home
Yeah. It looks like an episode of Hoarders now,
but with gear.
Do you still keep a home setup?
I do. I bought a new house and built a new studio,
and I mix there sometimes. It’s great, because I
can see my 9-year-old daughter at home.
What else do you have in Studio A?
My monitors are PMC XB3S. I love them. They’re
the best speakers I’ve ever owned. As far as
recording platforms, for the most part I stay on a
Studer A800 8-track, and then transfer that into
Pro Tools and overdub in Pro Tools. There’s a ton
of outboard gear, and that’s always changing and
rotating. That’s probably the basis of everything:
a lot of outboard mic preamps, compressors,
Fairchild 670s and 660s—all kinds of stuff. Too
much stuff.
Cobb (far right) jokes around in session with Brandi Carlile and band.
Do you have a main engineer you work with
I work with Gena Johnson a lot; she’s probably
the mainstay of the studio. But other people
come in and do records with me: Vance Powell,
Darrell Thorpe, Eddie Spear, Matt Ross-Spang,
Brandon Bell. Those are probably the people I
work with the most. Having different engineers
come in and out makes it fun. We make each
other laugh and show each other tricks.
Can you tell what you’re working on now?
I have a John Prine record coming out, and some
other things I can’t tell you.
In the control room with Anderson East and engineer Gena Johnson
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In RCA Studio A, from left: producer Dave Cobb with singer/songwriter John Prine and engineer Matt Ross-Spang
If I name a few of your recent projects,
would you describe something about the
process of making them? How about,
Brandi Carlile’s album By the Way, I
Forgive You.
She’s one of my favorite singers. I produced
that with Shooter Jennings, and Eddie Spear
engineered. I think her vocal chain was a Shure
SM7 and a Neve 1073 and a Fairchild 660, but it
could have been anything and she would have
sounded great.
All the vocals were cut with the drums in a
booth and everybody else in one room together,
and she’s just bleeding into the other mics. Those
are all live vocal takes, and we made the record
around her vocals. If it was a good vocal take,
that was the take we used. Also, she’s somebody
who you challenge and she would deliver every
time: “Go ahead and push me, and I’ll show you
what I can do.”
How about Anderson East’s Encore?
That record wasn’t as much making a soul
record as it was making a record with a lot of
soul. Anderson is one of my best friends in the
world, and we’re both big fans of Leon Russell,
and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen and
Van Morrison. We wanted the record to feel
like when you watch Joe Cocker sing “With a
Little Help From My Friends,” where everything
just gets bigger and crazier, and just when you
think the song is done, it goes somewhere else
and explodes. We made a record that was like
a live concert and we tried to have explosions
wherever we could.
Chris Stapleton’s From a Room records?
I was a fan of Stapleton for many years before we
got to work together. I play acoustic guitar with
him on the record. We basically all get in the
room and act like we’re teenagers in a rehearsal
space. All those vocals are live on his album, as
well. In some cases drums are also in the same
room. We just goof off a lot, and then we get to
recording when feel like it. We run the song a
couple times and that’s it. He’s a blast to make
John Prine with a friend from RCA
a record with—a once-in-a-lifetime artist—an
incredible singer, songwriter and player as well.
It’s super-easy to make those records.
Vance Powell was the engineer and mixed, so
when we’d come in the control room, it would
sound like a finished record as soon as we just
finished tracking.
How do you decide when to play on a record
you’re producing? Is it usually at the artist’s
invitation, or does it start with you trying to
explain something musically?
I don’t use clicks or computers to create feel on
a record. I try to come from a human place. So
I act as the click, in a way. Being in the room
allows me to connect to a take and feel when
we’ve got it right.
It’s really just me ripping off Jimmy Miller, the
guy who produced a lot of my favorite Stones
records. He became kind of part of the band
when he made those records, and he would play
percussion or whatever it took to get the band in
the right place. n
“The walls have a lot of history and music in them. It almost feels like I need to
wear a tie every day, to respect where I am. I love that about it. I think everybody
who walks in can feel who came before us, and I think they all put on their Sunday
best in a way, and try to be better because of who came before us.”
—Dave Cobb
M I X | M A Y 2 0 1 8 | mi x o n l i n m
MIX_05_18_v3.indd 22
4/20/18 1:06 PM
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Forever Words
Setting Johnny Cash’s Personal Writings to Music
By Barbara Schultz
Photo by Don Hunstein/Sony Music
s John Carter Cash pored over his late
father’s writings, two goals emerged:
to curate and publish a collection in
book form, and then to make an album, creating
a musical setting for a selection of those works.
“I think a majority of people who know my
father’s work would say he had a strong literary
prowess, but I wanted to reaffirm that,” Carter
Cash says. “He was not only an image, the iconic
picture of the Man in Black; he had great depth and
strength as an American literary, cultural, poetic
writer. I also heard melodies in these writings.
“From the beginning, when I saw some of the
poems or fragments like ‘The Walking Wounded’
or ‘Goin’ Goin’ Gone’ or ‘Spirit Rider,’ I wished I
could say, ‘Dad, where’s the music? What was the
melody?’ It put a fire in my spirit to know that
he would have loved to have those pieces heard.”
The Forever Words book (edited by Paul
Muldoon) appeared on Blue Rider Press last
November; it contains 144 pages of Cash’s
previously unpublished poetry, lyrics, and other
personal and spiritual works. And this month
the Forever Words album, produced by Carter
Cash and Steve Berkowitz and engineered by
Chuck Turner, will be released. It features songs
fashioned from Cash’s writings by a varied group
of artists whom Carter Cash selected to display
his father’s broad musical influence and interests.
Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson perform
the last poem Cash wrote, “Forever,” to the tune
of the beloved song “I Still Miss Someone.” Carter
Cash’s sister Rosanne integrates a poem called
“The Walking Wounded” into a dark folk ballad.
Elvis Costello creates a romantic orchestral piece
from “I’ll Still Love You.” Robert Glasper sets
“Goin’ Goin’ Gone” to a hip-hop groove. And
that’s just a taste.
“The writing itself told us whether to hand a
specific piece to a hard rock artist or a folk artist
or a hip-hop artist or a pop artist, or bluegrass or
modern country. It was all there,” Carter Cash
says. “And Dad was open-minded that way. He
came to me in the early ’90s and said, ‘Have you
heard [Nine Inch Nails’] Downward Spiral?’ And
Johnny Cash
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Photo by Sam Erickson
Photo by David McClister
Photo by David McClister
Chris Cornell’s song “You Never Knew My Mind”
was one of his last recording sessions.
Jewel in session
I said, ‘Um, yes … have you?’ He was so open to then turned into a studio of sorts while working
with producer Rick Rubin in the ’90s. Over
music, and I think that worked both ways.
“So if some of these artists wanted to write the years, the family has added rooms and
their song as if Johnny Cash was in the room and technology to the cabin; the current studio
he was going to sing it, great,” he continues. “T includes a large tracking room, a drum room
Bone Burnett did that. But if they wanted to do it (the original cabin), control room, three small
from their own creative viewpoint, like the Chris iso rooms, and a natural reverb chamber that was
Cornell song [‘You Never Knew My Mind’], that designed by Cowboy Jack Clement.
“That was one of the primary reverbs on this
was awesome. I think some artists were excited
project. We also have a vintage EMT plate that
to reach that far.”
Cornell’s track was one of the late Soundgarden was once part of the Grand Ole Opry sound
and Audioslave leader’s last recording sessions. system,” says Turner, who engineered all of the
“‘You Never Knew My Mind’ was a fragment of songs recorded in the cabin.
Turner captured all of the tracks to Pro Tools
a poem from the time in Dad’s life when he was
breaking up with his first wife, Vivian,” Carter at 24-bit/48 kHz resolution, then used Apogee
Cash says. “I listened to that song a thousand converters to transfer all digital files over to mix
times when Chuck and I were mixing, but it’s still via the studio’s Rupert Neve 5060 centerpiece
desktop mixer.
hard to hear.”
Turner has been working in the Cash Family
It was an emotional and rewarding experience
for Carter Cash to research and date the writings. Cabin for more than 20 years, and he used triedHe believes the Jayhawks song “What Would I and-true recording chains on these sessions. “The
Dreamer Do” was written when Cash was 15 or main vocal chain was a vintage Neumann U67
16 because it appears on Delta Airlines letterhead mic, a Neve 1073 and an old Blackface 1176. I
with a logo used only in the late 1950s. He was think that was the vocal chain on everything I
able to date the song ‘To June This Morning,’ recorded,” Turner recalls.
Most of the tracking in the cabin studio was
performed by Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves,
done live with each vocalist situated in a booth
to February 1970 because of the subject matter.
“In February 1970, my mother was eight and the piano in another booth. Guitar amps
were usually placed in an
months pregnant with me,
iso closet and miked with
when he writes about seeing
a Shure SM57 and a Royer
my mother walk down
those stairs and the light in
“I used a Focusrite Red 3
her eyes,” Carter Cash says.
preamp for electric guitars,
A handful of songs on
and on the piano I used a
Forever Words were made
matched pair of little Røde
in other studios, but the
MT5 mics into Great River
lion’s share were tracked
mic pre’s,” Turner says. “That
in the Cash Family Cabin,
piano is something special.
the refuge that Cash
It’s an 1867 Steinway upright
built on his property in
Engineer Chuck Turner (left)
from June’s collection.”
Hendersonville in 1979 and
in the Cash Family Cabin with
producer John Carter Cash
Rosanne Cash recording “The Walking Wounded”
Turner’s drum-miking scheme was straightforward: an AKG D112 on kick, one FET U47
inside and one outside, Shure 57s on snare top
and bottom (though the bottom mic is sometimes
traded for an AKG 451), another 57 on hi-hat, and
Sennheiser 421s on toms.
“I have a pair of AKG 414-type condensers for
overheads and a pair of vintage AKG omni tube
mics positioned up in the ceiling of the cabin for
room mics on my drum room,” Turner says. “That
space, the original cabin, is all wood. We have
hardwood floors. The walls are rough-cut cedar.
I have some gobos and baffles up, but in general
it’s all wood and very rustic. If you drove up to
this place, you would never think, ‘There must be
a recording facility here.’”
During the mix, Turner applied a few consistent
elements to the tracks he recorded and those he
received from other studios, in part to create the
feeling that the songs all came from “the same
“I use an SSL compressor on the 2-mix; helps
bring everything together,” he says. “I also use
the Renaissance EQs and the Bomb Factory
1176 religiously. Also, I set up all my auxes and
subgroups on a track, and I’ll import those into
the next one and the next one and the next so that
compressor or EQ or reverb stays from song to
song. In that sense, this was like any other project
we work on.
“But anytime we’re doing Cash stuff, whether
it be John’s mother or his father, or other Carter
Family stuff, there’s always an emotional side to it
because of where it came from and the memories
that it brings up,” Turner concludes. “I was the
last one to record Johnny Cash and June Carter
Cash. I didn’t spend as much time with them as
some guys, but I worked with them a number of
years before they passed. So seeing this material
come to life—it means that Johnny Cash lives on
through all of us.” n
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The Anthem Shines in D.C.
New Purpose-Built Venue Is All-Music, And a Good Neighbor
By Matt Hurwitz
Photo by Victoria Ford/Sneakshot
The sellout Anthem crowd roars for Phoenix, with d&b J-Series P.A.
ast October, Foo Fighters belted out the lyrics of their latest single,
“Sky Is a Neighborhood,” to a sellout crowd of 6,000 at the opening
night of Washington, D.C.’s newest music venue, The Anthem:
“Gotta get to sleep somehow/Bangin’ on the ceiling/Keep it down!” But
nobody in the adjacent apartment towers was doing any bangin’. They
couldn’t hear a peep.
While those inside heard rich, clean, loud rock ’n’ roll.
Anthem owner Seth Hurwitz (full discolsure: he is my brother) and
developer Monty Hoffman of PN Hoffman, which built the $2.5 billion
entertainment/residential/hotel/restaurant complex on D.C.’s Southwest
Waterfront, set out to provide a top-tier music venue with great audio.
They also wanted to be a good neighbor.
Hurwitz, whose I.M.P. owns the city’s Pollstar Award-winning 9:30 Club
and runs the historic Merriweather Post Pavilion in nearby Columbia,
Md., was looking to build a place with a capacity somewhere between the
1,200 of the 9:30 and the 18,000 of Merriweather. Besides those venues,
he notes, “We were always renting venues, for decades, that were not built
for music. Traditionally, promoters rent venues that were built for sports
or civic or multi-use reasons. And audiences have just accepted this as a
standard—these square peg in a round hole places.”
C. Russell Todd of Akustiks, Hoffman’s sound isolation consultant,
knew from the beginning that Hurwitz wanted the intimacy of the 9:30
Club, but he wanted more people inside: “Seth said, ‘I just want to do this,
but bigger.’ And then Monty added, ‘Yeah, and I want to put apartments
right next to it.’ Everybody knew, ‘Okay, we’ve got our work cut out for us!’”
The overall design for The Wharf was handled for Hoffman by architect-
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From left, I.M.P. technical director
Chris Robb, with chairman Seth
Hurwitz, in front of The Anthem’s
DiGiCo SD12 FOH console
Photo by John Shore
planners Perkins Eastman, who designed the
overall structure. The Anthem’s specific interior
architectural design was by renowned designer
David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group. While
Akustiks worked on the developer side, Hurwitz
brought in Walters-Storyk Design Group (project
manager Josh Morris), with whom he’d worked
previously on 9:30 and elsewhere, for peer review
of acoustic, isolation and sound design.
On the isolation front, the design approach
was one Akustiks had taken previously in concert
hall design—though, in this case, in reverse.
“We’re making a lot of sound and vibration
inside the hall; here, we need to make sure it’s
quiet on the outside,” says Todd, adding that
the design called for a hybrid box-in-a-box: “A
building within a building, but hybrid, in that
there’s a complete acoustic joint all the way
around the room. It’s a concrete box that’s
decoupled from the rest of the structure at the
perimeter, with acoustic isolation joints.”
Structurally, The Anthem’s isolation starts
with isolation slabs for the floor and the roof.
The floor’s design consists of what’s known as
a jack-up isolation slab—a 6-inch concrete slab
supported on the structure’s 12-inch slab by a
network of isolator devices, manufactured by
Mason Industries, often used to isolate vibration
of mechanical systems in buildings. “The floor
slab sits on vibration isolation, so the bass
energy, the crowd movement, doesn’t get into
the structure and get transmitted up into the
apartment towers or adjacent structure,” Todd
The two-piece neoprene isolators (a base, plus
an inverted bell-shaped dome, connected via a
screw device) were placed by general contractor
Clark Construction at 4-foot centers around
the entire 133x135-foot Anthem floor. Plastic
sheeting is placed upon them, with the floor
slabs’ rebar on top, bearing onto the dome pieces
of the isolators, after which the slab concrete is
poured. After the concrete is cured, a crew slowly
raised the floor slab, using large T-wrenches
penetrating the openings of the tops of the
dome pieces on the slab’s surface, methodically
turning the screws that separate the two pieces
of the isolators, eventually raising the entire
floor slab enough to leave a 2-inch isolation air
gap between the two slabs. Any vibration from
either music or audience is transmitted, from
the domes, via the screws, to the neoprene bases
of the isolators and fully attenuated.
Walls are constructed of 6-inch concrete
block, bearing on the floor slab—with a 2-inch
gap between them and the building’s 12-inch
concrete walls. Wall penetrations for ductwork,
piping, conduit, etc., Todd notes, have to be
resilient, using flex connections and vibration
isolation hangers. “This is where we’re totally
dependent on the contractor’s due diligence to
pay attention to every detail, or else it would
The roof, like the floor, is made of a floating
slab, one upon the other, with vibration isolation.
“The roof would otherwise act as an ‘area source,’”
Todd explains, which, unlike a point source, does
not decay in audio level with distance. “That
means that any noise being transmitted would
be just as loud at the roof level as it would for
a resident 20 floors up. And you hear nothing
when standing on that roof garden.”
The approach for handling sound reflection was
twofold: eliminating low-frequency reflections
and allowing some mid- and high-frequencies
to be reflected to give the room life. With EDM
acts making regular visits to the Anthem, low
frequencies could have been a problem.
“That’s the big room acoustic challenge in
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this space,” Todd says. “In an arena, if you don’t
deal with the bass energy, the room begins to
sound muddy; there’s a lack of clarity of the
bass. By absorbing the bass energy, not only
does the mix engineer not have to fight a lot of
extra low-frequency energy in the room, it also
decreases the amount of sound that’s trying to
bleed through to the apartments.”
The main method for handling low frequencies
in The Anthem is via lapendary panels, made by
MBI—4-inch acoustic panel material draped
two feet from the ceiling surface, to allow low
frequency energy to be trapped and absorbed.
“We place it a quarter-wavelength away from
the reflective surface, where the particle velocity
is the highest for the incident wave,” Todd
explains. “You could either do that or put twoor three-feet-thick material up there, which is
quite costly.”
Some reflections were allowed, mainly off of
the “tray”-type balconies—antilevered seating
platforms that project out into the room. “We
want to have some life in the room, especially
with respect to the crowd clapping, etc.,” Todd
says. “I hate a dead room.”
“From an acoustic standpoint,” says I.M.P.
technical director Chris Robb, “once the people
arrive, you have, in a sense, ‘water bags,’ as I often
describe rooms to engineers. A lot of acoustic
absorption happens between soundcheck and
the show. So besides the absorption taking
place on the back walls, the sloped seating
from the balconies help absorb some of the
energy naturally, just due to the presence of the
direct sound path of the band’s rather loud guitar
amps. “If you already have a ton of guitar coming
at you,” Robb notes, “you’ll tend to compensate
and lower it in the mix; but then you go to the
upper balcony, and you can’t hear guitars.”)
For speaker arrays, Robb went with the
I.M.P. company standard, the d&b Audiotechnik
J-Series, as he had installed at the 9:30 and
elsewhere around the I.M.P. world, provided by
vendor Eighth Day Sound (with help from the
company’s install specialist, Tom George, and
head of Global Sales Owen Orzack). The dual
speaker arrays, suspended from movable trolleys
(built to follow the moving stage, for instances
where it is placed closer to the center of the
room), consist of six J-8 boxes per side, with 80
degree throw to the farthest reaches, atop eight
J-12s, with 120 degrees to widen out to spread the
sound for patrons on the floor. The former are
most important, Robb notes. “It’s easy to make it
Jack-up isolators and reinforcement bar set in place, awaiting concrete
for the Anthem floor. Inset: The Maxon Industries Jack Isolator.
Photos courtesy Akustiks
The audio system at The Anthem is robust, and
quite purposefully so, says Robb: “Not many
venues of this size will offer full production. We
provide the current, best production we can,
in hope that acts won’t want to bring theirs in.
We’re hoping we have more and better than what
they’re carrying. Labor’s expensive, and nobody
wants an 18-hour day.”
The Anthem has two DiGiCo SD12 consoles—
one at front of house and the other at the
monitor position. FOH is in a more-than-ample
raised space, twice as big as most technical
riders call for, Robb notes, with a guest position
available to its left, with room still to spare.
(Interestingly, when Foos mixer Bryan Worthen
was on site, he set up on the floor, instead of the
raised mix position, to allow him to be out of
The size of the empty club gives an idea of just how massive
the isolation challenge was with the box-within-a-box construction.
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Photo by Dave Barnhouser/13th Hour Photography
if ever take the room into account, as if the
system environment had no boundaries. That’s
clearly not the case with The Anthem.” In
this case, WSDG used CATT-Acoustics as the
primary modeling software, along with two
proprietary engendering tools. “We work well
Photo by John Shore
sound good right in the middle of the room on
the floor, and very complicated to make it sound
as good in the very last row at the very top of the
balcony seats. So that’s where I start, and then I
work my way back to the floor.”
Six d&b J-Sub subwoofers are hung behind
each of the main arrays, with four more InfraSubs placed under the stage. “The 30 to 40 Hz
is where everybody pushes, to get that chest
thump, visceral impact,” Robb says, noting that
the whole system is driven by d&b D80 power
amps. “They’re sort of a black-box, proprietary
d&b amp, with four channels per rack unit.
And it’s all controlled via network from the
mix position, so you can have full control to
all the functionality on the amps from the mix
In designing the venue audio array system,
WSDG used several modeling software platforms
to optimize an exact system. Finalizing the
solution, Robb utilized d&b’s proprietary
ArrayCalc modeling software.
WSDG principal John Storyk notes that
most major speaker manufacturers have arraycalculating software, “But these modeling tools
are essentially for coverage only; they rarely
with Chris,” Storyk says. “Working with the 9:30
Club team has always been an honor. They’re
super-capable, but they also want to listen to our
thoughts and ideas.”
Some fine-tuning was done with help from
LCD Soundsystem’s system tech Richie Gibson,
who, Robb notes, is with 3tinybones and,
on occasion, is used for touring support by
Eighth Day Sound. “EDS has a big list of great
engineers they call on, and Richie sometimes
works for them freelance. His suggestions and
recommendations were really helpful in the
fine-tuning phase after the install, it was much
appreciated! The Array Processing is a great
feature. We are always playing with it and
improving an already great system, and it really
lets you dial in exactly what the visiting engineer
is looking for or what the style of performance
really needs.”
The resultant combination of a well-crafted
acoustic design, solid sound isolation, and a
finely tuned audio system means, as is often
noted of The Anthem, “There’s no bad seat in
the house,” even with three levels and a 57,000
square foot base.
“For an audience, all they want to know
is it sounds good,” says Hurwitz. “It’s like a
restaurant—it doesn’t matter how the food got
to the plate, it’s gotta taste good. They need to
hear the music and it has to sound good. You
can’t explain to someone who’s standing in
the wrong spot, ‘Hey, if you move over there,
it’s gonna sound better.’ It has to sound great
everywhere.” n
The opening night marquee for the Foo Fighters.
The commercial/residential density of The Wharf led to sound isolation challenges.
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Mix Regional: Nashville
By Barbara Schultz
Parker Millsap, Gary Paczosa and Shani Gandhi
Make Other Arrangements
Parker Millsap’s upbringing in the Pentecostal church strongly influenced
his early records in particular. His first success came from “Truck Stop
Gospel,” a roots-rocking song from the point of view of a Bible-thumping
trucker. Millsap’s latest release, Other Arrangements, includes an occasional
Biblical reference, but on the whole, it turns in a new direction.
“He definitely wanted to depart from some of the lyrical content from
his last records,” says Gary Paczosa, who also worked on Millsap’s previous
album, The Very Last Day. “He’d been having fun on the road playing songs
that are shorter, more rock ’n’ roll, and he was getting a great response
from his fans.”
Paczosa and Shani Gandhi collaborated as engineers and producers on
Arrangements, taking Millsap and his touring band first to
Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C., for tracking. “I
think sometimes when you travel somewhere and you’re
living together, away from family and all the distractions
of being at home, that really can help shape a record into
something special. I have always loved that experience,”
Paczosa explains.
Back in Nashville, they also cut the Jillette Johnson/
Millsap song “Come Back When You Can’t Stay” at
Southern Ground Studios. The team then moved to
Paczosa’s personal studio, Minutia, where he and Gandhi
recorded overdubs, including many of Millsap’s vocals and guitar parts.
“The main vocal path was a Blue Bottle microphone with the B6
capsule, a Mastering Lab preamp, GML EQ, GML compressor and at the
end the Retro 176, into Cubase,” Paczosa says. “I took that whole chain to
Asheville, and we did keep a couple vocals from tracking. I always take the
whole chain with me wherever I go, just in case.”
Paczosa says that he tends to take charge of the vocal recording choices,
while Gandhi is usually in command on electric guitars, again traveling
with key pieces of gear.
“When you go to different studios, it’s really nice to have things that
you know because there are so many variables to deal with,” Gandhi says.
“We bring our own speakers, sub and Gary’s go-to rack, which includes
two Vintech X73s and two Distressors, and that’s usually in my go-to
electric guitar chain.”
Gandhi used an Audio-Technica 4033 on one of Millsap’s two amps
and an RCA BK-5B on the other, plus a Neumann U67 to mike either the
room or a third amp. “The BK-5B is a little warmer than the A-T,” she says.
“Usually, I will match the amps to that—put the A-T on the warmer amp
and the BK-5B on the brighter one.
“I don’t like to use EQ or compression on electric guitars, though,
In Gary Paczosa’s Minutia Studio: co-producers
Shani Gandhi and Gary Paczosa flank artist Parker Millsap.
because I think there are so many ways you can get what
you want without using outboard gear,” she continues.
“I’ll get Parker to change things. I’ll move the mic. So much
can be gained by moving the mic half an inch closer to
the cone, or farther away to the edge of the speaker. The
Distressors are really just there to catch something if he
plays quite loud and I don’t want it to ruin a take.”
When it came time to mix, Paczosa and Gandhi—whose working
relationship has progressed over time from mentor-and-assistant to
50-50 collaboration—actually split up the tracks. Each took a couple of
favorites, and they picked the rest of the song names from a hat! Paczosa
mixed his half of the tracks in Minutia, and Gandhi took hers to her own
studio. The two control rooms are similarly equipped—Cubase, Genelec
1031A monitors, UA and SoundToys plug-ins, etc.—making it simple for
the engineer/producers to share the work and create a cohesive album.
“We both use the [SoundToys] Echo Boy and UA stuff like the EMT 140
‘plate.’ On some of the longer reverbs, it’s the Valhalla VintageVerb and the
ValhallaRoom,” Gandhi says.
“One thing that we do have that’s different—we mostly mix in the box,
but then we send out to an analog chain, and Gary’s main compressor is a
Manley Vari-mu and mine is the API 2500. So, half the record goes through
the API and half goes through the Manley.
“But we do use a lot of the same gear—partly so we can ‘talk to each
other,’ and that’s great, but also because I learned from Gary,” Gandhi
notes. “He has spent 30 years developing these practices, so of course I’m
going to apply them to my own mixes whenever I can.” n
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Nick Raskulinecz:
Room for Variety
Around the time producer/engineer Nick
Raskulinecz moved from Los Angeles to
Nashville, he purchased an SSL 6000 console,
hoping he’d eventually find a place to put it.
“I was working in studios around town, great
studios—Sound Kitchen, Blackbird—but the
whole time, I had that board in storage in L.A.
and I was wishing I had another way to do
Five years of storage rental later, a six-room
studio within Dark Horse Recording became
available and Raskulinecz jumped on it, calling
his new studio Rock Falcon. “It’s attached to a
cabin, so there’s a place to stay,” Raskulinecz
says. “It’s got a ski lodge–type feel with lots
of exposed beams and rock, hardwood floors.
It’s kind of a small space—very woodsy and
Raskulinecz installed his SSL—a 56 mono/8
stereo-channel console that was originally part
of CBS-TV studios L.A.—plus his Pro Tools
rig, Proac, Genelec and KRK monitors, and his
extensive collections of mics and outboard gear.
He was also glad to have a space where his
numerous instruments and amps can be put
to good use. “I’ve been collecting instruments
for 20 years, and when you hire me to produce
a record, you get all of my stuff, too,” he says.
“Something I realized quickly when I started as
an assistant at Sound City is that to help artists
realize their vision for their records, you need
great-quality gear, and you need variety. You
need a Telecaster and a Les Paul, and an SG and
a Strat, and maybe a Flying V, too.
“The same goes for snares or cymbals. I’ve
probably got a hundred cymbals. We might be
recording and one of the cymbals is rubbing
with the key of the song, so you need to switch
that. There’s notes in all of that stuff.”
Raskulinecz shares engineering duties in
his studio with Nathan Yarborough. Since the
studio went online, Raskulinecz has produced
Mastodon’s Grammy-nominated album Once
More Around the Sun, Rise Against’s Wolves,
Korn’s Serenity of Suffering, and Ten Years’ album
How to Live as Ghosts. “Ten Years is the first
band from Tennessee that I’ve ever recorded
in my career, and I’m from Tennessee,” he says.
Read about some of the techniques Nick
Raskulinecz used with Ten Years at mixonline.
Black River Booming
The studios at Black River’s Sound Stage Studios, including Front Stage,
Back Stage and Ronnie’s Place, continue to be booked for tracking dates
with the likes of regular clients Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt,
Kid Rock, Keith Urban and many others.
In an effort to promote new revenue streams and make up for the
shorter-term bookings, Sound Stage has been busy in other areas of
music and recording, building relationships with streaming companies,
labels and publishers. Recently, Sound Stage was dubbed the home of
Nashville’s Spotify Singles program, hosting acts such as Anderson East
and Langhorne Slim.
The relationship with Spotify began at AES five years ago, when
producer/engineer/studio manager Nick Autry hooked up with Spotify’s
chief engineer, William Garrett. “We met at an event in New York and
became pals,” Autry says. “When he took over at Spotify’s studios, he
introduced me to Bryan Grone. They asked us to record the acts that
wanted to work in Nashville, and I jumped at the chance. Every session
is different, and every one of them is treated like we’re making a record,
which is what we’re doing. We have some huge artists coming up for this.
I truly love the diversity.”
Meanwhile, the Black River Stage at The Well—a venue built by Black
River in partnership with Lipscomb’s College of Entertainment and the
Black River Entertainment’s Live at the Well
Arts—provides content for the company’s YouTube site, Sound Stage
Studios Live. “We look at this as an extension of our studios,” Autry says.
“Live music is still the heart and soul of our town, and to have a place
where we can contribute that aspect of the business is important.”
And there’s still more from the label side, home to Kelsea Ballerini,
Abby Anderson, Jacob Davis, Hannah Kerr, Josh Wilson, where Black
River Entertainment launched a new Americana imprint. Autry spent the
past year helping with A&R and producing the first act signed to the new
venture, Carolina Story.
“I work for such a great company,” Autry concludes. “Gordon lets us be
creative and live our dreams. I firmly believe that when people walk into
our complex, they see and feel the joy we get in being there. We’re small,
we’re close and we care about the integrity of audio and great songs!”
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Evanescence recorded their first album in six years, Synthesis,
at Ocean Way Nashville. Orchestration and conducting of an
orchestra contracted by Nashville Music Scoring were handled
by David Campbell. Co-produced by Amy Lee and Will Hunt,
the album was engineered by Nick Spezia with assistance from
Jasper LeMaster. Pictured here are Campbell, Lee, Hunt and Ocean Way Director of Operations
Pat McMakin. More recently, Maddie and Tae worked on their forthcoming UMG album with
co-producers Derek Wells and Jimmy Robbins, engineer Ben Fowler and assistant Josh Ditty.
Ocean Way also hosted scoring sessions for a number of hit videogames, including
Fortnight, Destiny 2 and Call of Duty WWII, with a score composed by Wilbert Roget and
recorded by engineer Nick Spezia with assistant Jasper LeMaster.
Southern Ground Studios
Studio Manager/Chief Engineer Brandon Bell
shared some recent sessions and updates from
the home of the Zac Brown Band, Southern
Ground Studios. In Studio A, with its custom API
Legacy Plus console, Atomic Instrument soffitmounted Reactor main monitors were added
in November, and Atomic SixTen speakers were
installed in Studio C in August.
Visitors to Southern Ground included Carly
Pearce recording in Studio A with producer
Busbee and engineers Lowell Reynolds and
Konrad Snyder. Michael Franti was in with
producers Ben Simonetti and Niko Moon, and
of course the Zac Brown Band worked on their
latest, Welcome Home, with Dave Cobb producing
and Bell engineering. Pictured here is the Zac
Brown Band with Darrell Scott, in session for the
previous LP, Jekyll + Hyde.
In addition to scores of recording and mixing sessions,
Sound Kitchen hosts concerts in its Big Boy studio. Pictured
is Kellie Pickler Live in Concert for Dodge Ram Trucks.
Other recent performers include Dustin Lynch, Saving
Abel, Twenty One Pilots, and 3 Doors Down doing a benefit concert for local veterans
charity We Are Building Our Lives.
Engineer Doug Sarrett, who works out of his own studio,
Uno Mas, has been in demand on high-profile projects for
his strings-recording sessions. Sarrett’s recent work includes
three projects with co-producers Ryan Tedder and Brent
Kutzle: U2’s Songs of Experience, and forthcoming albums from
OneRepublic and Paul McCartney. String arrangements were by Brandon Collins.
Larry Sheridan of Parlor Productions had Garth Brooks
and Trisha Yearwood in the studio this year, working on
content for Brooks’ Sirius radio station and Yearwood’s TV
program with engineer Matt Allen while the superstar couple’s
Allentown studio is being renovated. Producer Paul Worley
was also in, working with Lady Antebellum. Parlor also counts the Make-a-Wish Foundation
among its clients; the photo here is from a wish-fulfillment session for a family who wanted
a song written and recorded about their daughter, Gwendolyn.
There’s always stellar work going on at Blackbird Studios. Some
recent sessions include Al Sutton producing and engineering
Greta Van Fleet with assistant Jason Mott. Linda Perry
produced Dolly Parton in Studios A and D; Ernesto Olvera and
Blackbird owner John McBride engineered, and Mott, Allen Ditto and Sean Badum assisted.
Kelly Clarkson was in with producer Jason Halpert and engineer Steve Marcantonio. And
George Massenburg produced a session with artist Don Cherel, engineered by Kazuri Arai.
Mix also covered Blackbird sessions for The Mavericks’ latest, Brand New Day; pictured here
are Mavericks frontman Raul Malo with producer/engineer Niko Bolas.
A handful of the recent sessions at House of
Blues: T Bone Burnett producing Steven Tyler,
engineered by David Leonard; Norbert Putnam
producing Mac Davis, engineered by Casey Wood;
frequent studio partners producer Joe Henry and
engineer Ryan Freeland working with the Milk
Carton Kids; the Band Perry self-producing with
engineer Owen Lewis; and Marty Stuart with
producer John Carter Cash and engineer Chuck
Turner. Pictured are Stuart with House of Blues
owner Gary Belz and B3 legend Booker T. Jones.
Howard T. Ezell photography
House of Blues
St. Paul & the Broken Bones were in Sound Emporium
working with producer Jack Splash, engineer Phil English
and assistant engineer Zaq Reynolds. The McCrary Sisters
(pictured) worked with producer Scott Billington, engineer
Steve Reynolds and assistant Rachael Moore in Studio A. Kasey Musgraves sessions were
produced by Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian and engineered by Craig Alvin, who was assisted
by Zack Pancoast. Musician/composer/producer Matt Rollings produced Blues Traveler;
David Leonard engineered.
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Recent Introductions for High-End Production, at a Lower Cost
By The Mix Editors
o product category in professional audio presents a wider range
of product, and a seemingly narrow range of preference among
users, than studio monitors. Except maybe microphones,
which makes sense, as they are both transducers, sitting at the beginning
and the end of the hybrid analog-digital-analog chain. Speakers are
subjective, and engineers rely heavily on their monitors in making
decisions that affect the mix. If you can’t rely on what you’re hearing, and
have confidence in how others will hear it on other systems, then you
might want to check your room, or try out some new monitors.
The range? There are active and passive models, 4-inch woofers up
to 15 inches in a soffit; aluminum, magnesium, beryllium; silk-dome
tweeters, soft-dome tweeters and compression drivers. There are 2-way
and 3-way and now 2.5-way systems, with and without subs. There are
desktop models to sit beside a laptop. Nearly all models include some
type of digital signal processing to “read the room” they reside in and
allow the user to tailor EQ curves to individual situations. There are
models below that come in at $399 each, on up to $12,000 for a pair. It’s
all about taste. There is certainly a model out there to suit even the most
discriminating engineer.
All that is to say that there is no defined category for this year’s studio
monitor roundup. While the 1990s and early 2000s were dominated by
nearfield monitor introductions, followed by a short boom in mains,
followed by a short boom in desktop models, this year saw a wide range of
introductions. A few high-end manufacturers, namely ADAM and PMC,
have brought out entry-level models featuring high-end technologies to
introduce the next generation of users to the “family.” Still others, like
the Kii Threes, are brand new to the U.S.
It’s hard to pin down any marketwide developments in pro audio
speakers as we approach the midpoint of 2018. What follows are a few
that came through our offices or caught the ears of our reviewers,
Featuring trickled-down
tech from the company’s
ADAM’s T Series includes
the T5V ($199) featuring a
5-inch woofer and the T7V
($249) with a 7-inch woofer.
Both use the same U-ART
Ribbon Tweeter) highfrequency driver and offer a beveled cabinet design, rear-firing bass
reflex port, built-in DSP-controlled driver crossovers and EQ, plus XLR/
RCA analog connections. Boasting high dynamic range, wide frequency
response, a wide sweet spot, and excellent transient response, the T5V and
T7 are compatible with the ADAM Sub7 and Sub8 subwoofers.
woofer, 4-inch MSP midrange
driver and a silk-dome tweeter. All
of the LYD monitors feature DSP
crossovers, a nice complement of
DSP-based tone-shaping controls,
and discrete amplifiers for each
driver. The LYD 48s are housed
in one of the smallest enclosures
you’ll see for a three-way, which makes placement easy, even in smaller
spaces. On the back of the speaker, an XLR connector provides a balanced
input; unbalanced signals can be accepted through an RCA connector. All
incoming signals are converted at 24-bit/96 kHz resolution to feed the EQ
and crossover components, before being converted back to the amplifiers
for reproduction.
Dynaudio’s latest pro monitor line is the LYD Series of compact studio
monitors. Three different two-ways, varying in their woofer size, serve as
the foundation of the fleet, but the latest offering, the LYD 48, is the first
three-way. This new model boasts an 8-inch magnesium silicate polymer
It was little more than a year ago that Focal introduced the Shape 40, 50
and 60, and at the January NAMM Show the company came out with its
flagship in the line, The Shape Twin ($1,099 each, street). Designed to
combine a unique 2.5-way compact design, extended LF response and
comfortable positioning (they can be placed close to a wall), the Shape
Twins feature Class AB amplification powering two 5-inch woofers (the
M I X | M A Y 2 0 1 8 | mi x o n l i n m
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woofer in the lower section of the
cabinet is used for the 40-180 Hz
range, whereas the second transducer
is dedicated to frequencies between
40 Hz and 2.5 kHz), an improved
aluminum/magnesium inverted dome
tweeter, and a unique 8-inch double
passive radiator. Optimized for small
rooms and featuring a host of settings,
the Shape Twin adds a comb filter for
high and low frequencies (HF: ±3 dB
from 4.5 kHz; LF ±6 dB above 250 Hz).
The front and top of the MDF cabinets are finished with an authentic,
natural stained, walnut veneer. The curved shape of the top of each
loudspeaker was calculated specifically for each monitor in order to ensure
a linear frequency response in the high end.
announced the expansion
of its Ultimate Point Source
monitoring with “The Ones,”
a series featuring the awardwinning 8351A three-way
Smart Active Monitor now
joined by the new 8341A and
8331A, the world’s smallest
three-way coaxial monitors,
housed in enclosures no larger than a traditional two-way Genelec 8040
or 8030. The new models feature the company’s Directivity Controlled
Waveguide; a unique midrange coaxial driver cone composed of concentric
sections to optimize midrange linearity; and three stages of dedicated
Class D amplification. The short-term maximum output is 110 dB SPL
for the 8341A (at 1m), and 104 dB SPL for the 8331A, with accuracy better
than ±1.5 dB, and respective frequency responses starting at 45 Hz and 38
Hz (-6 dB) and extending beyond 40 kHz both for the analog and digital
inputs. All models include Smart Active Monitoring, incorporating the
company’s unique Genelec Loudspeaker Manager 3.0 software for PC and
Mac, incorporating AutoCal.
JBL’s 7 Series takes advantage of
technology developed for the company’s
flagship M2 Master Reference Monitor—
including the patented Image Control
Waveguide and proprietary transducers
designed for increased output and
extended LF response—and comes in at
a much more accessible price. The 705P
employs a 5-inch low-frequency driver,
while its sibling the 708 uses an 8-inch
driver. Both are Class D–biamped with
250 watts per driver. The rear panel of
the 705P features balanced XLR analog
and AES3 digital inputs, an AES3 thru connection, HiQnet port, and an
IEC power inlet. An LCD screen displays system information, and a data
wheel with a concentric Enter key, plus Back and Menu keys. There are
extensive DSP options, including user EQ (high and low-shelf plus four
bands of parametric EQ), room EQ, factory and user EQ presets, variable
HPF (60, 70, 80, 100 or 120 Hz), frame (A/V sync) delay, room delay, analog
input trim, and AES level trim. The birch-ply cabinet is compact, heavy and
solid, and almost twice as deep as it is wide—no doubt contributing to its
ability to generate low end.
The Kii Three high-end
relatively new to the U.S.,
with distribution picked up
by Grace Designs. And the
reviews have been glowing.
The Kii Threes use six total
drivers, arrayed across four
surfaces of the cabinet. The
front surface features rounded
left and right corners but is
sculpted to flare out, framing
the front-panel midrange driver. A brushed aluminum panel serves as the
mounting point for this 5-inch component, which is covered by a cloth
grille. A large waveguide is also attached to this panel, at the center of
which sits the 1-inch tweeter, guarded by a fine-mesh metal grille. The left
and right side panels each feature identical, exposed, 6.5-inch woofers. Two
more 6.5-inch woofers, matched to the side-mounted pair, run vertically
down the back panel. Each component is driven by its own 250-watt, Class
D amplifier. The back panel includes Kii a single XLR connector that can be
used for analog or AES/EBU input signal, as well as a pair of RJ45 (Ethernet)
connectors for linking Kii monitors and controllers. Each weighs 33 pounds
and is 16 inches deep, so pull up your heavy stands.
The result6 studio monitor from PMC
features a two-way design with a 27mm
soft-dome tweeter, dispersion grille, and a
mid/bass unit composed of a doped natural
fiber. The most affordable PMC yet, it
features built-in dual Class-D amplifiers
that supply 65W and 100W of power to the
HF and LF drivers, respectively. A full-range,
near- to mid-field active studio monitor,
with a frequency response of 45 Hz to 22
kHz, the result6 has distinctive, finned HF
driver surrounds known as D-Fins, which
are said to widen the stereo sweet spot by
delivering excellent off-axis response over
a wider area. The D-Fins also eradicate the
cabinet edge effects, ensuring high-frequency sound remains razor-sharp
and unsmeared. The result6 also features the company’s renowned ATL
bass-loading system, making it a true member of the PMC family. n
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Tech // new products
Steinberg UR-RT2, UR-RT4
I/O With RND Transformers, Yamaha D-PRE, USB 2.0
With switchable Rupert Neve Designs transformers on the front
inputs, onboard Yamaha D-PRE preamps, zero-latency effects
for monitoring, the new UR-RT2 (2-in/4-out; $349) and UR-RT4
(4-in/6-out; $599) audio and MIDI USB 2.0 interfaces are designed
to offer studio quality to the mobile producer/artist. Also: two
analog XLR/TRS combo inputs (Hi-Z switch on input 1), two TRS
line inputs, headphone jack with independent level control, MIDI
I/O, and 24-bit/1 92 kHz operation. Each also comes with Cubase
AI DAW software for Mac and PC (only for 64-bit environment)
and Cubasis LE DAW app for iPad. Shipping expected in July 2018.
Roland R-07 High-Resolution Recorder
24-Bit/96kHz Operation, With Bluetooth Control/Streaming
Designed for audio capture on the go,
the Roland R-07 High-Resolution Audio
Recorder ($229) features multiple high-quality
recording modes, plus dual recording and
hybrid limiting functions to ensure reliable
audio capture. The R-07 supports mono and
stereo WAV recording at rates up to 24-bit/96
kHz and MP3 recording at rates up to 320
Kbps. It also includes Bluetooth for remote
operation and audio streaming (enhanced
with Qualcomm aptX encoding technology),
and is powered by two AA batteries or USB bus.
Ultimate Ears UE Live, UE 6 Pro
New Flagship Model for In-Ear Stage Monitoring
Ultimate Ears has announced Ultimate Ears Live ($2,199), the
brand’s new flagship custom in-ear monitor, and Ultimate Ears 6
Pro ($699), each featuring the durable Ultimate Ears IPX Connection
System. UE Live includes six balanced armatures, one dynamic
driver and the True Tone Plus, an upgraded version of Ultimate
Ears’ proprietary True Tone Drivers. Each driver is designed to
handle its specific frequency range, giving UE LIVE the purest
signal path Ultimate Ears has ever created. UE 6 PRO was designed
as an introductory hybrid solution for musicians and includes two
dynamic drivers for midrange and bass, along with True Tone
Drivers for high-frequency fidelity. Available this month.
Zoom H1n Handy Recorder
New Outboard Limiter, Lowcut Filter, Screen
Zoom North America has released the newest in
its H1 line, the H1n Handy Recorder ($119 MAP),
with a host of upgrades from the popular H1. The
H1n’s rugged, sleek design features a protective mic
enclosure, an improved (and brighter) LCD screen,
a new analog-style gain control, and easy-to-access
buttons and menu options. It has built-in X/Y mics and
a stereo 1/8-inch mini phone jack mic/line input. A new
onboard limiter enables distortion-free recording up to
120 dB SPL, at 24-bit/96 kHz, and a new lowcut filter
features selectable cut-off points and helps eliminate
pops, wind noise and other unwanted low-frequency
rumble. The H1n records to SD and SDHC cards up to
32 GB and runs on two standard AAA alkaline, lithium,
NiMH rechargeable batteries or AC adapter.
Antelope Audio EDGE Strip Bundle
Modeling Mic, MP Preamps, Loaded With Effects
The new modeling package deal from Antelope Audio, the EDGE
Strip Bundle ($1,295), offers the best of analog with the convenience
of digital control, and includes: the Edge Modeling Microphone, a
dual-capsule condenser large-diaphragm mic designed to reproduce
the expressiveness and character of classic microphones;
the Discrete MP, an all-analog dual-channel preamp
that includes two XLR+TRS combo inputs and two TRS
outputs, with up to 61 dB of maximum gain; and a package
of free native effects plug-ins, including the Stay Levin, a
compressor designed
by Antelope Audio
founder Igor Levin.
Also, a USB connection
for remote control.
M I X | M A Y 2 0 1 8 | mi x o n l i n m
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Sanken CS-M1 Microphone
Io Audio AWG XLR Cables
Lightweight, Short Shotgun,
Supercardioid Condenser
The small and lightweight
Sanken CS-M1 microphone,
measuring 4 inches long,
a standard 19mm in diameter, and
weighing less than 2 ounces, is especially
suited to shoots where tight patterns and
premium sound are the goal, even when a
short lens is required. Max SPL is stated at 137
dB, with a frequency response of 100 Hz to 18
kHz. The CS-M1 has a rugged design and offers
advanced RFI rejection. It can be boom- or
High-Quality Performance, EMI Rejection
Io Audio Technologies has introduced
a family of 3-pin XLR cables available in
three grades—Premium, Professional and
Performance—and available in standard
lengths of 10, 25, 50 and 100 feet. The
top-shelf 24 AWG Premium uses a fourconductor design and sports two braided
shields for protection against EMI. The conductors are made of stranded
oxygen-free copper and are silver-plated for improved conductivity. The 23
AWG Professional has two copper conductors with a braided copper shield,
which allows the cable to maintain its shape while reportedly providing up to
97 percent coverage from EMI. The 24 AWG Performance sports a PVC jacket,
two copper conductors and a copper spiral shield.
Yamaha Rivage PM7 Digital Mixing System
with coherency and dispersion characteristics optimized for articulate speech
and full-frequency music production. Available this summer.
Same Layout as Flagship PM10, With Dante and TwinLane I/O
The core of the Rivage PM7 Digital
Mixing System includes the CSD-R7
Digital Mixing Console,
T w i n L a n e based
and RPio222 I/O
racks, and Dante-based
Rio3224-D2 and Rio1608-D2 I/O
racks. With an emphasis of preserving
workflow, the PM7 shares the same controlsurface footprint as the Rivage PM10—but with
the DSP engine built into the console, offering enhanced
portability and system flexibility while maintaining high operability. The
panel layout is the same as the flagship PM10, with 120 input channels, 60
mix buses, 24 matrices, and a selection of 48 plug-ins. The combination of
analog and digital input stages enhance the natural Yamaha sound with
immaculate VCM technology models of Rupert Neve Designs transformer
and SILK processing circuitry.
Avid Venue S6L Modular System
Clair Brothers 10SPOT
Compact, Passive Model for WPM, MLA Mini Arrays
Martin Audio has added to its impressive subwoofer
lineup with the introduction of SXF115––a passive
model featuring a powerful, long-excursion
15-inch (4-inch voice coil) driver in an ultracompact bass reflex enclosure, capable of 136 dB
at 1 meter. Designed to work with the company’s
new Wavefront Precision Mini (WPM) optimized
line array, it can extend the performance down to
42 Hz and can be flown as part of an array or ground-stacked separately. The
SXF115 enclosure is constructed from multi-laminate birch ply, finished with a
durable polyurethane coating and equipped with a perforated steel grille, skids
and twin bar handles. An M20 threaded fitting in the top surface facilitates
pole-mounting of up to four WPM or MLA Mini enclosures.
Hybrid Speaker Combines Curved Array and Coaxial Approach
Clair Brothers has been busy with product development. Its newest release
is the 10SPOT, a hybrid loudspeaker that combines the company’s Curved
Array Technology with its One Series coaxial horn technology. The 10-inch
woofer and 1-inch-exit (2.5-inch voice coil) compression driver both load into
the unique combination of two overlaid
horns. The directivity pattern is stated at
90 degrees at top and 135 degrees at the
bottom, with 45-degree vertical. Frequency
response is 90 Hz to 20 kHz, ±2 dB. The
10SPOT measures 16.5x16.5x15.5 inches and
weighs 35 pounds—compact enough to be
hidden (four integral mounting points),
Three New Control Surfaces, Two New I/O Racks, One New Engine
Avid has introduced a significant
upgrade and approach to its
VENUE | S6L line, with a modularbased system setup that features a
choice of five surfaces—including
the new S6L-48D, S6L-24C, and
S6L-16C—that offer from 16 to 48
faders; a choice of three engines,
including the new E6L-112; and
four I/O rack options, including
the new Stage 32 and Local 16. Engineers can scale systems up or down
to meet changing requirements on the road, in a club or in a house of
worship. All systems share full Venue show file compatibility, and I/O racks
can easily be shared across multiple networked S6L systems without any
loss of audio quality, reducing I/O and cable requirements, setup time and
transportation costs. Price based on configuration.
Martin Audio SXF115 Subwoofer
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Tech // reviews
With a Side of Clarett 8-Channel OctoPre
By Brandon T. Hickey
or every price range and application, it seems that Focusrite
has an audio interface available. The company offers
a variety of product families catering to the evolving
landscape of computer peripheral connectivity. Whether you need
Thunderbolt, USB, Dante, or connectivity to Pro Tools HD Core
cards, Focusrite has a product.
Previously, the Clarett line had followed this notion, serving
as the Thunderbolt option, while the Scarlett series handled USB
duties. Now that nearly the entire Thunderbolt Clarett line has
been duplicated and issued in a USB series, it has become clear that
Clarett is more about a particular sound than a connector.
The front panel of the Clarett 4Pre USB bears a striking
resemblance to the Scarlett 18i8, with both having nearly identical
connections and controls. Four XLR/TRS combo jacks can accept
mic or line-level signals, with the first two able to accept highimpedance instrument signals.
Switching the first two line-level inputs between balanced and
unbalanced operation is done through software. Aside from that,
input functions are addressed by physical controls on the front
panel. Each of the inputs is controlled by a knob, surrounded by
an illuminated LED signal indicator that changes color in response
to the gained-signal’s level. Phantom power is applied to the mic
preamps in pairs by latching buttons on the front panel, which also
features a large control room monitor knob and a pair of unique
headphone outputs, each with their own level control.
The back panel includes four more 1/4-inch, balanced line inputs
and four balanced line outputs. A single Toslink input allows eight
channels of ADAT signal to be accepted at 44.1 or 48 kHz, with this
number halving at doubled sample rates and unavailable higher
than 96 kHz. S/PDIF input and output can be routed through
dedicated RCA-type connectors, or the Toslink can be repurposed
for S/PDIF use. No wordclock I/O is available, so all clocking must
be done through the digital audio connections. MIDI I/O is on the
back panel, as is the single USB-C connection. The unit ships with
a USB-C to USB-C cable, as well as a USB-C to USB-A cable.
Like most of the other Clarett, Scarlett and RED interfaces, the
Clarett 4Pre USB’s hardware controls are supplemented by a version
of the Focusrite Control software. While this software offers a
Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB, front and rear
control panel to deal with the routing
and clocking of digital connections,
and some other global preferences,
its primary function is to build low-latency monitoring mixes
combining pre-DAW input signals with post-DAW software returns.
When shopping for interfaces, it seems that I/O count, sound
quality and operation of its software mixer should be the top three
concerns, within a target price point. In my opinion, Apogee and
UAD have cemented themselves at the top tier of software mixers.
The older Saffire software from Focusrite was closer to the top
dogs, being more feature-rich; it also showed a lot more on the
screen at once, which I thought was preferable. Focusrite Control
stripped down a lot of functionality and placed fewer, bigger things
on the screen.
Focusrite Control definitely gets points for customizability.
Different hardware outputs can be directly connected to
corresponding software returns, or fed a custom mix. When using
the latter option, the actual mixer seen in the GUI can be custom
built with faders for hardware inputs and software returns being
added, subtracted and grouped into stereo pairs, to taste. Each
output has its own mixer on a different “page” of the software.
Unfortunately, adding or subtracting faders on one page, repeats
that operation across all of the pages, rather than allowing
each output mixer to be built exclusively from the components
applicable to that mix.
The input metering and functionality are pretty limited in
Focusrite Control, as most of the hardware functions, like gain and
phantom power, are addressed with analog controls. However, it
would be nice to be able to meter the rear panel line or ADAT inputs,
prior to them arriving at the DAW. Even a “signal present” indicator
M I X | M A Y 2 0 1 8 | mi x o n l i n m
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Ken Lewis has written, and
produced for artists like
Jay Z, Kanye West, Eminem
and others. Ken creates his
magic in a studio packed with
the latest music hardware and
software tools. When it comes
to software Ken believes in
fair play and uses only legal
software to create his work.
and the
Buy the
buy the
yourself, your craft,
work of others.
software you use, and
music you love.
International Music Software Trade Association
New York • Toronto • Hamburg • Tokyo
Tel: 416 789-6849 • Fax: 416 789-1667
The International Music Software Trade Association is a non-profit organization that represents the interests of music software and soundware publishers.
One of our most important functions is to advocate for the legal use of software in the music production and creation landscape. We do this primarily
through public education campaigns. We are supported by our members who are software and soundware developers, distributors, retailers & publications.
We are challenging piracy on moral grounds appealing to the good in all of us. We are trying to change behavior.
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5/9/2012 3:35:00 PM
COMPANY: Focusrite
PRODUCT: Clarett 4Pre USB + Clarett OctoPre
PRICE: $599 (4Pre), $699 (OctoPre)
PROS: High-character preamps at a modest
price tag
CONS: Software mixer’s design and limited
outputs can present challenges for cue mixes
Focusrite Clarett OctoPre, front and rear
would be nice for confidence checks, if nothing
else. Also, the first two inputs can be switched
between “Line” and “Instrument” modes
through the software, but when connecting a
microphone, the software does not acknowledge
the automatic mic/line input switch.
It seems that one of the paramount features
that separates the Clarett 4Pre USB from the
Scarlet 18i8 is the “Air” feature, common to
the Clarett line. Air alters the character of
the interface’s preamps in order to emulate
the flagship Focusrite ISA mic preamp. I don’t
believe that Air actually employs transformers,
but it does mimic the impedance and coloration
that the ISA mic preamps impart. The Air effect
can be engaged individually on each preamp
through the Focusrite Control software.
I received the Clarett 4Pre USB for review, but
to expand its input I also received the Clarett
OctoPre, an 8-channel preamp with Air mode
available on every channel. While it could output
line-level signals through a DB-25 connector,
the real draw in this case was the integrated
AD converter with ADAT output. With its eight
preamps, the Clarett 4Pre USB’s four, plus the
interface’s four additional line inputs, the analog
input total reaches 16, certainly sufficient for
basic tracking of a four-piece rock band.
I had a run of sessions coming up tracking
an A-side/B-side single with a band. The date
for basic tracking coincided with the delivery
window of the Focusrite gear. As luck would have
it, the OctoPre arrived a day or two before the
session, but the Clarett 4Pre USB was scheduled
to arrive the day of the session. I decided to
get set up with the OctoPre feeding a different
interface, and if the 4Pre USB showed up at a
convenient time, I’d swap it out. As I sorted out
my input list, I prioritized getting drum mics to
the OctoPre’s inputs, because I wasn’t sure if I’d
have a chance to track drums again within the
review window.
Generally, I prefer to avoid sending phantom
power to dynamic mics. The fact that the
OctoPre engages phantom power in banks of
four preamps at a time made for some funky
channel routing. Once I got everything labeled
on the pre’s and the Pro Tools I/O settings, I was
able to make sense of it, but it would still be nice
if phantom powering were broken into smaller
groups. The OctoPre’s signal showed up at the
interface’s input without issue. I fed it wordclock
from the interface, and a convenient front-panel
clock selector and lock indicator quickly let me
know that things were in order.
Dialing in drum sounds, the OctoPre’s
preamps had a clean, full sound. It wasn’t thin
or noisy, and it was totally usable, though just a
little dull in the top end. This was especially true
with the kick and snare spot mics. There was
plenty of punch in the lows and lower-mids, just
not much crack to the snare or beater. Engaging
the “Air” made a surprisingly large difference.
It seemed to wake up the electronics in each
mic, giving them a crisp, clear top end and
added thickness to the transients. Air seemed to
highlight all of the best parts of the frequency
spectrum, sounding like it was “exciting” things
without adding harsh harmonic distortion.
During a lunch break, the Clarett 4Pre USB
arrived. I had already installed the software, so
it was merely a matter of swapping connections.
A number of connector types didn’t match up
between the two interfaces, so I was scrambling
for adapters. On top of that, the lack of a visual
on the mic/line switching made me question
whether that was working correctly. Finally,
with the Focusrite Control mixes being tied
to particular outputs, there was no easy way
to route each artist’s headphone mix to my
Things were going well, so rather than upset
the apple cart, we put off testing the Clarett
4Pre USB until overdubbing. When the Clarett
preamps got their turn at distorted guitar amps,
Air and a ribbon mic were a nice pairing. The
mic smoothed the top end pleasantly, while the
preamp made it pop in the mix, lighting up all of
the edges of the unique distortion characteristics
each pedal and amp setting had to offer.
The songwriter who was producing the songs
had emphasized that he wanted to employ
as little artificial reverb as possible. While
convolution verbs were deemed acceptable, the
preferred method was to rely on room mics.
When tracking acoustic guitar, we took it a step
further and played with lopsided stereo miking
pairs to mimic the panning in a demo version of
the song. There were a lot of factors that made
it work, like the mics, the woody room, etc., but
the Air-enabled mic preamps really brought the
whole thing home. Their combination of detail
and low-mid warmth painted a nice picture.
With the rooms and a spot mic, there were some
rich textures to play with.
Again, the Focusrite Control software
presented some pros and cons. Getting the
same mix to both onboard headphone jacks
simultaneously was not an option. The only
two outputs that could mirror were one of the
headphone jacks and line outputs 3-4. This
meant that I was constantly switching things
around to mirror headphones and monitors,
or check the artist mixes. That acoustic guitar
room-mic scenario was memorable because it
was a struggle to get them hearing what I was
hearing, which almost led to them shutting it
down and killing that sound.
Focusrite Control is not the best software
mixer out there, but it’s far from the worst.
Despite being handcuffed at times, a solution
was usually possible with a little reworking. That
is not the case with every interface’s software
mixer. Even when confronted with a roadblock,
everything was clearly labeled and relatively
intuitive; you can figure out solutions.
For a USB interface in the price/input
category that the Clarett 4Pre USB occupies,
the sound of the Clarett preamps places it high
in the ranks. If you’re looking to buy now, the
Clarett’s sound and software should put it high
on your list. Paired with a Clarett OctoPre, it’s a
rich sounding tracking solution that shouldn’t
break the bank. n
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Tech // reviews
Stereo Limiter/Compressor With Wide Range, Solid Performance
By Barry Rudolph
he Manley Nu Mu is a 2-channel, variable-mu limiter/
compressor designed to operate as either a stereo processor
or two individual channels. It has a wide processing range,
anywhere from extremely transparent for just “touching” a stereo
mix, to serving more as “glue” when driven harder.
Like the original Variable Mu, the Nu Mu starts with Manley’s
IRON input transformers and four 6BA6 pentodes in the company’s
TBAR Mod configuration where the first-stage pentode is wired
as a triode. But then the Nu Mu departs from the Variable Mu’s
circuit by using a discrete high-voltage transistor and FET (field
effect transistor) circuit for its transformerless output. There are no
operational amplifiers used, and the sidechain technology from the
all-tube Variable Mu appears in a solid-state version.
Also new is an ultra-low-impedance, switched-mode power
supply that provides 145-volt plate high voltage, 6.3-volt filament
voltage, and the ±15 VDC for the transistor circuitry. Both the audio
transformers and power supply are also used in the Manley CORE
Reference Channel strip and the Force 4-Channel Microphone
The Nu Mu has lighted pushbutton switches made by EAO, NKK
toggle switches, sealed Lorlin rotary switches, and Bourns pots.
I like these lit pushbuttons for easy verification in dark control
The Nu Mu uses a three-position Input level toggle switch for
each channel rather than the single ganged pot for both channels
as in the Variable Mu, which made setting up dual-mono operation
tricky. The toggle switches, the only ones on the unit, have -3 dB, 0
dB and +3 dB input operating level choices. Maximum input levels
are: +25 dBu, +21 dBu and +18 dBU, respectively.
I liked that the input level is fixed and calibrated, which I find
especially important when setting up the Nu Mu as a stereo mix
bus processor. The Nu Mu has a pair of large, blue backlit Nissei VU
meters that oppose each other. A lighted pushbutton toggles them
to read either gain reduction or output level; it’s easier to match L/R
settings with the meters configured like this. Love it!
When setting up the Nu Mu with reference tones in my mix room,
each channel’s controls matched each other, the unit’s VU meter
and my external measurements within 0.25 dB. This is not easy to
do with tube-based audio electronics. It is indicative of a careful
design, tight component tolerances, precision manufacturing, and
tube testing and matching.
Separate controls for each channel mimic the original Variable
Mu, with each channel having continuously variable Output,
Threshold and Attack controls. Attack times range from fully CCW
for the slowest at 0.13 seconds, midway at 0.07, and fully CW for
the fastest release at 0.013 seconds.
The Recovery (release) time control uses five rotary switch
positions: 0.1, 0.16, 0.32, 0.64, and 1.7 seconds. Front-panel controls
continue with a Compress/Limit switch for either 3:1 or 10:1
compression ratios, and a channel Link switch that links the left
channel’s threshold, attack and recovery settings to the right
channel. Nu Mu has a master hardware (relay) Bypass switch, and
I liked that all controls and metering remain adjustable and active
during bypass.
An HP SC on/off switch engages a 6 dB/octave, 100 Hz highpass
sidechain filter, which I found essential for stereo mix program
processing on the modern, bass-heavy pop music I mix.
The new HIP function acts like a secondary threshold level
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setting so as to compress more and raise the
level of lower-level signals, yet retain the
desired amount of gain reduction on the louder
sections without excessive squashing.
The rear panel has an IEC socket for
worldwide voltages of 90 to 250 VAC; however,
the line fuse is located inside the cabinet right
on the switched-mode power supply module.
Each channel has its own input and output
XLRs, plus Send/Return TRS external sidechain
insert jacks. These jacks are placed in circuit
before the unit’s HP SC filter.
Nu Mu has a lighted power switch when it is
plugged in; when switched on, the unit goes
through a 30-second warm-up period where the
VU meters flash and the outputs mute. Once
warmed up, the unit comes up in the same state
as when last powered off.
I started evaluations with the Nu Mu on the
stereo insert of my analog SSL Sigma Summing
Engine. For a country song that was to be
mastered, I was interested in increasing the
overall density of the mix while not clipping the
peaks and still maintaining some headroom. I
wanted the mastering engineer to work with a
pristine-sounding mix.
My Pro Tools rig uses -18 dBFS = 0dB
reference; I use a 1 kHz calibration tone for all 64
multitrack I/O channels and have a Benchmark
Media ADC1 A/D converter connected to the
stereo bus output of the Sigma.
With the Nu Mu inserted with threshold at
maximum (no gain reduction), levels matched
coming from a single stem output of Pro Tools
to a stereo channel in the SSL Sigma, with its
stereo bus at unity and routed back into the
Benchmark to be recorded to a new stereo track
in Pro Tools. This is the same method I would
connect the Nu Mu for use with an analog
mixing console.
In Compress mode, I used the Nu Mu’s 0 dB
Input level position and made up 4 dB of gain
for 1 to 3dB of max compression as indicated
on the unit’s VU meters. The track became
noticeably louder and denser, with ambience
and mix details clarified.
I used the HP SC, but I wish it had two more
frequency choices besides 100 Hz—maybe 50
Hz and 200 Hz. Attack time was medium-slow
and recovery was at 0.64 seconds with the
stereo link on. I used the HIP function and
heard more compression on the quieter verses.
With HIP off, every soft snare hit did not
necessarily compress, and with it on, I got more
consistent compression operation on low-level
moments; the big and loud dynamic moments
sounded the same as they do with HIP off.
Next, I tried the Nu Mu for mastering a stereo
mix file. I had an aggressive EDM song where
I was looking for color, control and relentless
level! I used the compress mode, slowest attack
and fastest recovery times, and the HP SC. HIP
worked wonders to bring forward a transparent
stereo pad in the mix in just the right way. To
allow for the super-wide stereo effects of this
club mix, I unlinked channels and got the level
up to around -12 LUFS as measured on Nugen
Sound Check Pro, all without clipping in Pro
On Fender bass I could use either compress or
limit mode—a la an LA-2A. I didn’t use the HP
SC or HIP, and I got a steady and leveled bass
sound, much like other tube compressors but
cleaner and clearer. I like using the Input switch
for quickly pushing more level into Nu Mu for
more compression and color without changing
any other controls. I started at my calibrated
0 dB position with 1 to 3 dB of gain reduction,
then instantly could go more conservative by
switching to the -3 dB position—or not! Jump
COMPANY: Manley Labs
PRODUCT: Manley Nu Mu Stereo Limiter/
PRICE: $2,800 MSRP
PROS: Precision-designed, modern-sounding
CONS: Could use more Recovery time choices
up to +3 dB for driving compression more
Using a tube limiter for processing a snare
drum track was a surprise for me. In Limit
mode, with HP SC in play and fastest recovery
times, I adjusted the attack time depending on
how much of the “front” or stick attack was
needed in the track. I used each channel of
the Nu Mu; one channel for the snare-top mic
track and the other channel for the bottom
mic’s track. I did not link the channels and
the HIP switch gave me a choice between a
more natural snare drum sound (HIP switch
in) and a radically tighter “thwack” with it
switched out.
Nu Mu works great as a vocal compressor
much like the original Variable Mu, but during
the “heat of the session,” I seem to arrive at
a good setting faster with the Nu Mu. Plus,
the exact settings are not as critical as other
compressors when recording. Nu Mu is a good
choice for tracking if isn’t already busy doing
something else in your studio.
Nu Mu is not your father’s Variable Mu but
carries on the tradition of the original unit
with modern additions and a totally distinct
sound of its own. It is versatile and great for any
source. I use it every day on the stereo mix bus;
it adds a finished polish with an average level
and density increase, without adding distortion
or reducing transparency.
Highly recommended! n
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Tech // reviews
Software Separates Any Mix Into Three Submixes
By Michael Cooper
eralded by Audionamix as “the
world’s first fully automatic stem
creator,” Xtrax Stems separates a
mix—whether mono or stereo—into three
separate files: vocals, drums and everything
else. You can then export each stem as a
separate audio file, or adjust the volume
and pan position of each stem to create and
export a new mix. Intended applications
include remixing (including creating
a cappella and instrumental versions of
mixes), sampling of individual stems, and
singing or playing drums along with stems
excluding those tracks.
The standalone application is compatible
with macOS 10.11, 10.12 and 10.13; it’s not
available in plug-in form or for use in
Windows. I reviewed version 1.1.1 using an
8-core Mac Pro running macOS 10.11.5.
Like with Audionamix’s other products,
Xtrax Stems’ processing is cloud-based and
requires a high-speed internet connection.
The upside is that Xtrax Stems uses
relatively little of your Mac’s CPU resources.
The downside is that you’re SOL if your
internet connection goes down during a
session. While the company positions Xtrax
Stems as a prosumer/DJ product, it does
have plenty of uses in recording and post.
Xtrax Stems can process WAV audio files
with bit depths up to 32 bits and sampling
frequencies up to 96 kHz. You can also
import AIF, AIFF, AAC, MP3 and MP4A files
into the application, which will automatically
convert them into WAV files for processing.
Simply drag and drop the file onto an import
field in the GUI, click on the field to navigate
to the file using the Mac’s Finder, or use the
application’s File > Import command.
Once your file is imported, click on one of
the four buttons to select which cloud-based
Fig. 1: In this view of Xtrax Stems, the Generic HQ button is lit bright blue to indicate that the stems created using
its algorithm are currently selected for playback and mixing (and their waveforms displayed). The Automatic and
Automatic HQ buttons are black with bright white lettering to indicate that their algorithms have also completed
separating stems, but their stems are not currently selected. The Generic button is dark to show its algorithm has
not yet been used to separate stems.
algorithm you want to use to separate it into
stems. Clicking on the Automatic button
prompts Xtrax Stems to use Audionamix’s
Automatic Voice Activity Detection (AVAD)
algorithm. Used also in the company’s Trax
Pro application and ADX VVC (Vocal Volume
Control) and ADX SVC (Speech Volume
Control) plug-ins, AVAD separates vocals
from a mix only where they are detected in
the timeline (instead of processing the entire
track). Click on the Automatic HQ button
to use a high-quality AVAD algorithm; it can
improve the fidelity of extracted vocals, but
takes longer to process.
If neither AVAD algorithm separates
all vocal phrases from your mix, click the
Generic button to process the entire mix.
The Generic algorithm can also be used to
separate a monophonic, melodic instrument
(such as a guitar solo) from the mix. If the
Generic algorithm doesn’t yield acceptable
results, click on the Generic HQ button to
try an alternative algorithm. Stems created in
turn using different algorithms are preserved,
letting you select which ones sound the best.
While separation processing is in progress,
its associated button will turn dark blue.
Once separation into stems has completed,
the button turns black with white lettering;
clicking on any button that shows this
state will turn it bright blue and display its
separated stems—titled Drums, Music and
Vocals—and their waveforms in the GUI (see
Fig. 1). Each stem has horizontal sliders for
adjusting its volume and pan position, and
mute and solo buttons. You can also solo a
stem by clicking on its waveform. Only one
stem can be soloed at a time.
Simply by clicking the application’s
Source button, you can recombine separated
stems to hear the original mix from which
they were derived; this so-called source mix is
unaffected by volume and pan adjustments
you make to stems. Click on the Automatic,
Automatic HQ, Generic and Generic HQ
buttons (if previously used) alternately with
the Source button to compare completed
separations to the source mix.
Three transport buttons let you
respectively toggle play and pause functions
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for all unmuted stems at once, return to the beginning of the timeline, and loop playback. To
designate a time selection for looping, click and drag the down-pointing “playhead arrow” in
the timeline ruler. Clicking (without dragging) in the ruler moves the playhead’s (playbackstart) position to that point in the timeline. Handy keyboard shortcuts provide multiple
levels of zooming, with optional waveform scrolling during playback.
Once you’ve got the stems’ respective pan and volume controls set the way you want,
you can export their resultant remix—either for their entire duration or only that portion
contained within a time selection you made beforehand. You can also export each of the
stems separately. While you can’t mix and match stems created by different algorithms
within Xtrax Stems’ GUI, you can of course mix in your DAW any combination of stems
you’ve exported to it. If your source file (that which you imported into Xtrax Stems) was in
uncompressed WAV or AIFF format, exported remixes and individual stems will match its
sampling rate and bit depth. If, on the other hand, your source file used a compressed audio
format (such as MP3), Xtrax Stems will export audio as 16-bit/44.1 kHz WAV files.
When you save an Xtrax Stems project, a folder is created that contains the application’s
project file (used to later resume work in Xtrax Stems) and a Resources folder. The latter
contains your source (imported) file and any separated stems (all in WAV format).
The Automatic HQ algorithm often didn’t complete the stems-separation process. When it did,
a 3.5-minute stereo track took 9.5 minutes to process and download stems. Instantaneous A/B
comparisons between separations and the source mix were not possible: It took roughly three
seconds for the source mix to load when switching from listening to an Automatic separation,
and around 10 seconds for switching the other direction; in both cases, I had to press Play or the
Precision Studio Design Featuring the
TEC Award-Winning
PhantomFocus™ MixRoom™Concept
COMPANY: Audionamix
PRODUCT: Xtrax Stems
PRICE: $99
PROS: Can sometimes improve a baked-in mix in ways
other tools and techniques can’t touch. Provides pan and
volume controls for each stem. Can export stems for
further work in your DAW.
CONS: Unpredictable results. Quality of discrete stems
is poor. Automatic HQ algorithm often fails. Can’t do
instantaneous A/B comparisons between stems and
source. Can only solo one stem at a time. No numeric
readouts for volume and pan sliders. No undo or redo
spacebar again to resume playback after switching.
Pan controls for separated stems don’t have a center
mark, but option-clicking the control returned it to center.
Similarly, option-clicking a volume slider returned it to
what I assumed was its (unmarked) unity-gain position.
The lack of Undo and Redo functions and numeric
readouts for sliders and meters made fine-tuning mix
settings for export sometimes difficult.
Extracted stems’ quality varied unpredictably with the
source material used. The Automatic HQ stems (when
separation succeeded) often sounded better than those
extracted using non-HQ algorithms, but the quality of
individual stems always sounded flawed regardless of
the algorithm used. The Vocals stem always sounded
noticeably phase-y and watery (sometimes extremely
so). Quietly sung syllables and loud glottal stops were
sometimes dropped on all the Vocals stems extracted using
different algorithms; when that happened, they ended
up on the Music stem instead. Lead guitar fills, guitar
arpeggios and monophonic synth lines very often bled
loudly into the Vocals stems and were sometimes severely
attenuated in the Music stem, which also sometimes
suffered random amplitude modulation overall. The
Drums stems always sounded poorly gated—the sustain
of traps sounded cut off—and very phase-y and watery.
While each stem was unusable on its own because of poor
sound quality, I could sometimes—depending on the
program material—modestly boost or attenuate one or
more stems’ levels without their combined output audibly
suffering in quality. In fact, the mix was sometimes
improved in ways that were impossible to achieve using
other tools. When it works well, Xtrax Stems is amazing.
In most cases in which I need to make level changes
to embedded tracks in a baked-in mix, I’m likely to first
try using mid/side processing techniques, which are more
predictable. But for mixes with heavily interlaced tracks
where M/S techniques won’t yield satisfactory results, it’s
great to have Xtrax Stems as another tool in my arsenal. n
4/20/18 1:56 PM
Tech // reviews
Handmade 3 RU Device Shines at Mix Bus, Too
By Wes Maebe
here’s nothing regular about Regular John Recording’s
BAX Mastering EQ! I’ll dive straight in and tell you that
this box kicks some serious butt. I received the unit just
in time for a big album mix session at RAK Studios, so rather than
wait for the mastering stage, I decided to strap the RJR across my
mix bus.
But before delving into the sonics of this big boy, let’s have a look
at what you get right out of the box.
The back panel of the BAX sports a clean and uncluttered layout.
The power IEC lives in the middle of the unit, and the audio Inputs/
Outputs are located either side, on XLRs. Nice and simple, right?
That takes us to the front panel of the 3 RU EQ. If you dig oldschool, vintage gear, you’re going to love this one. The front panel
is also simply and neatly laid out. A big, bright-red power light in
the middle lets you know that the unit is on and separates the Left
and Right channels. A quick glance at the controls just shows you
this machine means business. The switches and the rotary pots are
rock-solid and were obviously inspired by that ’60s and ’70s style of
recording equipment that appears to be back in vogue.
Now, the functionality. The BAX is a 3-band EQ comprising
high and low Baxandall shelves, a parametric mid-band, and
highpass/low-cut filter. The low-cut is a 6dB per octave cut-only
filter allowing you to remove the unwanted subsonic areas. You
can combine it with the Low boost to control what’s happening in
bottom end of the material. It ranges from Off to 40 Hz, through
10 and 20 Hz.
The Low frequency band runs from 20 Hz to 120 Hz, which can
be cut or boosted from 0.5 dB to 8 dB. Likewise, the High band
can be cut or boosted by the same amounts, varying from 9 kHz
to 40 kHz. The parametric Mid band has the same boost/cut for
frequencies ranging from 200 Hz to 7,000 Hz.
As the manual states, there are a few things that are useful to
know about this particular unit, as well as Baxandall EQs in general.
First, the bands of the EQ are both fluid and interactive. With most
EQs, the frequency points on the front panel are static; this is not
the case with BAX Mastering EQ.
The actual knee point of the filter curve will move a little bit
depending on how much boost/cut is being used within that filter
band. And the interactivity doesn’t quite stop there. The knee point
will also move depending on how much boost/cut you apply on the
other filter bands, as well as which frequency the other filter bands
are set to. The more boost/cut you use, the more the knee will shift;
by the same token, the further apart the frequency selections of the
different bands, the less they will interact.
So it’s good practice to keep in mind that the labeled frequency
Don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed into what the Mastering
EQ label says. Use it in recording and mix situations as well,
and don’t be afraid to push it to the max. This is one of those
units you can drive hard and it won’t sound horrible!
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points on the front panel are a general average
of the knee location and they should not be
taken as a definitive hard number. Baxandalls
are intuitive, emotive EQ circuits and should be
used as such.
To round out the front-panel description,
both channels have a Bypass switch. When
IN is selected, the EQ is in circuit and active.
Alternatively, OUT engages the electronic relay,
which removes the EQ circuit from the audio
path entirely and gives you a hard bypass.
I love all kinds of audio gear—intricate, complex
and multifunctional—but more than anything,
I like equipment that gets straight to the point
and just deals with the task at hand. The RJR
BAX Mastering EQ is one of these no-nonsense
tools that does exactly what it says on the label.
As mentioned, I was sent the unit the day I
was to start the album mixes for UB40 (feat. Ali,
Astro & Mickey)’s A Real Labour of Love. Rather
than wait until the mastering stage, I decided to
put the BAX Mastering EQ into the mix chain
and not be distracted by the “mastering” label.
The mixing for this album took place at RAK
Studio 3.
Needless to say, this band loves low end!
There are a lot of subharmonics going on in this
music, so I had the Low Cut set at 10 Hz. I didn’t
go higher because I didn’t want to interfere with
what would happen in the mastering. Generally,
I had the Low frequency set to 30 Hz for that
Pultec vibe, the mid-band would vary between
4-7 kHz lifts or 400-800Hz dips and because I
love ultra–high air so much, the high band was
set to 40k! For the most part, the processing
didn’t go any further than 1.5 to 2 dB cut/boost.
Now, I can freak out over a piece of gear as
much as I like, but if the artist doesn’t like it,
it isn’t worth the cardboard it came in. Every
single time I’d switch in the RJR BAX Mastering
EQ, everybody’s reaction was, “Wow! Keep that
So at the mix bus, I absolutely loved this EQ.
I got to live with it for mixing 16 songs, but I
only got to use it gently. It was time to hear
what else it could do. Whenever something is
labeled to be something specific, I like to take it
out of its comfort zone and see how it behaves
in a situation it wasn’t necessarily designed for.
That’s exactly what I did. The RJR BAX and
I travelled to Monnow Valley Studios in Wales
(yes, that studio with all of Andrew Scheps’
gear) to record heavy rockers 10.Gauge’s EP
Rain’s Coming.
The BAX Mastering EQ was put to work on
shaping the kick drum and acoustic guitar. It
Now, I can freak out over a piece of gear as much
as I like, but if the artist doesn’t like it, it isn’t worth
the cardboard it came in. Every single time I’d switch
in the RJR BAX Mastering EQ, everybody’s reaction
was, “Wow! Keep that on.”
COMPANY: Regular John Recording
PRICE: Inquire
PROS: Amazing low end, great top-end clarity,
very musical
CONS: I’m really reaching here, but I’d like the
power switch on the front panel
was just wonderful to have that fine tuning on
the one hand, and on the other, those fluid EQ
curves added a great warmth and musicality to
the recordings.
Once all the songs were mixed back at my
West London Sonic Cuisine, the mastering
went through the RJR for a little low-end
tightening and that super open air lift at the
top. Even with small mastering amounts of half
a dB here and there, the RJR brings so much
fatness to the table.
I cannot praise the RJR BAX Mastering EQ
enough. This relatively young company takes
great care in hand-building every single unit,
and it shows. The build quality is meticulous.
None of the switches and pots are wobbly, and
everything just feels sturdy.
I simply love the sonics of this box, and to me
it is the perfect musical partner you want with
you in the studio, be it in a recording, mixing or
mastering environment.
As the guys at RJR say: “Go forth and do some
EQ-ing!” n
Wes Maebe is a London-based recording and
mix engineer.
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Are You Ready to
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A Cappella
2/24/18 3:41 PM
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At Upton microphones we are proud to offer
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Tech // talk
BACK PAGE BLOG: An Introduction
By Mike Levine and Steve La Cerra
Yes, we are fully aware of the irony in naming a print-based column after a
popular format for opinion from the online world. That’s the point. Much of
the daily and weekly Mix coverage has migrated to “digital-first,” and much of
that content gets pushed along, to be replaced by the next day’s news. Even
with robust search functions, readers might miss some good writing and
commentary unless a friend “likes” it and sends it along.
So when our longtime technology editor and Tech Talk columnist
Kevin Becka left last month for a new gig, Mix hired two veteran pro
audio journalists to replace him and begin weekly blogs.
Mike Levine (Technology Editor—Studio) and Steve La Cerra (Technology
Editor—Live Sound) have been at it a month now, and below are some
excerpts from their initial posts, along with their first choices for Product
of the Week.
Please watch this space moving forward, as we will provide a sampling
of commentary from all over the industry in the months to come. For now,
some introductions.
Mike Levine: Mix Studio
Steve La Cerra: Mix Live
Who I Am: I’ve had a double-track career, one
part as a journalist and the other as a musician,
composer and producer. I’ve had a home studio
since the days of 4-track cassette recorders, and
I remember back when MIDI was still novel, the
Akai S950 was cutting-edge hardware, and the
floppy disk was the primary vehicle for data storage.
I’ve composed tracks for many commercials and TV shows,
have been in touring bands, played in a Broadway pit orchestra,
and now do a lot of mixing and producing (as well as live
performing). As a result, I approach my music journalism from
the point of view of a participant. And even after so many years
of writing about gear, I still get excited by cool new technology
and products.
Product of the Week: Steinberg UR-RT Interfaces: The name
Neve is a magical one that invokes
visions of warm, analog circuitry,
large-format consoles and stellarsounding preamps and EQs.
Steinberg is hoping to evoke some of
that magic with its new UR-RT audio
interfaces for Mac/Win and iOS, made in collaboration with
Rupert Neve Designs and Steinberg’s parent company, Yamaha.
On Subscription Models: It takes a mental adjustment to stop
thinking of your software as something you own, like your
microphones or audio interface, and to consider it a service that
you pay for. Some advocates of subscriptions respond to that
concern by saying that you never really owned your software
anyway, you just licensed it. That might be technically true, but
if I’m renting my DAW on a monthly basis and I run into hard
times financially, I don’t want it to get shut off like my electricity
would be if I didn’t pay the bill. If I buy my DAW—i.e., purchase a
“perpetual license”—I can always use it, and I will never lose access
to my music even if I go through a period of financial distress.
My First Big Gig: The show was at the Brickyard
at Indianapolis, and we were opening for Cheap
Trick. It was a complete disaster. No soundcheck,
mispatched lines from the stage to FOH, and
no set list. (At the time the band usually called
audibles.) Rick was screaming at me at front-ofhouse during the show, and with a song-and-a-half remaining in
the set, I discovered that Allen Lanier’s guitar was coming down
the hi-hat channel. No wonder I couldn’t find it! It was the first
time I mixed on a Yamaha PM3000, and I remember clearly how I
couldn’t rest my hands on the wrist pad because it was scorching
hot and the gear had been in the sun all day (it was a daytime
show). Good grief. I was sure I’d be sent home, pronto.
Product of the Week: Shure SM58: When was the last
time you gave some respect to the Shure SM58? It’s been
around longer than many of the musicians who use it. You
beat it up on a nightly basis and it comes back for more. It’s
completely reliable and you know exactly what to expect
from it. You can drop it in water, and when it’s dry, it will
still work. It might even work while it’s wet. I placed one on
a mic stand the other day and thought, “Have I ever done a
gig without at least one Shure SM58?” I don’t think so.
On Teaching Students to Listen: And I’ll be damned if
these kids didn’t flip out when we listened. We started
with YouTube. “But it says ‘high res audio file,’” one of them
said. “The internet also says it’ll snow tomorrow, too. In
Hawaii,” I retorted. Absolute garbage. Then we’d listen on
Spotify. A bit better. Then we’d listen to a 44.1/16-bit file
Henry Rollins
with Shure SM58
from a CD or the transfer from vinyl. The general reaction
when they heard the 44.1/16-bit files and the vinyl transfers
was somewhere between jaws dropping and “What the $%^&!?”
Yeah, that’s right. Listen to those background vocals on “Black
Cow” or that kick drum on “Purple Rain.” If you can’t hear them,
how you ’gonna duplicate them? n
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