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FREE INSIDE

MASTERING
INCLUDING OVER 3 HOURS OF VIDEO TUTORIALS
MASTERING 2014 ALL NEW TECHNIQUES FOR YOUR PROJECT STUDIO

ALL NEW TECHNIQUES FOR YOUR PROJECT STUDIO

HOW TO GIVE 2014


YOUR MUSIC
THE PRO EDGE 132PAGES OF PRO
MASTERING
TIPS & TRICKS

600MB
OF SAMPLES
ON THE DVD

The complete lowdown on the mastering process


www.musictech.net

Step-by-step tutorials for every major DAW


ISBN 978-1-909590-26-7

Production tips and tricks from the professionals


MusicTech Focus: Mastering 2014
9 781909 590267

The best studio equipment rounded up and rated


Room to studio: THE guide to DIY acoustics
8.99

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Welcome MTF

Welcome to MusicTechs 2014 Focus on mastering. If you want to add a professional sheen
to your music youve come to the right place. We have guides to all aspects of
mastering including an introduction to traditional mastering (on p6) plus lots of
other different aspects of the subject within specific DAWs. But weve designed
these tutorials so that you can take knowledge from them and apply it to whatever
DAW you use. For example, Liam OMullane has written a guide to mastering for
club music in
Live on p18, but
you can easily apply those principles to You can take knowledge from
Logic, Cubase or whatever you use.
Similarly, Mike Hilliers in-depth our tutorials and apply it to
tutorials on mid/side processing in Pro
Tools (starting on p50) will certainly whatever DAW you use
leave you with enough transferable
knowledge on what can be a tricky subject. Elsewhere we have a buyers guide on studio monitors,
producer and mastering engineer interviews, plus reviews of the latest studio gear, with the emphasis on
the mastering process.
So I hope you gain enough from this special issue to ultimately make your productions more robust,
solid and professional (but not necessarily louder). And once you are happy with your music, be sure to
send us links as weve started a new service at www.musictech.net where we get the MusicTech writers to
offer feedback on all aspects of music production.
Enjoy the issue, and happy mastering.

Andy Jones Senior Editor


andy.jones@anthem-publishing.com

Business Dev Manager Di Marsh Subscriptions to MusicTech Magazine


di.marsh@anthem-publishing.com Tel +44 (0) 870 444 8468
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MUSICTECH FOCUS MAGAZINE Contributors UK basic annual rate
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FOCUS Ableton Live 8 Volume 2 | 03


MTF Contents

Issue 34 Mastering 2014

GIVE YOUR
MUSIC THE
PRO EDGE
Mastering used to be a dark art that only those with decades of
experience knew about. But todays DAWs have all the outboard power
you need at your fingertips. No matter what your software, we have
tutorials on how to master your sound plus an intro feature on p6

Feature MTF Interview

Staple
taple
Young Punx
Cooking up a vintage sound p74

MTF Interview

Optimum
DIY Studio Mastering
Time to call
Acoustics the pros? p90

Give your space the pro touch p66


4 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Contents MTF

p110 MTF Issue 34 Full listings


Reviews
Everything you need to create FEATURES
pro-sounding masters...
006 | Main Feature The complete
p119 guide to mastering
048 | 10MM Optical Compression
056 | Feature Future Effects
066 | Feature DIY Acoustics
p108
p128 078 | Buyers Guide The updated
MusicTech monitors buyers guide
SOFTWARE TUTORIALS
018 | Mastering in Ableton Live
p116 022 | Mastering in Cubase 7
026 | Mastering in Pro Tools 11
030 | Mastering in Reason 7
034 | Mastering in Logic Pro X
038 | Mastering in Logic Pro 9
p114 050 | M/S Processing in Pro Tools
053 | Advanced M/S in Pro Tools
INTERVIEWS
Make the most of what you 042 | Mike Patto and Nathan
MTF Tutorials already have in your DAW with
these mastering tutorials...
p22 Haines: Analogue, live and 2-track
074 | Young Punx
p18 090 | Optimum Mastering
REVIEWS
96 | Aphex 500-Series outboard
99 | PMC two.two.six monitors
101 | AMS Neve 1073 outboard
p26 p30 102 | Eve SC207 monitors
103 | Serpent Audio SB outboard
104 |LA-2A leveller collection
105 | Adam F5 monitors
p38 106 | Awesome channel amplifier
108 | Yamaha HS series monitors
110 | Genelec MO series monitors

p50 112 | Kush Audio Electra 500 EQ


113 | Heavyocity Aeon collection

p34 114 | Lindell 17XS compressor


115 | KRK Rokit 5 monitors
116 | Audient iD22 interface
117 | Sony Sound Forge software
118 | Samplelogic Assault s/w
119 | Slate Digital effects
Feature p48 120 | My Audio Design monitors
122 | UA Ocean Way effects

10 Minute
124 | Fostex PM monitors
125 | Steinberg Nuendo software
126 | DMG Audio effects

Master
128 | Waves Manny Marroquin
130 | Whats on your MTF DVD
p48

FOCUS Mastering 2014 |5


MTF Feature The complete guide to mastering

MTF Masterclass Studio Technique

THE COMPLETE
GUIDE TO
MASTERING
Whether you are new to mastering or an experienced engineer, the following pages could
change your life. Here is THE complete guide to a process that will transform your sound.
Who better than MTF Mastering expert Mike Hillier to guide you through

6 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


The Complete Guide To Mastering Feature MTF

A
ny article that claims to be The Complete Guide is worth
starting with a bit of a history lesson, so lets look back at the early
days of this dark art. Mastering began as a means of transferring
recordings from magnetic tape to various media, such as vinyl,
while maintaining as much of the audio fidelity as possible. Vinyl,
for example, cannot handle much bass without the risk of skipping, while the
high end is susceptible to hiss. Mastering engineers would use an RIAA
pre-emphasis EQ curve when cutting lacquers, which reduces the bass on the
vinyl and boosts the
highs. The bass-light
vinyl would then be
compensated for on
Mastering began as a means to
the playback system
with an RIAA
transfer recordings and maintain
de-emphasis EQ
curve which would
as much fidelity as possible
boost the lows and
cut the highs. The final effect would be a linear frequency response, but with
no skipping because of excess bass and less hiss.
Cutting the lacquer itself required further attention and skill on the part of
the mastering engineer. The running time played an important part in what could
be achieved, as longer playing times meant that the grooves had to be closer
together. Even with the RIAA pre-emphasis, the mastering engineer still had to
pay close attention to the amount of low-end information, using elliptical filters
if necessary to mono the bass below certain frequencies. Further limitations of
the medium relating to overall signal level, phase correlation and sibilance all
limited what was achievable, but the overall goal was simply to overcome these
technical limitations and create a master as close to the original mix as possible.
Thankfully, the process would soon become more creative

Many thanks to Keith at KMR Audio for lending us


this superb Shadow Hills mastering compressor.
We think it looks a little like Darth Vader
More from KMR on 020 8445 2446
Web www.kmraudio.com

FOCUS Mastering 2014 |7


MTF Feature The complete guide to mastering

It all changed in the late 70s when mastering


engineers such as Bernie Grundman, Bob Ludwig and
Doug Sax made a name for themselves by improving
the quality of mixes that came through their studios.
To these engineers mastering became a creative
process. Instead of focusing on making a mix
translate to whichever format it was being released
on, mastering became about the process of polishing
a mix, to bring about louder, wider mixes, and subtly
shaping the tone of the mixes, putting more power in
the bass and more gloss in the top end. CDs overcame many of the physical limitations imposed by vinyl,
opening the door to more creative mastering opportunities.

Into the groove


Even back in the 70s, artists and their labels wanted curves were no longer necessary as neither bass
their mixes to stand out. Mastering engineers were energy nor hiss was a problem. Also, bass could have
being pushed to produce louder and louder masters, all the stereo information you wanted, the high end
but this was again limited by the physical medium. was freed of hiss and mixes would even be wider.
The grooves on a vinyl record risk overlapping and And since the data on a CD is burnt by a laser, there
creating skips if the signal is too loud. This can be is no risk of it burning out like a cutting head.
compensated for by spacing the grooves wider apart, Instead, CD created strict restrictions on the
level by imposing a ceiling at 0dBFS which could not

Mastering became the process


be exceeded under any circumstance, and any
attempt to do so would simply create digital

of polishing, to make louder, wider


clipping distortion.
Initially, CDs were treated as an inferior medium.

mixes and to shape the tone


Only a few people had the means to play them, so CD
masters were often made from the same signal as
the vinyl masters, but it didnt take long for
but this, in turn, reduces the amount of playing time engineers to realise the potential of the CD format,
on a record. And if the signal is too loud the energy and growing interest among consumers ensured its
can burn out the voice-coil in the cutting head, even rise. Even so, the processing done to CD masters was
with liquid or helium cooling mechanisms in place. generally kept in the analogue domain, with
To overcome these problems, limiters can be engineers preferring to use their now highly
Tech Terms employed, which reduce the peak levels of the audio, specialised mastering consoles to fine-tune the
VINYL LACQUERS enabling the overall level to come up without risking audio for the CD pressing.
Masters arent cut direct to any overly loud sections from causing skips or It wasnt until the advent of digital brickwall
vinyl but to an acetate
lacquer from which a father
cutting heads to overheat. When used with care, limiters that things really started to change.
plate is made. Stampers are limiters can be extremely transparent, having far Analogue limiters had long been used to increase the
then made from this to stamp less sonic impact than compressors. However, when average level of program material, reducing fast
the vinyl.
pushed hard the distortion introduced by a limiter transients in order to create more headroom.
DIRECT-TO-METAL
MASTERING can become audible and this balance prevented However, digital brickwall limiters took this to a new
In this process the masters are signal levels from getting out of hand. level. Even the fastest analogue limiter takes some
cut to a copper plate which is
With the switch to digital audio and the rise of time to respond to a transient, so the gain reduction
then used as a mother plate
to create the stamper. the CD, a new world of mastering and further kicks in after the signal has passed the threshold.
technical restrictions came into play. The RIAA This means that some of the transients will have
been missed by the gain reduction, even at the
fastest attack settings.
Digital limiters are able to look ahead in order to
see transients coming and anticipate what gain
reduction will be needed, and with an :1 gain
reduction ratio they ensure absolutely no signal
passes the threshold level. The result of this isnt
simply to chop off the tops of the curves but to lower
the gain of the entire wave until it fits within the
threshold. This means that brickwall limiters can be
incredibly transparent while increasing the overall
program loudness.
This all enabled mastering engineers to make
even louder masters, utilising tools such as the
Waves L1 Ultramaximizer to achieve this loudness

Abbey Road mastering engineer Miles Showell paying close attention


to the groove as it is cut into the lacquer by a Neumann VMS 80 cutting
lathe at Metropolis Mastering.

8 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


The Complete Guide To Mastering Feature MTF

MTF Pro Technique The Loudness Wars The Waves L1 Ultramaximizer was one of the first lookahead brickwall
limiters, enabling mastering engineers to reach 0dBFS with nearly
Even as early as the 1960s, every beat for the first time without audible distortion.
record companies were trying
to make sure their records Metallicas Black Album being
were loud. The Motown record an early example. This enabled
company adopted a strategy music to reach RMS levels around
called Loud and Clear to ensure -12dBFS, with peaks hitting
their records were as loud as 0dBFS regularly. However,
they could be for the time, compared to todays releases this
without compromising clarity. is considerably dynamic, with
This strategy involved keeping RMS values closer to -6dBFS
records to less than three being common in much of todays
minutes enabling wider chart releases. Some releases
grooves, boosting in the have even been measured with an
810kHz region, and filtering RMS of -4dBFS. At some point
out everything below 70Hz. To along this way to louder and
compensate for this, the louder masters the object of
second harmonic of the bass clarity got lost. Louder and louder tracks
instruments was boosted, began to sound audibly distorted. This isnt always a problem
which gives the impression of a electronic music and hard rock styles can afford to have some
louder bass than there actually distortion but even these can only go so far.
is thanks to a psychoacoustic property called the missing Some audio engineers and audiophile listeners have been
fundamental effect, in which the brain re-creates the missing complaining about the ever increasing loudness of masters and the
fundamental pitch from the harmonic information without it having accompanying reduction in dynamic range throughout this time, but
to be there. Other techniques, including loudness envelopes that only recently has the average listener and the major press begun to
reduced the level in 0.5dB steps in order to create room for the level get involved. A huge backlash against Metallicas Death Magnetic led
to go up later, were also used. This approach was especially mastering engineer Ted Jensen to distance himself from the project,
important for 45RPM 7-inch singles, which would be played on claiming the mixes arrived brickwalled at his studio. Death Magnetic
jukeboxes in bars. The labels wanted to know their songs would be is the most commonly cited example as it was simultaneously
loud enough to play over the background noise of the venue. This released as both a heavily limited audio CD and a more dynamic
wasnt such a problem for 12-inch 33RPM LPs, which were usually Guitar Hero version, which gave fans a direct opportunity to compare
played in homes, so less attention was paid to keeping these as loud the two. Tens of thousands of fans signed a petition asking for the
and the grooves would be placed closer together to get more music album to be remastered from the Guitar Hero stems.
on a side rather than more level. This backlash hasnt quite put an end to the Loudness Wars, but it
AM and FM radio stations further escalated the Loudness War, has led to more attention being given to the amount of limiting, and
using their own compressor and limiter chains to increase the signal albums are now being praised for their open and dynamic sound
strength of their stations so that listeners would find them clearly when not over-compressed, with many big-name artists now
when tuning through the dial. They also needed to know that, once insisting their albums are released without heavy limiting. The new
tuned in, the listener would be able to hear the radio station over the Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories, for example, has been
noise of their car and so on. However, this processing was applied at mastered with plenty of dynamics left in and this has been
the broadcast stage rather than the mastering stage by the radio praised by both critics and fans alike.
stations themselves. Of course, it didnt stop record companies
demanding louder masters so that they could ensure their
songs would be the loudest on
the dial.
When CDs launched in
1982 the RMS level was kept
around -18dBFS, with peaks
rarely reaching up towards
0dBFS. By the late 80s this
had increased such that
0dBFS was occasionally
being reached, but RMS
levels were still as low as
-15dBFS. The first records to
hit 0dBFS on nearly every
beat didnt occur until the 90s

The Loudness Wars have resulted in


increasingly loud masters. The top
track here is Citys Full, by Savages,
released this year. Note how it is
almost a straight line compared to the
1986 Let It Bleed CD release of the
Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter, below.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 |9


MTF Feature The complete guide to mastering

without running IK Multimedias ARC system


the risk of incurring provides corrective room EQ
in software using a
audible distortion. measurement microphone
and white noise playback in
your studio. The plug-in is
Mastering today then placed across the
Mastering has come a master buss for monitoring.
long way from its very
technical beginnings. The process no longer
simply involves creating a copy of the mix
that can be transferred to vinyl, but instead
is a creative process aimed at getting more
energy into a mix and creating consistency across inspiring and lead to a
tracks. It should ensure that, irrespective of the wider understanding of the tools youre
listening environment the music is played back in, using and their impact on the music.
the experience remains as good as it can be. In short,
the mastering engineers role is to ensure that the Monitor issues
final product is the best possible release it can be. Before we look at what sound-processing tools you
need it is important to consider the monitoring chain

It is now a creative process


itself. Before you can go making 0.5dB or less
changes to the EQ curve or millisecond changes to

aimed at getting more energy in a


the attack or release envelope of a compressor, you
have to know that the environment you are listening

mix and more track consistency


in is going to provide you with an opportunity to
hear those changes. This is important in the mix
stage, but even more so in mastering.
Room-correction systems such as IK
The tonal balance, loudness, punch, width, even Multimedias ARC or KRKs Ergo will help to balance
subtle colouring and sometimes even reverb can all the sound of your monitors in the room, but they
Tech Terms come into the realm of mastering, so a range of tools cannot correct for reverb tails, so its a good idea to
ROOM EQ
are needed. All-in-one mastering suites such as invest in some acoustic treatment for your room if
Corrective room EQ corrects
imperfect rooms by altering iZotopes Ozone or IK Multimedias T-RackS can possible. A good mixture of absorption and diffusion
EQ pre-speaker. If your room provide many of these tools, and if youre looking to can transform a room, and is well worth the
boosts 3kHz by 3dB, room EQ
reduces it for a flat response.
master your own music they can be excellent investment for both mixing and mastering. Weve
COMPRESSION RATIO
starting points. However, if you are looking to get covered acoustic treatment several times in this very
Once the signal has passed the deeper into the world of mastering it is a good idea magazine, going into detail on how to build your
threshold the ratio determines to have a wider selection of tools to choose from. own acoustic treatment (see pages 6671). We have
by how much it should be
reduced. The higher the ratio Mix and match some of your EQs, compressors and also assessed a selection of the best studio monitors
the more gain reduction is limiters, and if youve got the budget, dont be afraid available for your budget, which is the next most
applied, up to :1. Ratios above
of sprinkling some analogue hardware in with the important thing to consider after your room
20:1 are considered limiters.
plug-ins. Breaking out of the box can be very acoustics (pages 7888).

MTF Pro Technique Mastering for iTunes


Apple has been very keen to improve the quality
of files uploaded to its site over the past few
years, even going so far as to launch an
initiative known as Mastered For iTunes, along
with instructions and dedicated software.
Apple now asks for files in 24-bit WAV or AIFF
format, which it will convert into AAC format
online. To see what the conversion process will
do to your files Apple provides Apple Audio
Mastering Tools. These include droplet apps for
converting files into AAC iTunes Plus format.
Currently, this is an offline process, and it is not
easy to guess in advance what changes the
encoding will do. Plug-ins such as the Sonnox
Fraunhofer Pro-Codec make this process
easier by including a real-time converter so you
can hear instantly the effect of the encoder on
your audio.
Sonnoxs Pro-Codec makes the process of encoding that
much easier by offering instant feedback.

10 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


The Complete Guide To Mastering Feature MTF

When considering monitors, bear in mind that bigger cuts or boosts without sounding unnatural.
you want a very neutral-sounding pair with as much The disadvantage of linear-phase EQ is that it
low-end extension as possible. A subwoofer can help introduces latency into the signal processing, which
to bring up the low end, but they can also create as is why it isnt very common in mixing. However,
many problems as they fix. Getting the sub latency is rarely a problem in mastering, so it can be
positioned correctly, in-phase, is hard enough, used quite freely.
but you must then also set the crossover Monitoring with Unlike the choice of EQ, the reasons for boosting
headphones
frequency and the level of the sub such negates the or cutting at any given frequency before or after the
that you get a linear frequency response detrimental compressor are subject to more basic rules. With the
impact of room
between your mains and the caveat that all rules are there to be broken, a quick
reflections.
subwoofer. There are tools to help rule of thumb is that subtractive EQ should be
with this, and room-correction applied before the compressor, with boosts kept until
tools will also help a great deal, after the compressor. This will prevent the
especially if they manage the compressor from responding to any frequencies you
crossover (as KRKs Ergo are cutting out of the mix. Boosts to the very top end
system does). can often be placed before the compressor, as this
A good pair of headphones region usually carries far less energy than the bass
can be a great alternative to and midrange and therefore can be boosted without
monitors in imperfect rooms as the risk of these frequencies triggering the
they remove the potential for compressor. In fact, as some compression will
reflections, directing the sound reduce the high-end energy a boost at the top is often
straight into the ear canal. Again, useful, and placing it before a compressor will mean
however, it is important to find a that any noise introduced by the compressor isnt
neutral-sounding set with as much boosted by an EQ placed after it.
low-end extension as possible. As good as some

A subwoofer can help bring up


headphones may look, hyped bass response is the
last thing you want when mastering. Open-backed

the low end but it can create as


headphones such as the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro or
Sennheiser HD650 are preferable to closed-back or

many problems as it fixes


in-ear styles.
The final link in the chain is the audio interface
itself. It can be easy to overlook, but a high-quality
I/O can make a surprising difference to what you are
able to hear inside the mix. Entry-level interfaces The exact approach to the EQ is going to change
have improved dramatically over the past few years, with every mix that you work on, and while one track
but better clocking and more transparent circuitry may need more energy at 40Hz to bring out the sub
can open up the mix, enabling you to hear details frequencies of the kick, another may require the
that might otherwise be overlooked. Thankfully, opposite. Some tracks may require a huge amount of
unless youre using outboard equipment to master low end alongside glossy, bright highs, while others
you wont need more than two channels of outputs, may have little to no sub frequencies at all and a
and even if you are using outboard, four-channels of steep roll-off in the highs, and there is little point
I/O is probably enough, so you can invest in quality approaching a scratchy folk guitar recording in the
without having to also invest in quantity. same way as you would a dancefloor smash.
However, while the approach may change, the goal is
Tone quest almost always the same: you want to most
The mastering chain itself can comprise any accurately represent the content of the music; tuck
number of processors, but the most common are EQ, away any frequencies that might be poking through
In addition to providing
compression and limiting. The brickwall limiter will corrective room EQ, the KRK the mix; bring separation to any elements that seem
always come last in the chain. However, the order of Ergo also acts as a monitor to be overlapping; and ensuring that the low end
controller, so you can switch
the EQ and compressor can vary depending on the between two different sets of
needs of the track. Often, mastering engineers will monitors and a subwoofer.
use a variety of different EQs in different places in
the signal chain to achieve the desired curve they
want rather than simply relying on one EQ in a
fixed position.
The reasons for using one EQ over another for
any given frequency band are largely down to taste.
An engineer may prefer the sound of a Pultec-style
EQ for the top end but prefer a more flexible digital
EQ for fine-tuning the bass frequencies. Similarly,
some engineers will prefer a linear-phase EQ for
certain tasks. Linear-phase EQ is incredibly
transparent, which allows you to get away with

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 11


MTF Feature The complete guide to mastering

isnt going to completely disappear


over smaller systems.
The best judge is your ears, so
compare the song with other, similar-
sounding songs. Spectrum analysers
can be useful and provide a visual aid,
but dont lean too heavily on them.
Assuming that the mix has arrived for
mastering close to how the artist wants it
to sound, there shouldnt be need for any heavy
EQ changes, and its hard to see where small boosts
or cuts are needed on a frequency graph. It is
extremely important to A/B any changes you make to
the EQ curve, preferably while also adjusting for any The Shadow Hills mastering
gain, so that you arent simply hearing the louder compressor has both slow and
fast response compressors (and,
version and opting for that. We usually find it useful lets face it, looks amazing).
to go away and come back once weve finished
EQing, giving our ears an opportunity to relax below 18kHz and then a roll-off above 18kHz. Some
before coming back and hearing the changes weve mastering engineers will exploit this feature at even
made. A quick cup of tea or a flick through higher frequencies the Manley Massive Passive
MusicTech Focus should be enough to give your ears Mastering Version, for example, has low-pass filter
a break. Upon returning we often find that we end settings at 15kHz, 20kHz, 27kHz, 40kHz and 52kHz.
Some may argue that setting the filter as high as

Once youve done your EQing go


52kHz is somewhat pointless given that even 96kHz
digital audio can carry information only up to

away, take a break, have a cup of


around 48kHz. Anything above this is therefore
already going to be sharply filtered out by the

tea and read MusicTech Focus


Nyquist filters in the digital converters. However,
the correct use of these filters lies not only in what
they remove but also in what they boost in the
signal, as well as any phase colouration they impart
up reducing the gain on any EQ decisions we may on the signal.
have made, especially in the top end.
Another important equalisation tool that is often Buss compression
forgotten about during mastering by less Mix-buss compression is a tricky area get this
experienced engineers is the filter. High- and right and your mix can really come together. The
low-pass filters can be incredibly useful tools in a instruments will all punch as one unit, and the
mastering context, just as they can be in a mix. A gentle boost will bring up the quieter sounds,
high-pass filter set below the fundamental thickening the overall sound. However, get it wrong
frequency of the kick drum or the lowest bass note and you can suck all the life out of a mix.
will do two things. First, it will clean up any Mastering compression is very similar to
redundant energy that may have crept into the mix. mix-buss compression. It is a two-channel
Low-energy rumble might be almost inaudible, but compression stage applied to the stereo mix, and so
it can still eat into your headroom, taking up many mix engineers will prefer to leave compression
valuable clean loudness. Secondly, the filter will off their mix, hoping that the mastering engineer
almost certainly exhibit a slight frequency boost either has better tools or more experience in this
just before the cut. If youve set the filter just below task. This is often a mistake. When used from the
the fundamental, this bump can help to give a little start of a mix, compression can influence the mix
extra energy just in the right place. Similarly, a itself. Fader-rides will change; the very balance of
low-pass filter can be used to create a bump in the the song itself will alter. Applying a compressor at
Tech Terms high frequencies, just before you filter them out. Set the last stage of a mix, then, is going to make
NYQUIST FILTER at around 18kHz, therefore, there will be a slight lift changes to your mix, and this technique is most
A-D convertors can capture
only a strictly band-limited often where mixes fall apart. In mastering there is
signal accurately, so any no option to have the compressor on the mix from
signal beyond the Nyquist the start, so you have to be more careful to get the
limit (half the sampling rate)
must be heavily filtered out. If settings right.
it isnt then you will incur some The first decision to make when compressing is
degree of aliasing distortion.
what compressor (or compressors) to use. Do you
VARI-MU
A vari-mu compressor is any
want something with a bit of its own colour, or do
compressor with variable gain you want a cleaner signal? The safest bet is usually
characteristics. However, vari- to go with a cleaner compressor, as colouration can
mu is usually taken to mean a
valve compressor in which the be added in many other ways. However, take a look
valve is continually re-biased around most professional mastering rooms and
by the incoming signal to The Fairchild 670 is perhaps the most famous buss compressor.
provide the gain reduction. Good-condition units are rare and can cost upwards of 20,000.

12 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


The Complete Guide To Mastering Feature MTF

MTF Buyers Guide Mastering DAWs

SADIE 6 PROFESSIONAL
Company Developer Prism Sound Price 1,140
SADiE is something of an industry secret. Many of the biggest mastering and post-production
facilities have been using SADiE for years, but outside this field it is almost completely
unknown. This has largely been because running SADiE required dedicated hardware. However,
from version 6, SADiE can now run on any capable PC. It supports VST and DirectX plug-ins and
comes with a selection of iZotope plug-ins. Various versions are available, but only the
Mastering Suite comes with dedicated DDPi support. A Lite version is available for 540, which
doesnt come with real-time sample-rate conversion. Web www.sadie.com

WAVELAB 8
Company Steinberg Price 448
Finally available for both Mac and PC, Steinbergs WaveLab 8 is a powerhouse of a DAW for
audio editing and mastering. WaveLab 8 includes de-noising tools from Sonnox, iZotope
MBIT+ Dithering, Voxengos CurveEQ, batch processing tools and built-in support for DDP
creation and CD burning. The full version supports sample rates up to 384kHz, over 1,000
audio tracks with ten master effects and ten effects per clip. A lite version is also available
WaveLab Elements but this lacks some of the additional features (such as batch
processing) and restricts sample rates to below 96kHz, with only three audio tracks, four
master effects and two effects per clip. Web www.steingberg.net

PRESONUS STUDIO ONE PROFESSIONAL 2.5


Company PreSonus Price 332
Studio One is the newcomer in the DAW world, and its making a stir by not only
including a fully featured multitrack DAW to take on the likes of Cubase, Logic
and Pro Tools, but also a dedicated mastering mode. The built-in mastering
suite includes all the tools necessary for level matching and sequencing as the
Try to consider
well as phase, spectrum, peak, RMS and K-System meters andimplication
DDP export.of
buss
The mastering tools are included only in the fully featured version ofcompression
Studio
and reverb.
One Professional 2.5. Web www.presonus.com
Routing the reverb

SEQUOIA 12
Company Magix Price 2,500+VAT
Sequoia 12 is a fully 64-bit DAW with several features that will entice mastering
engineers. Built-in to the latest version is true-peak metering, which measures not only
the loudest sample, but the inter-sample peaks, too. Loudness metering based on
various EBU and ITU standards is included as is spectral editing, which enables you to
visually remove sounds from recordings ideal for noise reduction and for cleaning up
live recordings. Web pro.magix.com

youll usually see at least one analogue compressor optical and VCA compressor in one unit for exactly
famous for its unique character. The most common this reason.
compressors in mastering are vari-mu or optical Slow compressors will allow transients to pass
designs such as the Fairchild 670 (vari-mu) or through untouched, working instead on the body of
Maselec MLA-2 (optical). sounds and enabling you to gently bring up the level
Contrast this with the most common mix-buss without reducing the impact of the drums. However,
compressors, such as the SSL G-Buss and API 2500, with slower attack and release times you might get
which are VCA-style compressors. However, it is audible pumping as sounds duck just after being
worth noting that this is not a strict rule and VCA The Maselec MLA-2 is an optical played, before slowly coming back up. This is
designs do also make their way into mastering compressor with a very subtle, especially noticeable on longer, sustained notes.
open and transparent
studios. Vari-mu and optical compressors tend to Fast compressors can grab hold of transients and
compression characteristic.
have slower responses than VCA
compressors and some mastering engineers
will even use two compressors together so
they can have one fast compressor and one
slower compressor. The Shadow Hills
Mastering Compressor combines both an

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 13


MTF Feature The complete guide to mastering

Tech Terms reduce them quickly, and with a fast release you
COMPRESSION shouldnt get any audible pumping. However, this
THRESHOLD can reduce the impact of the sounds, and so a good
The level the signal can reach
before the compressor or blend of both fast and slow compression
limiter performs any gain characteristics is often useful.
reduction. The lower the
Remember, though, that a brickwall limiter
threshold, the greater the
amount of signal passes and applied at the end of the chain will act like a very
the greater the gain reduction. fast compressor, so dont compress too heavily with
ATTACK faster compressors at this stage. Some models of
Defines how long it takes for
the compressor to react to
software compressor, such as the FabFilter ProC,
signals. A slow attack will provide powerful visual feedback of any gain
slowly fade down the incoming reduction taking place, which can be incredibly
signal as it passes the
threshold, while a fast attack useful for seeing how the compressor is responding
will quickly ramp to full gain to the transients in your audio. More commonly,
reduction, catching transients
however, you will simply see an LED or VU meter FabFilters ProC offers great
much more efficiently.
that displays the amount of gain reduction, but isnt visual feedback always useful
RELEASE for seeing how a compressor
Defines how long it takes the as easy to spot the subtle attack and release responds to transients in the
compressor to stop once the characteristics with these devices. audio you are mastering.
signal has passed below the
threshold. A slow release will
We usually start experimenting with a slow
bring down the gain reduction optical or vari-mu-style compressor at low ratios,
more slowly, creating a more perhaps 2:1 or even lower (sometimes as low as especially when using slow attack and release
natural curve.
1.2:1). Using fairly long attack and release times parameters. Remember that unlike a multiband
(around 50100ms), adjust the threshold to a point at compressor, the whole spectrum is still being
which the loudest part of the signal is being compressed, including the low end. It is simply that
compressed by no more than 23dB. This is a good the compressor threshold does not respond to the
starting point, and while some tracks may require low-end information.
more, others may need less. Again, be sure to A/B the If we are going to use a second compressor we
compressed mix with a non-compressed version and will usually put it in the chain immediately after the
first compressor, using much faster attack and

Dont get sucked into thinking


release settings, perhaps 1020ms. This compressor
will then be used to simply shave off the tops of

that because you are mastering


transients before they hit the limiter. Again, were
likely to use a low ratio, although perhaps not quite

you have to make changes


as low as the slow compressor something around
2:1 or 4:1 will do the job, depending on how big the
transients in the mix you are working on are. As
weve explained, pulling down the transients can
make level adjustments to ensure that you are take the impact off the percussive elements in a mix,
comparing like with like. Not all mixes need and the brickwall limiter will be doing more of this
additional compression at all dont get sucked into later on in the chain, so dont go crazy with the fast
thinking that because you are mastering something compressor. Even as much as 1dB may be enough to
you have to make changes, the best mixes will need remove the spikiness from an overly transient mix.
no alterations. It can be just as rewarding to hand When using two compressors it is also important
back a master with little to no changes made to it as to think about how the characters of each will affect
it can having made drastic changes to a track. each other. We usually prefer to have a slow,
Another tool worth experimenting with is the characterful compressor paired with a transparent,
compressor sidechain. By filtering out the low- fast compressor. So a tube vari-mu compressor (like
frequency content from the compressor sidechain it the Thermionic Culture Phoenix)
is possible to let the high-energy, LF information
through uncompressed and focus the attention of the
Pair compressors like these sidechain on peaks in the mid-band and HF content.
together by all means, but This can reduce any pumping effects that may
consider how their characters
will affect one another.
otherwise reduce the effectiveness of a compressor,

14 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


The Complete Guide To Mastering Feature MTF

can be paired with a second software VCA-style


compressor such as the UAD Precision Buss
Compressor. T-RackS Soft Clipper can be
placed before the final
brickwall limiter to yield
Multiband compressors another couple of decibels. limiter as the final element in our mastering
Sometimes a mix comes in where even multiple chain, setting the ceiling to -0.3dBFS and using
compressors in series and a whole host of EQs the threshold to bring up the level of the track.
before and afterwards isnt enough. For these If more than 12dB of gain reduction is
situations multiband compression becomes a very required at this stage we will usually precede
useful tool. However, where single-band compression the brickwall limiter with another form of
has the capacity to spoil a mix, leaving it lifeless or limiting known as soft-clipping. Soft-clippers
pumping, multiband compression can not only cause such as the T-RackS Soft Clipper emulate a
all the same problems but has the capacity to ruin trick some mastering engineers realised they
the tonal balance, too. Careful adjustment and could do by driving high-end converters.
regular A/Bing is vital throughout. Instead of hard-clipping the signal, the
The hardest parameters to set on a multiband converters would soft-clip it, enabling
compressor are the crossover frequencies. Get this mastering engineers to get a couple more dBs
right and you are on the way to clean, transparent of level cleanly before going into the brickwall
compression. Most multiband compressors will let
you audition the band being compressed. Use this to
hear what the compressor will be responding to and
compressing. If there are any
Pulling down the transients
problem frequencies in your
mix this is the perfect
can take the impact off the
opportunity to hear and
respond to them.
percussive elements in a mix
Take it to the limit limiter. For extremely loud masters the trick of
While your full mastering balancing the gain reduction across a range of
chain may include any different processors is incredibly important.
number of additional While it is perfectly possible to simply throw a
processors from harmonic single brickwall limiter across your master
exciters to saturation effects buss and crank up the threshold until youre
and even reverbs the final getting 78dB of gain reduction, the amount of
stage of mastering is almost resulting distortion will be huge in
always limiting. comparison to a well-mastered equally loud
As a rule of thumb we will version placed through three or four well-
always place a brickwall configured processors. MTF

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 15


MusicTech.indd 1 14.02.2014 09:06:26
MusicTech.indd 2 14.02.2014 09:06:50
MTF Technique Mastering for club & radio play

Ableton Live Tutorial

Mastering in Live
for club and radio play
Getting your tracks ready for playing to the public is something
we all need to do from time to time. Liam OMullane shares
his tips on making the best-sounding master possible.

L
ove it or hate it, but in the world of club music
its a necessity to give tracks a certain degree
of loudness. For many, professional mastering
isnt an option as you may not be signed to a
label yet, but if you want to get exposure, you
still need to get your tracks to club and radio DJs for a
possible lucky break. Here well show you how to use
specific mastering techniques on your mix buss to get a
polished, loud track for promotional use. You can also
apply these to pre-mixed audio files, but working while
the mix is still live can be an education in how your mix
changes when mastered and how it can be shaped to
work better with your mastering chain. But before any
processing begins, lets look at using reference material
to help keep you on track. PRO TIP
For more detail when working
Reference material with EQ Eight, double-click on mix after listening to a hi-hat in
the analyser to see a much
A/B referencing between released material and your larger view. This also adds a solo mode for too long, so alongside
own work is useful both at the mastering stage and frequency and musical pitch regular breaks, reference material is essential.
during the song-creation process. It provides you with info box to the lower left, which Drag two or more reference tracks into Live on their
helps when you need to focus
constant goals to aim for and helps you stay on course on certain notes. own audio tracks, Warp them to fit Lives tempo, then
for completing your track. Weve all lost perspective on a highlight the tracks and select Group from the Edit
menu. Mute the tracks in this group so nothing but your

Working while the mix is still live own track can be heard. 1
You need to route these tracks directly to your audio

can be an education in how it interface so that any master buss processing isnt
affecting them. In Session View, select your soundcard

changes when mastered


1
3
2

Live can be set up for real-time use of reference


material at any given moment by hitting assigned
keys for each reference track.

18 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mastering for club & radio play Technique MTF

8
5

7
6
9

Surgical EQ is the best place to


start for getting a more
professional-sounding mix
before moving onto other
types of processing.

Dont be fooled into thinking that as bass eats up headroom, which in turn makes it hard
to get a tight, loud mix. Try both the normal and the x4

your changes are better simply filters to determine which suits the content best. 8
You should audition all treatments to your mix buss

because they are louder by turning the processing chain on and off at regular
intervals. This also makes it easier to set your output
level by ear so youre auditioning changes even-
output from the Audio To menu after first selecting Ext handedly. The simplest way to set this up is by Grouping
Out. 2 Finally, assigning key commands to each solo devices via the Edit menu and assigning the newly
button lets you jump from your work to any reference created Audio Racks Activator button to a key for
point for immediate feedback. Use Edit Key Map from immediate auditioning at any point. 9
the Options menu to assign these keys. 3
Dynamic shaping
EQ work The next step is to process the dynamic range of your
Before applying any dynamic processing, start with an track to firm it up and give it more impact. The first
EQ Eight for surgical work to knock things into better
PRO TIP device can be used for average signal level-based
If you need more frequency
shape. As a general rule, select Oversampling by right/ content in the 25kHz area of compression, pulling the level of the tracks body and
[Ctrl]-clicking (PC/Mac) on the devices title bar. This your mix but are pushed for the higher peaks closer together. A second device can
allows for a higher internal sampling rate and reduces time to tweak this during the then be used for more rhythm-based peak compression
mixing stage, Lives Overdrive
the chance of aliasing being introduced as you work. 4 can help fill in the to add punch to the
The first task with surgical EQ work is to reduce/ gap, with careful use drums as the whole
of Drive and Tone
remove any non-musical resonances. These may not be along with a narrow
track is compressed in
immediately obvious, so an additive sweeping band-pass filter. response to them.
technique is usually required. EQ bands 36 are Use a very low dry/ Either a Compressor or
wet balance from
parametric by default, so start with one of these. 1% upwards. Glue device can be used
Increase the gain to around 10dB, the Q (width) to 23 for average-based
for a narrow band, and sweep the Freq dial until a work, and it pays to try
specific frequency starts to sing out in a nasty manner them both as they do
when boosted. 5 Now explore either direction for the Q sound different. This
amount so only the nasty area is being boosted. The Q technique requires a
needs to be as narrow as it can be without being so fairly deep threshold
narrow that it doesnt boost the whole problem area. 6 setting but light ratio
To reset your ears, click on the Gain control and hit from 1.01:1 upwards.
backspace to return it to zero. Apply sufficient gain Compressor needs to
reduction to reduce the problem area as much as be set to RMS for an
possible without leaving a hole in the overall sound. 7 averaging behaviour
You can repeat this process as required, but if youre and Makeup Gain
applying more than three or so cuts it may be worth should be disabled so
looking at your mix elements to find the sound that is you can use the Out
responsible for the problem and apply this technique to fader for manual level
that sound directly so the whole mix isnt EQed as much. matching. This prevents
Bracketing your songs frequency range with low- you from being fooled
and high-cut filtering is the next step with EQ Eight. Sit into thinking your
a filter just below and above the visible energy of the changes are better
track to remove any content that doesnt aid the sound simply because they
of the track. This is especially important in the low end are louder! Theres no

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 19


MTF Technique Mastering for club & radio play

11 12

10

If your drums dont stick out in the mix sufficiently to trigger Compressor, use the EQ so it
reacts to the specific frequencies of certain drums and not others.

rule for the amount of gain reduction to apply here and After working on the sides, try an additive sweeping
the attack and release settings are also content- technique on the mid to find and then reduce any muddy
specific explore them until you can hear backing lower-mid frequencies. This can be anywhere between
sounds coming further forwards in the mix while 250800Hz and youll generally need a broad Q setting
avoiding any pumping artefacts. 10 as the area can be quite wide. If you havent removed too
For peak-based compression, Compressor set to much bottom-to-mid frequency information on your
Peak mode is your best bet. To have only the main, side signal, try this on the sides as well. 13
louder drums trigger the compression, set the ratio
quite high, with the threshold low enough to let only the Peak limiting
highest drum peaks trigger the compressor. Dial in fast Peak limiting is the final element in the processing
attack and release times so the track gets slightly chain. This limits the range of any momentary peaks,
squashed with each louder drum hit. This will give the which enables more volume to be squeezed out of your
drums a feeling of being heavier as the mix gets slightly master. Although the Limiter might be the most obvious
squashed in response to them. If necessary, mix your choice for this task, we often opt for Saturator or Glue
drums a little too loud to take this effect a bit further. instead. These often have a more musical sound than
Alternatively, if the drums arent loud enough use the EQ the Limiter, which can pump when pushed hard. For
on the left-hand side to help Compressor hear the both Glue and Saturator you need to enable soft clipping
frequencies specific to the kick and snare. 11 and increase Drive until the signal starts to break up.
Once there, simply back off a little (or a lot, depending
Mid and side on how in your face you want the mix to sound). 14
Another way to tighten up a mix is to EQ the mid and Saturators output level can be set to keep everything in
side elements separately. High-passing the side from check, but Glue needs a Utility device adding afterwards
around 200Hz or higher will help focus the bottom end as it can be quite loud at its output. 15
as youre forcing it to be mono through the mid signal At this point you should have a polished-sounding
only. Boosting the top end on the sides at this point can track that you can export and distribute. If you have
also give a wider sense of stereo (dont overdo it or it time, though, come back to it with fresh ears and apply
may become less mono-compatible). To do this, switch any minor tweaks that perhaps didnt seem so obvious
an instance of EQ Eight from stereo mode to M/S via the during the previous session. MTF
Mode menu. 12 Use the Edit toggle button to change the
EQ controls from adjusting the mid or side signal.

13

14

EQing the middle and side signals separately is a very effective


way of tightening the bass end and widening existing stereo
elements. When it comes to peak limiting, Saturator and Glue are
just as worthy as Lives Limiter device. 15

20 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


MTF Technique Mastering in Cubase 7

On the disc

Cubase Tutorial Cubase project


file included on

Mastering
the DVD

in Cubase
If you are new to mastering, Cubase 7 has all the
tools you need to make your mixes sound pro,
as Tim Hallas reveals

D
espite often being thought of as a DAW just
PRO TIP
for composition and mixing, Cubase has
Remember that some
been equipped with all the tools necessary of the processors needed for
for mastering for some time indeed, within mastering are also available Once a file has
within the Channel Strip. Each
the latest version you get everything you loaded, its time to listen to it. As ever,
channel includes a
need to achieve a decent, pro sound. compressor and limiter as it is best to do this over a good set of speakers that you
Firstly, though, I thought it would be worth recapping standard and also saturation are familiar with. It is also worth having a reference
emulators, if you want them to
the basics of setting up a project suitable for mastering give your track the sound of
track in a similar style available to compare it to. If you
within Cubase. If youre working in v7 of the software being mastered on tape. are mastering for someone else, ask them what sort of
there is a preset for mastering on the opening flash sound they are going for and then load up an already
screen that can be found under the Mastering tab. 1 mastered track of that style into the Arrange window
Having a preset is all well and good in some for A/B comparison.
circumstances, but it doesnt really give us the
complete flexibility needed for mastering because no EQ
two projects will be the same. So, start by loading an Lets start with the EQ. How does the reference track
empty project from under the Other tab. When this has sound and how do the tracks youre working on
opened we need to add a track either via Project>Add compare to it?
Track>Audio and selecting a stereo track (unless you Cubase has some lovely little EQ tools available in
happen to be working in surround or on a retro project in the Tools section of the Inserts to help you analytically
mono) or by dragging-and-dropping a file into the here. The first of these is MultiScope. 4 This includes
Arrange window. frequency and amplitude analysis and can be set in
A slightly neater way around this is to import the various ways to view different pieces of information.
audio properly. Click on File>Import>Audio File and A good practical workflow method is to put all the
select the track you want to load into the Arrange analysis tools on the output channel (stereo out in my
window. 2 At this point you get some options regarding case) and the plug-ins on the track channels. That way,
the file. I always copy the file to the working directory as when you load several tracks for mastering an album
it keeps everything together. Its best not to split a into the Arrange window you can compare the
stereo file as the processes you place on the file for appearance and check that the responses look similar
mastering will have to be repeated for each channel, so without having to insert multiple analysis tools. To view
you could end up with mismatched channels. 3 different resolutions of analysis, rotate the far right

2 Start your mastering by loading in a preset and


the audio file, but you will need to edit the preset
according to the music you are mastering.

22 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mastering in Cubase 7 Technique MTF

3
After your stereo file is in,
Cubases EQ functions
enable easy comparisons
with your reference track.
6

Look at the analysis on your Obviously, the track does need to be EQed correctly

reference track and note where as part of the process of being mastered. Be careful if
you are working with bass-heavy music and you try to

the peaks and troughs are apply an EQ curve with even more bass in it as you may
end up destroying some equipment... The eventual tool
for everything has to be your ears no plug-in will ever
Frequency knob to view the number of bands you want be a replacement for them. Remember: you are listening
to see and select whether you want to view amplitude to create a correct-sounding track, not doing any
or frequency. Personally, I like to see the spectrum but artistic mixing at this stage.
Im a geek and thats how I think about things. If you
want it simpler, use the standard band views. Compression
Start by looking at the analysis on your reference We now need to think about dynamics and adjusting
track and making a note of where the peaks and troughs them carefully. Cubase does include some mastering
are in the frequency spectrum. Next, load up an presets in the Multiband Compressor for a range of
instance of the Channel EQ either in the Edit window or styles of music; however, I have never found that any of
via an insert on the channel you are using. You can now them actually make my music sound better. The
view the spectrum analysis of this and compare it to problem is the same as always with compression
that of your reference track. Adjust the EQ manually via presets: the software cannot know where the threshold
the controls in the EQ window to alter the different is and therefore cant operate correctly.
frequencies so that they give the same overall shape as We will, though, use the Multiband Compressor to
the reference track. 5 control the piece appropriately. Start by loading one
To save a bit of time, try using CurveEQ (from the onto the track via the Inserts, making sure it is set to its
Plug-ins menu) as it features a matching process. The PRO TIP default positions and working from there. 10 The track I
If you want to save your own
technology in this is not new, but it is relatively new to am using has a quiet bass part and a lot going on in the
default mastering setup, keep
Cubase. 6 Open up CurveEQ from the dropdown list of all the plug-ins loaded on a mids, therefore I have split the top and bottom to be
inserts and click on the button labelled Static & Match. stereo track in the Arrange relatively far apart and give greater control of the mids.
window, then open the Edit
This window enables you to take snapshots of the window with the EQ panel,
Set your thresholds and ratios as you would if you were
spectrum and match it with another. 7 To do this, open open any inserts and click on treating any other instrument with that
the insert on your reference track and take a snapshot File>Save as Template. This
will reopen these whenever
by clicking on the button labelled Take, then save this you load it
reference file (I save mine in the project folder). Then and will
mean youre
open another instance on the track you want to apply
ready to go
the EQ to and repeat the process. Once this has been with the
done, on the next slot down, click on Load and find the correct
devices and
snapshot you made of the reference track. settings.
Once the EQ unit has both snapshots loaded, one
needs to be selected as Reference and the other needs
to be selected as Apply To. Finally, click on the button
labelled Match Spectrums. 8 This button looks at the
two EQ curves and adjusts the points to try to match
them up. Close the Static &Match window to see the
finished result. The example I have used is pretty
extreme for effect, but it does seem to work quite well.
It can always be toned down manually if you are not
happy with the results. 9

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 23


MTF Technique Mastering in Cubase 7

You can easily


match your EQ
with that of your
7 A/B track. 9

load it in, repeat the process via the inserts and it does
most of the work for you. There is a soft clip control that
will give the track the sound of an old analogue overload
frequency range and use it as a tool to give greater by bringing the resulting volume down before the tops
dynamic control to each frequency range. The track Im of the waveforms are chopped off a very basic form of
working on is very dynamic and needs to remain that compression. Maximizers are something I use only
way, so my threshold is set quite high to control the when appropriate and Cubase has one that is very
peaks but not lose the dynamics. simple to use. 12
Compression can also be used to give the track a bit
more volume. If you are making dance music and want PRO TIP Summing Up
the needle to hit zero, then the Multiband Compressor When working with single When you have got your EQ and dynamics in place you
is again your friend. By compressing the different EQ stereo files I find the default need to use those ears again and listen to how the track
bars/beats setup in Cubase
bands you essentially have four compressors that wont not that helpful. I switch to
sounds does it sound tonally correct, is the track the
always be triggered when the bass drum hits and allows Seconds by selecting it from correct volume, and does it sit with the other tracks?
the melody to pass through. the dropdown arrow in the Constant A/Bing with your reference track should get
location bar (you will find
many other options also you to an end point you are happy with.
Limiting & maximising available here, including Note that mastering is also a process of getting
frames for film work.
Cubase includes several limiters in the Dynamics groups of tracks to work together, so load up all the
section of its Inserts and in the Channel Strip. tracks from an album into one Arrange window and
There is a standard limiter and a brickwall limiter work through them with the same output channel.
for whatever purpose you need. I tend to use the This way you can listen to them together and hear
Standard Limiter most of the time and have it set if the mastering is working with all the tracks
just under 0dB as a protection limiter this way I mastering is about consistency and making the
know that no matter what else I do, I wont damage sounds work with one another.
any equipment or get unpleasant clipping. Cubase certainly has all the tools you need to
However, it is still perfectly possible to overload take your music to the next level. As we have seen,
the limiter, so dont keep turning it up and simply some even help do the work for you, so you dont
hoping for the best! 11 even need to get too deep. Whichever route you
Cubase also includes a Maximizer that is useful choose I hope you will try some of the mastering
when working on any style of popular music. To tools within the DAW. MTF

10

11

After the EQ stage,


load in Cubases
multiband
compressor and
then the Maximizer. 12

24 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


MTF Technique Mastering in Pro Tools

Pro Tools Tutorial On the disc

Mastering
Pro Tools project
file included on
the DVD

in Pro Tools
Pro Tools is, of course, well equipped for
mastering, having several very transparent
plug-ins. Mike Hillier walks through his process.

F
or this tutorial were going to be working on I
PRO TIP
Dont, a track we recently mastered for Sophie
Instead of using the
Jamieson, produced by Ben Walker and Bounce to Disk function,
available on Folkroom Records at we usually prefer to
route the audio out from
folkroomrecords.bandcamp.com. The original
the track were
mix arrived in two versions one with compression mastering to a new
applied on the stereo buss and one without. The final Audio track titled
*name*.master. Then,
master used the version with buss compression, but for when bounced, we can
the purposes of this project were going to look at the duplicate this track and apply
version without. dither as an AudioSuite,
enabling us to quickly create
We usually suggest that if a song is mixed with buss both 24- and 16-bit versions. is in X-OR solo mode (found under Options>Solo
compression in place that you master from this version. Mode), which will disengage previous solos when you
However, for the purposes of this tutorial we wanted to engage a new channel in solo. This enables us to always
use the uncompressed version as it allows us to have one of the two copies of our track soloed at any
highlight some of the problems you may encounter. one time, so were not ever listening to the two
First, open the Mastering Workshop session file from combined. Its a good idea to compare the mastered
the coverdisc. Youll see weve created two identical version with the unprocessed version after every step,
channels, one labelled I Dont.Mix and the other and to bring down the volume fader of the mastered
labelled I Dont.Working Copy. 1 Weve created these version to keep the two versions equally loud.
two channels so that we can quickly compare our Processing is pre-fader so this wont affect any of your
master with the original without having to bypass all of mastering and you can bring it back up to unity when
the plug-ins. In order to do this make sure that Pro Tools youre ready to bounce.

Consider the dynamics, the Preparation


Before we even get started mastering, lets take a quick

frequency spread, stereo width look through the Pro Tools Playback Engine settings. 2
Were using Pro Tools|HD 10, but the options should be

and position of instruments similar whichever version you are using. The first thing

Preparation is key to
good mastering.
Spend a little time
before you start
processing anything
just listening to the
track and making
notes on what each
instrument is doing
in the mix.

26 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mastering in Pro Tools Technique MTF

3
5

EQ and compression are the fundamentals of


mastering. Get these right and everything
else will fall into place.

We want to transparently end is carried in the 100200Hz region. The high end is
also fairly sparse in instrumentation, leaving plenty of

compress the mix, gluing parts room for the vocal.

together, not reducing dynamics First steps


Were going to start by adding an instance of EQ3
7-Band. Since the sub-frequencies arent playing a
you can do is to increase the H/W Buffer Size to its huge role in this track, lets clean them up and focus
maximum setting. Were not doing any live tracking so the energy in a tighter region. Well start by filtering out
there is no advantage in putting the CPU under everything below around 35Hz using the high-pass
pressure with low-latency settings. The Host filter, then take a low-frequency shelf and bring down
Processors and CPU Usage Limit are unlikely to be everything below 80Hz by about 1dB. Finally, were
tested in a mastering scenario, but we usually advise going to bring a little back in around 45Hz. These three
leaving one processor free to carry out operating settings will create a curve removing any unwanted
system tasks. On our Mac Mini that still leaves three rumble, focusing the low-frequency energy around
processors (showing as six because of Hyper- 45Hz and in turn leaving more room for energy in the
Threading) for Pro Tools which is more than enough, so rest of the mix. 3
weve limited them at 75% CPU usage. PRO TIP With the low end more rather more focused were
Delay Compensation can be left off unless you Once youve mastered a whole going to add compression to try to smooth out the
intend to do any parallel processing at some point. bunch of tracks to different dynamics a little. Add an instance of Dyn 3 Compressor/
audio tracks you can export
Were not going to look at parallel processing in this them to a folder of your choice Limiter after the EQ. Were going to apply compression
tutorial, but it can sometimes be useful in mastering, so at the bit-depth and in two stages. The first stage is a very low-ratio, slow
think about whether you might want to use any before sample-rate of your choice compression. Our goal is to transparently compress the
using the Export Selected
turning the option off. function ([Ctrl]+[Shift]+[K] whole mix, glueing the parts together and bringing the
(PC), [Cmd]+[Shift]+[K](Mac)). vocal slightly more into the mix, while not
Listen in adversely reducing the dynamics of any
Going back to the mix, solo either one of the percussive elements.
channels and hit play. Take some time to Reduce the ratio to around 1.5:1 and start
listen to the various elements of the track, with slow attack and release settings (around
and think about how all the parts sit 50ms attack and 200ms release), then start
together in the mix. Nows the time to reducing the threshold until youre seeing
consider the dynamics, the frequency 12dB of gain reduction. 4 With the attack and
spread, the stereo width and the position of release set this slow there is a risk of pumping.
each of the instruments on the soundstage However, because were using only a very low
from front to back. ratio and aiming for a small amount of gain
This track is a slow, alt-folk track with reduction it shouldnt be particularly audible.
lots of sustained strings and other pad However, if you start to bring up the ratio you
sounds, punctuated with occasional should be able to hear the level drop away after
percussive hits and drenched in reverb. As a percussion hit and then come back up.
well as the drums, the acoustic guitar is With our threshold set to around -28dB
carrying the rhythm. The vocal is very were catching some of the louder vocal parts,
dynamic, and is again saturated with a long but were also inadvertently catching some of
reverb. In the frequency domain there isnt the drums as well. To get around this problem,
too much going on in the low end. There is bring up the sidechain high-pass filter (labelled
some energy in the sub-frequencies in LF) to around 150Hz. 5 This will prevent the
some of the drum hits, but most of the low low-end energy from triggering the compressor.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 27


MTF Technique Mastering in Pro Tools

6
7 Harmonic excitement from the
Softube Saturation Knob and stereo
width from the Brainworx bx_solo can
quickly enhance the master.

Once youve settled on your first compressor


settings bring up the gain to make up for the gain Our master has now taken
reduction applied using the gain knob. Around 2dB
should be enough at this stage, but theres plenty of shape. Finally, bring the level up
headroom to work with.
Add another instance of Dyn 3 Compressor/Limiter by adding a brickwall limiter
after the first one. This time were going for a slightly
stronger ratio of 2:1, with faster attack and release This should bring a little more life to the track, but
settings. Weve opted for around 5ms attack and 30ms PRO TIP its still a little dark so add an additional instance of EQ3
release to quickly catch any peaks. Again, were not Mastering isnt only about 7-Band. This time were going to bring out the air around
processing the audio, its also
looking to get too much gain reduction, so bring the about applying fades and the vocal with a shelf at 15kHz, and add a little top at
threshold down to around -18dB. 6 Finally, bring the sequencing the songs for the 7kHz. Weve also taken out a little at 400Hz, where the
CD. Pro Tools doesnt have a
gain back up using the compressors make-up gain. bottom of the vocal seemed to be being stifled. 9
DDP export function, so this
will need to be done in a Our master has now taken shape. The final stage is
Stepping up third-party application. to bring the level up and add a brickwall limiter to
With this done, the mastering is starting to take shape. ensure no peaks exceed 0dBFS. Add an instance of
Weve not made any huge changes to the mix, but the Maxim at the end of the signal chain. Set the Ceiling to
low end has become more focused, the vocal has been -0.3dB, which should give sufficient room for inter-
tamed a little, and the percussion has been subtly sample peaks, and bring down the threshold until you
shaped. Listening to the master as it stands, we still see attenuation of around 23dB. Adjust the release to
feel that its a little dark and that the vocal occasionally catch as much as possible without audible chatter or
sounds a little stifled. pumping. Turn Dither and Noise Shaping off; these can
Its worth knowing that there are several free be useful for bouncing down at 16-bit, but we prefer to
plug-ins that are essential add-ons to Pro Tools. Here PRO TIP bounce a 24-bit version to a track and then apply dither
were going to use the Softube Saturation Knob to For export, we prefer AIFF files as an AudioSuite process before exporting as 16-bit. 10
enhance the signal a little. Tape saturation plug-ins also to WAV files since AIFF files Quite how far you want to push Maxim will depend
can also hold metadata such
work well for this task. Tiny amounts go a long way in as album artwork to be read on how loud you want the track to be. Compare it with
mastering; weve set the Knob to 0.4 and moved the by applications such as iTunes. other similar tracks, and dont be afraid to use an RMS
switch to the Keep Low position to prevent it from In terms of audio quality there or VU meter to get a better idea of your levels.
is no difference between the
saturating the low end. 7 Were also going to use the two file types. There are two more Pro Tools tutorials, this time for
Brainworx bx_solo to widen the mix by 150%. 8 mid-side mastering, starting on p50. MTF

10

Final EQing and


brickwall limiting to
finish the process.

28 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


C

CM

MY

CY

MY

K
MTF Technique Mastering with Reason

Reason Tutorial On the disc

Mastering with Reason project


file included
on the DVD

Reason
Getting a radio-ready sound is easier than you
might think thanks to Reasons mastering
processors, as Hollin Jones reveals

S
everal years have passed now since Reason
PRO TIP
gained the MClass mastering processors,
Reasons MClass
introduced to help you take your projects modules and its
from good-sounding mixdowns to great- other effects are
great for mastering,
sounding masters without having to use a
but since the
second application or external plug-ins. Since Reason introduction of Rack
gained the ability to work with audio tracks, however, its Extensions theres a
whole host of new third-party
capacity as a mastering tool has increased greatly. As modules that you can
all the elements of
well as mastering projects that you have created inside introduce to the mastering the track, and when mastering,
Reason, therefore, you can now use it as a more chain. You might, for example, trying to get a solid overall level and a nice EQ curve for
want to use a dedicated EQ
general-purpose mastering tool, importing other audio module or a compressor from the track as a whole. So its recommended to mix down
files or mixdowns and taking advantage of its modules another developer to give your a file by all means including some pre-mastering
tracks a unique sound.
to process them. using the excellent Buss compressor in the mixer and
output that file as a stereo AIFF or WAV. Then, import
Part of the process that file into a blank project and master it as a separate
Since the MClass and other modules live inside task. As well as giving you more control, this means that
Reasons Rack, its particularly easy to apply them at you also have separate mix files should you want to try
the same time as youre doing a mixdown. Although this mastering them in another location or use other
is a matter of personal choice, most professionals software. Considering that it takes only a few extra
prefer to separate the mixing and mastering stages minutes to perform this step, its well worth it. Reason
since they are fundamentally different. When youre is also able to batch-export stems, if you want to move
mixing, you should be aiming to find a good balance of a whole project to another system for mixing.
You can start by pre-mastering your mix using the

Reasons ability to work with compressor found in the mixer. Used carefully, this can
give a kind of audio glue to the sound, helping

audio tracks greatly expanded its everything to gel together. 1


The setting you use will depend on your source

capacity as a mastering tool material, but aim for fairly gentle compression with a
low ratio of around 2:1 and a medium to fast attack, so

1 2

4
Use buss compression to pre-master your mixdowns, then
export a full-quality stereo file and reimport it into a blank
project to begin mastering.

30 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mastering with Reason Technique MTF

Build your own mastering chains or start with a preset from the excellent bundled
setups and tweak it to suit your track. 6

You dont want to be overly worth considering whether a mastering preset might be
a good place to start. Go to the Master Inserts section in

squashing the sound, just the mixer and click on the browse button to audition
some presets. 5

bolstering it nicely In the Sound Bank you will find a number of preset
mastering chains grouped by type, and if you play back
while single-clicking on these you can audition them.
that the compression isnt particularly noticeable but Its unlikely that any one will be immediately
helps to subtly add coherence and a little punch to the
PRO TIP appropriate for your particular track, but you will find
New in Reason 7 is the
sound. With this set, export your track as a single stereo Audiomatic Retro Transformer, one that sounds pretty good and after loading it you can
file by going to the File menu and choosing Bounce a vintage module that can add tweak it to suit your sound. 6
Mixer Channels. In the Bounce window, choose to an old-style sound to anything
you apply it to. Used subtly as
export the master section and match the format to that a mastering effect it can be Pure class
of the project. Keep quality settings at maximum here handy for imparting anything Returning to the Master Sections inserts area you will
from a little warmth to a
always work at high quality, then compress different full-on vinyl sound to your
note that some MClass effects have been added. These
versions after all the processing is completed. 2 tracks. Alternatively, while dont have presets of their own, but you can bypass any
youre composing, use it to of them to mute them while you concentrate on another
vintage-up your drums, vocals
Get mastering or other sounds while leaving module in the chain
Start a new project and import the audio file you the rest dry. remembering, of course, that
exported in the previous step. 3 ultimately they will all need to
The tempo of the project play nicely together. This
should be set to the same preset has started with a
BPM as the track since even Compressor, though if you
though youre not going to be applied some master buss
doing any editing, Reasons compression during mixdown
time-stretching technology you may need only moderate
will automatically pull the file compression at the mastering
to whatever the BPM of the stage. Let your ears be your
blank project is. You can also guide: you dont want to be
choose not to stretch the file overly squashing the sound
by right-clicking on it and here, just bolstering it nicely. 7
choosing Disable Stretch, Moving on to the EQ, here
which causes Reason to ignore you can create a sympathetic
any stretching that may have EQ curve across the whole
taken place. 4 signal with the aim of
With a blank project like emphasising or backing off
this you can apply effects specific elements of the track.
processing anywhere in the Vocals, snares and synths are
Rack, but for the sake of likely to live around the mid
simplicity it makes sense to and upper midrange, and can
place the mastering modules be pulled up or down using EQ
in the Master Inserts section, points in those ranges. 8
which you can do by clicking in The Frequency knob for
the Master Sections insert any given band will set the
area and adding them in the point at which changes occur,
usual way. Before you do, its while the Q knob governs the

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 31


MTF Technique Mastering with Reason

The MClass modules


can be used to EQ,
compress, widen and
8 limit your signal,
resulting in a
radio-ready sound.

width of the band. A narrow Q will therefore affect only a


small frequency range, giving you more surgical control, Use EQ, compression and
whereas a broader Q will create a smoother curve that
will affect frequencies more gently. The mastering EQ limiting to get your mixes sounding
stage is when you fine-tune and sweeten the sound,
and its common to add some sparkle to the top end by big, bold and ready for the world
boosting a little in the 1020kHz range. Similarly, if your
bass end is unruly it can help to apply a bass roll-off The last stage is the Maximizer and this is typically
somewhere around 50Hz to tame it. The reverse applies, used for limiting a signal squeezing as much volume
too, so if your bass is weak but the top end is too as possible out of it without ever letting it clip and
accentuated you can deal with them accordingly. without sounding overly squashed. If you activate the
lookahead feature you can get more accurate limiting by
Stereo sound anticipating upcoming peaks and dealing with them. 10
Moving down to the Stereo Imager you can add some Drive the input gain harder to limit the signal more
width to the sound, though proceed with caution. You strongly, though use your ears to judge where the line is
get low and high bands here, with a variable crossover between pushing the gain and over-limiting it. Leave the
knob to set the threshold between the two. Its also output gain set to zero or, if you want to be more careful,
possible to solo either band to determine exactly where to -0.1dB to be absolutely sure you prevent clipping.
that crossover is cutting in. As a rule of thumb you Theres also a Soft Clip option which, when activated,
should apply little (if any) widening to the low end of the turns potential clips into warmer, saturated sounds.
signal, since the power of the bass comes from the fact You can, of course, add more MClass and other
that it should sit fairly centrally in the stereo field. modules to the mastering chain (or leave out processors
Indeed, you may even want to decrease the width of the you may not require). You might, for example, not want to
low end and see if this actually adds focus and weight apply any widening, but EQ, compression and limiting
to the overall sound. 9 are staples of the mastering process so its standard to
Youre on safer ground widening the top end a little, apply at least a little of each to get your mixes sounding
as this can add a sense of dynamism and space. Still, big, bold and ready for the world. When youve finished
use it sparingly. Good stereo widening shouldnt be too you can repeat the Export command, remembering to
noticeable and you can A/B the dry and effected keep quality at the highest level so that you end up with
signals to test this. a top-notch, mastered file. 11 MTF

9
11

Aim to create a
solid sound that
will translate well
over any system
on which it is
played back.

10

32 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


MTF Technique Mastering in Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X Become a Logic Power User

The art of mastering


in Logic Pro X
Used in an effective way, Logic Pro X can be an intuitive and productive platform for all
kinds of mastering activities. Mark Cousins shows you how.

M
ost novice recording musicians see platform for mastering, made all the more effective by the
mastering as nothing more than an exercise On the disc large number of mastering-grade plug-ins already included
in stereo buss processing, but if you really in the application. As well as sounding better, youll find
want to get the best from your music, its that a more refined workflow offers a greater degree of
well worth seeing it as a distinct and Accompanying flexibility, especially when it comes to delivering work in the
project file included
separate part of the production process. Rather than on the DVD variety of different formats required in todays media world.
mastering at the tail end of a mix, therefore, consider In this tutorial were going to explore the complete
waiting until you have a number of finished songs bounced process of mastering starting at the end of the mix and
as final mixes so that you can approach your own progressing right through to the delivery of the final
mastering in the same way that a commercial mastering masters. Well explore how we can use a variety of signal-
processing plug-ins in Logic Pro X including the Channel

Its all about ensuring that


EQ, Linear EQ, Multipressor and Adaptive Limiter to polish
and refine the sound of your masters, as well as seeing how

your music is delivered in the


the various metering options can improve your
understanding of a tracks dynamic and spectral properties.

most appropriate way


As well as exploring signal processing, though, well also
see how a number of workflow features within Logic Pro X
such as Screensets and Markers can have a significant
impact on the speed and efficiency of your mastering.
engineer might master an album. With a more objective ear, Ultimately, though, its all about ensuring that your music is
your music will gain more consistency and an improved delivered in the most appropriate way, rather than just
sense of presence and impact. chasing after that instant fix of loudness. MTF
When seen as a distinct process, however, you might
need to adapt your accepted music production workflow
that youve come to develop with Logic Pro X to best
account for the needs and demands
of mastering. Managed in the
correct way, Logic Pro X can be a
surprisingly enjoyable and intuitive

FOCUS ON DITHERING
Dithering should always be applied at the
last stage in the mastering process,
arguably as part of the downgrading
process from 24-bit to 16-bit resolution.
The dithering process adds a small amount
of noise to the signal, and is designed to
mask the unwanted quantization distortion
that can occur in low-level digital signals.
You can apply dithering in two principal
ways either as part of the bouncing
process, or by choosing the Copy/Convert
option from the Project Audio Browser. Four
dithering algorithms are provided in Logic
Pro X, all of which yield subjectively
different results, although the UV22HR
option (developed by and licensed from
Apogee) is arguably the best all-round
performer. Try them all to hear the subtle
variations in the results.

34 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mastering in Logic Pro X Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Preparing your master

Create a bounce for each of your finished songs using a suitably To carry out the mastering, were going to start a new project in
01 high archive resolution like 24-bit/44.1kHz. Ensure that the main
02 Logic. This method lets you optimise settings between multiple
output of Logics mixer isnt clipping and that any processing tracks, as well as making more informed judgments in respect to the
instantiated across the stereo buss has been disabled. Allow a bar sound of commercial recordings. To start with, change the Bar Ruler to
pre-roll and post-roll at the start and end of the track so that reverb a minutes and seconds display via File>Project Settings>General.
tails arent cut short.

Import all of the songs to be mastered into your project via the The first step of the mastering process is to top-and-tail each
03 Project Audio Browser. Drag each audio file onto its own track
04 track, adding fades where necessary. Trim the start so that theres
lane and colour-code it so you can differentiate between the tracks. one SMPTE frame of silence before the start of the track. Set the end
Create two additional tracks for any reference material and your final accordingly, but dont apply any long, deliberate fade-outs at this
masters, attenuating their levels to account for loudness differences. stage. A small fade after the track stops, though, is fine.

Now lets look at the use of plug-ins in your project. Plug-ins Signal processing should be applied across each of the channels,
05 instantiated across the main stereo outputs are useful as a
06 tailored to the song in question. Most mastering engineers start
means of improving your metering, so that any track being played with EQ as a means of shaping the broad timbre of the track. In this
(either material youre mastering or a reference track) can be analysed. example, the Channel EQ plug-in has been used to cut the extreme lows
Good options include the MultiMeter and the Level Meter. (sub 36Hz), with a broad cut around 2,500Hz and an air lift at 12kHz.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 35


MTF Technique Mastering in Logic Pro X

MTF Step-by-Step Preparing your master... contd

For a more transparent equalization, consider using the Linear The Multipressor is a good device for shaping both the dynamics
07 Phase EQ, which is designed to minimise phase shifts between
08 and timbre of your track. The first stage is to divide your
bands. An interesting facet of both equalizers is the ability to direct the frequency spectrum in a way that is sympathetic to the music youre
EQ to a specific channel left, right, mid or side rather than just processing. Slide the vertical lines in the top graphic display to adjust
being used in stereo mode. In this example, a low-cut side channel the crossovers, using the Band Solo control to audition it in isolation.
tightens the stereo image.

With the crossovers set, fine-tune the compression on a Unless you use the Autogain control, youll want to adjust the
09 band-by-band basis using the threshold (Compr Thrsh) and ratio
10 individual gain make-up controls for each band, arguably
controls. In most cases youll want to work harder on the bass end, applying more gain make-up for bands that have had the most
using higher ratios (like 2.5:1 rather than the 1.5:1 setting on the upper compression. You can raise the make-up graphically, using the
bands) so that more gain reduction is applied. The result should be a horizontal lines in the top display. Notice how the Multipressor is now
solid bass with a controlled dynamic. influencing both dynamics and timbre.

The Adaptive Limiter is the last device in our signal chain and Increasing the gain of the Adaptive Limiter pushes the device into
11 forms a big part of the final loudness that we achieve for our
12 gain reduction. At this stage, Logics conventional peak-based
finished master. The limiter controls excessive transient energy that metering becomes next to useless, so its well worth bringing the Level
can otherwise dictate the maximum level of a song. Start by setting Meter plug-in into action and using its RMS option. With RMS engaged,
the Output Ceiling of the limiter to establish the maximum level your youll have a better understanding of the tracks loudness rather than
track should reach (-0.3dBFS). its peak levels.

36 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mastering in Logic Pro X Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Finishing touches

At its heart, mastering is an exercise in comparative listening As you move between songs, its also beneficial to switch
01 establishing a degree of continuity between the various different
02 between different plug-in chains for each track. A good way of
songs as part of an album (and, to some extent, other commercial doing this is to use Logics Screenset feature, using a different
recordings). To best navigate your session, therefore, consider using Screenset for each song in your project. You can move between
Markers for each song. [Alt]-click on the Marker List to instantly move Screensets using the numeric keys try to tally these with the
from one song to the next. channels in the mixer for easy navigation.

With the files toped-and-tailed and the signal processing in In the Bounce dialog, configure the parameters to create a
03 place, we now need to render the final master. Open the
04 high-resolution bounce (in this case, a PCM WAV file at
contextual menu (by [Ctrl]-clicking on the bar ruler) and select the Set 24-bit/44.1kHz). Ideally, you need to hold both a full-resolution final
Locators by Regions/Events/Marquee option. Logic will align the mix (which allows for subsequent remastering later) as well as an
locators to the length of your region, ready for you to bounce. equivalent full-resolution master dont worry about 16-bit files or
MP3s for now.

Something that weve deliberately missed until this point is the Nowadays, delivery requirements often mean sending the final
05 addition of a long fade-out rather than a quick fade simply used
06 master in a variety of formats a 16-bit WAV for CD release, a
to clamp a reverb tail. Ideally, long fade-outs should be applied after variety of compressed audio formats and so on. Rather than reprinting
the addition of signal processing (otherwise your compressor will for each format, use the Project Audio Browsers local menu item
respond to reduction in the signal level). Use the Fade tool and then Audio File>Copy/Convert Audio File(s). In this case, were creating
re-bounce your file accordingly. 16-bit masters with added UV22HR dithering.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 37


MTF Technique M/S mastering with Multipressor

Logic Pro Tutorial On the disc

M/S mastering
Logic Pro project
file included on
the DVD

with Multipressor
In case you havent upgraded to Pro X yet, Mark
Powered by

bx_solo and what M/S offers in general its well


worth taking a closer look at Brainworxs other
Cousins guides you through M/S processing in M/S-flavoured signal processors.
Logic Pro v9

L
Enter the matrix
ike all multiband compressors, the To begin, well build a simple M/S matrix to transform
Multipressor is a powerful and surgically our existing master from L/R format where the stereo
precise tool thats an asset to any mastering soundstage is represented by two channels covering
activity. By slicing the frequency spectrum into opposite sides of the soundstage to M/S. The
a series of manageable frequency bands, it advantage of M/S (and the reason that it differs from
enables you to apply compression in a more controlled L/R stereo) is that it divides the soundstage into mid
and instrument-specific way, whether youre tightening and side components the mid channel forming the
a bass line, for example, or fine-tuning the compression centre of the soundstage and the side channel
across the overheads to make it a little less pumpy. containing the extremities of the stereo image. Although
However, by bringing in the dimension of mid/side this approach might sound strange at first, it soon
processing, we can make the Multipressor an even makes sense once you start playing with the matrix.
more powerful sonic tool, controlling issues that relate The initialised state of the project is our track, ready
to dynamics, timbre and stereo dimensionality. to be mastered and split across two adjacent channel
Technically speaking, of course, the Multipressor PRO TIP strips. Now, instantiate bx_solo across each of the
The M/S matrixing process
doesnt come with M/S processing as standard, but channels and set them to solo the mid and side
tends to lose a degree of level,
with the addition of a simple freeware M/S encoding so if you want to preserve the channels respectively. Pan these channels hard left and
matrix and Logics own Direction Mixer plug-in you can overall signal levels, consider right and we now have a complete two-channel M/S
raising the fader on the M/S
start to use Multipressor in an M/S capacity. For the decoding channel by 23dB.
encoding of our original L/R mix. The M/S version
purposes of this tutorial were going to use Brainworxs Of course, if youre wanting to sounds slightly one-sided, but dont worry. 1
bx_solo (www.brainworx-music.de), which does the job apply compression, having a Having separated the L/R version into M/S format to
few extra decibels headroom
perfectly, although there are other M/S encoder/ could be a good thing! apply the Multipressor, we also need to ensure that our
decoder solutions available. Of course, if you like the M/S signal is returned to stereo so we can audition it in
L/R format. To do this, route the two M/S channels to a
spare buss by changing the channels current output

The Multipressor is a powerful assignment. Over on the newly created aux fader,

and surgically precise tool thats


an asset to any mastering activity
1
2

The initial state of


the project is our 3
track, ready to be
mastered and split
across adjacent
channel strips.

38 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


M/S mastering with Multipressor Technique MTF

4 5

6
Gain reduction movements are shown in the
top half of Multipressors display.

Access to the side channel band, therefore, and then adjusting the crossover to
around 170Hz so that you accurately separate the bass

gives you a means of controlling the from the rest of the mix. 5
Keeping the bass band soloed, try adjusting the

stereo width of the bass Compr Thrsh and Ratio controls to engage the gain
reduction. The ratio is about right (although you could
go as high as 4:1 if you want harder compression), so
instantiate the Direction Mixer plug-in and set its input youll need to lower the threshold to yield about 36dB
format to M/S. The Direction Mixer will decode the M/S of gain reduction. You can see the gain reduction
signal, returning it back into L/R format. 2 movements in the top half of the display, with a blue
bar graph ducking down in response to movements
Middle men around the threshold. 6
At this stage, the M/S matrix is complete, but its worth Adjusting the attack and release controls as well as
adding a few additional components across the main applying a degree of gain make-up are useful ways of
output fader so you can accurately monitor whats refining the compression. Try softening the attack to
going on. The first plug-in is the MultiMeter, which around 20ms, for example, to hear more of the
should be set to Goniometer mode. percussive energy in the low end, as well as softening
The Goniometer is a neat way of visualising the
PRO TIP the release to 100ms so that it breathes in a more
As well as applying
stereo image try reducing the fader levels on the mid compression, you can also sympathetic way with the track. Gain make-up will also
and side components to see what happens. Also, youll change the relative balance of restore the relative level of the band, but be careful not
want to instantiate another bx_solo, this time across the mid and side channels as a to overdo this as you might start to skew the spectral
technique in its own right.
the main output fader, so that you can solo the mid and Reducing the side channel, for balance of the track. In this case, about 2.5dB should
side channels without having to switch in and out the example, will make the mix provide a suitable restoration of level. 7
narrower, while attenuating
Direction Mixer plug-in. 3
the mid channel has the
Now that our setup is complete we can turn our reverse effect of creating a On the winning side
attention to the Multipressor, in this case, being used to wider stereo field. One of the real benefits of having access to the
control and refine the mid channel. The mid side channel is a means of controlling the stereo
channel is an important part of the M/S equation, width of the bass end. If you want a really tight
as any instrument in the centre will be prominent bass, accepted wisdom is that the left and right
in this channel instruments such as bass, for channels should be working in tandem rather than
example, vocals, or anything panned centrally. To conflicting with each other. Removing bass from
hear this, engage the M Solo button on the final the side channel, therefore, doesnt remove bass
bx_solo and insatiate the Multipressor across the from the mix, but instead puts a distinct focus
mid channel in our M/S matrix. 4 towards the centre of the mix. To explore how we
can achieve this, start by instantiating another
Keep control Multipressor across the side channel and solo the
Despite the apparent abundance of controls on side channel using the instance of bx_solo across
offer, the Multipressor is relatively the main stereo outputs. 8
straightforward to understand. Across the top Given that the Multipressor uses filtering to
youll find a graphical representation of the four divide the sonic spectrum, we can effectively use
frequency bands with their three respective the Gain Make-up control on the lowest band to
crossover points. In this part of the exercise were remove (or at least severely attenuate) bass from
attempting to direct some tightening the side channel. Set the Gain Make-up control to
compression towards the low end of the mix, -20dB, therefore, and move the Crossover control
using the mid channel as this is where the bass to tune-out any unwanted bass. In this example, a
currently resides. Try soloing the lowest frequency setting of around 200Hz provides enough low-end

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 39


MTF Technique M/S mastering with Multipressor

8 9

Filtering bass elements from the side channel helps focus it into
7 the centre of the mix another benefit of M/S processing

reduction. Try bypassing the side solo and switching the


Multipressor in and out to hear the subtle tightening The combination of mid/side
effect it delivers. 9
processing and the Multipressor
The M/S advantage
As you start to understand the differences between the is a powerful one
mid and side channels you begin to see the potential of
the Multipressor in M/S mode. If you can imagine a carried this out with the side band soloed, try going
traditional frequency-based multiband compressor as back the stereo version of the track and experiment
slicing the mix horizontally (working up through the with differing amounts of gain make-up. Around 23dB
frequency bands, in other words), M/S adds an would arguably retain the original signal levels, but its
additional dimension in respect to vertical slicing also interesting to push the output levels slightly hotter.
where the mix is further divided into the side and mid Notice how the effect isnt entirely timbral in that it also
components. In effect, therefore, you can direct changes the stereo dimensionality of the mix, almost
WANT
compression across eight distinct areas of the mix, making the sides of the mix more vibrant. 11
MORE?
which is an impressive degree of control considering
Music Tech
that you began with just a single stereo file! Focus: Logic Band master
Fully understanding the potential of M/S takes time, Pro X 2014 is As you can see, the combination of M/S processing and
available now. Find out more
but as one last example, lets explore the effect of at www.musictech.net
the Multipressor is a powerful one, enabling you to deal
high-end enhancement in the side channel. Open the with three primary issues of mastering timbre,
Multipressor on the side channel and turn your dynamics and dimensionality in a single process.
attention to the highest frequency band. What we want While many novice engineers see a limiter as the secret
to achieve is high-end enhancement reducing the weapon of mastering engineers, its arguably more
dynamic range but avoiding excessive pumping. Dial holistic techniques like M/S multiband compression
down the ratio to a soft setting (around 1.533:1) and pull that offer the most effective means of enhancing your
down the threshold to around -40dB so that the music in its present state. MTF
Multipressor starts to massage the signal levels. 10
To retain the transient detail, try increasing the This tutorial is endorsed by Point Blank Music School, who specialise
in courses on production, sound engineering, the music business,
attack time to around 20ms, as well as lengthening the singing, radio production, DJ skills and film production, all run by top
release to around 100ms so that the compressor British music producers and media professionals with regular visits
from legends in music and media.
responds in a more musical way. Assuming that youve

10 11

Enhance the
top end of a
mix by
applying a
Multipressor
across the
side channel.

40 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


HANS ZIMMER
P E R C U S S I O N

L O N D O N

HZ
PERCUSSION
O U T N O W E X C L U S I V E LY F RO M
H A NS PS I TZFI IM
R EM E R

SPITFIREAUDIO.COM
MTF Studio Session Analogue, live and two tracks

Making a great
record is and should
be incredibly difficult,
both artistically
and technically
42 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Analogue, live and two tracks Studio Session MTF

MTF Studio Session

Analogue,
live and
two tracks
Liam OMullane meets Mike Patto and Nathan Haines men on
a quest for a classic analogue sound, and who will do anything
to get it... Photography by Adrian Malloch

R
e-creating that classic analogue sound is something many of us strive to
do in todays software based studios. From sonic modelling to circuitry
emulation, there are plenty of great-sounding plug-ins around which, at
the very least, can bring the essence of the tonal characteristics that
many classic pieces of hardware became famous for. Well-renowned
jazz artist Nathan Haines and long-time studio partner Mike Patto recently
decided to take this quest for analogue a step further or perhaps a step back... to
the past. Not only did they decide to record two albums fully in the analogue
domain, they also recorded the tracks live to 2-track, without overdubs.
Both of the albums in question were recorded at York Street Studios in New
Zealand with the help of resident engineer Simon Gooding. Up until recently,
Nathan was residing in the country and had enough in his budget to fly Mike over
from London for the recordings. Haines and Patto singled out York Street because
of its impressive kit list, which could be tailored towards their very specific
recording requirements. We caught up with the duo just after theyd finished
recording the second fully analogue album, Vermillion Skies, released in the
autumn of 2013 on the back of The Poets Embrace.

Take nine
The Poets Embrace is Nathans ninth album and the first for which Mike has
assumed the role of sole producer. Mike started his career in the early 80s with
digital gear as a Fairlight programmer for Boz Burrell of Bad Company and King
Crimson fame. Moving into the analogue domain was a gradual progression for him,
and these albums are the first on which hes worked to 2-track instead of
multitrack. But before we get into the specifics, the first question has to be: why are
the duo so obsessed with analogue?
The reason, it turns out, is down to a love of the classic records created at the
famous 30th Street Studios, in New York. The studios peak was in the late 1950s
and both Mike and Nathan cite Miles Davis Kind Of Blue and Mingus Ah Um as
prime examples of both musical and studio greatness. Mike tells us: I have been
both enamoured by the beauty of the recordings from that studio and also quite
indifferent about many current jazz recordings, as it seems that harmonic
distortion has been sacrificed to achieve artificial brightness. I believe that the
search for higher fidelity in the 80s and 90s lost the focus of capturing a sound
that represents how jazz actually sounds when performed live. For me the aim

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 43


MTF Studio Session Analogue, live and two tracks

was to go back to whatever they were doing at 30th Street MTF StudioEye York Street Studios, New Zealand
that made the recordings so much more musical and
emotionally engaging. SELMER MARK VI
a TENOR SAXOPHONE
The Poets Embrace certainly does immerse you in the vibe AND NEUMANN M49
of an old-school jazz club while delivering a deep, silky tone A marriage made in
heaven listen to Coltrane
to the instruments that hold a prominent position in the
on Kind Of Blue, it hasnt
soundstage. Mike tells us about some of the key components been bettered in 50-odd
behind the 30th Street sound: They had Ampex and Presto years. The 49 is very
punchy in the middle so
tape machines at the time, one being used to record real you have to work your
ambience in order to soften the sound. Desks were all mic position.
bespoke and custom-made for the room, which meant the
mics and tape machines were also hardwired, resulting in an
astonishingly minimal noise floor. Its said you could push all
mics up on the board and only detect the slightest hiss. But
the thing that really inspires me about the work is how much
the creators of these albums cared about what they did. Ive
1974 NEVE/EMI
always admired people who have a mission to pursue b CONSOLE
excellence in the craft of making records, not the dumbed- The heart of York Street
Studios. Superb mic pres
down, slap-dash approach I hear too often today; this is a
and very musical EQs, and
terrible legacy to pass on to the next generation. Making a the build quality is
great record is and should be incredibly difficult, both wonderful. Simon knows it
back to front and uses it
artistically and technically. like an instrument he is
like the new Ekadek.
Vintage vibes
Trying to attain that 30th Street sound by using identical kit
was clearly not on the cards, but York Street offered some
great vintage choices, as Mike details: It all revolves around a
1974 Neve console that has the classic 1073 and 1081
modules installed it sounds phenomenal. We had two
elements brought in by New Zealand hardware enthusiast c NEUMANN M49
Using a mono
Greg Ekadek: a plate reverb which was eight-by-five-feet and
overhead is very efficient
the Ampex 300. 30th Street had a concrete room in the in that it makes you focus
basement plates would have come in later in the studios on the positioning much
more and also takes away
timeline. I did use real spaces on Vermillion Skies, however, the usual uncertainty
[see Real Ambient Space box] and will continue to do this for regarding phase. Mixing
other future mixing work as its something that digital just the drums in a jazz
context then becomes
cant match. We tried the perfectly good Lexicon 480 for a few much easier.
minutes in our experimentations on Poets Embrace, but it
immediately stamped a sound that was from a different era
on the mix, so we stuck with the plate.
We ask Mike to walk us around the live room for The Poets
Embrace sessions to discuss mics and processing. He smiles
and says: Well, the Neumann M 49, which is arguably one of
c

Most people spend their AKG PENCIL CONDENSER


time in front of DAWs, but d Until these sessions I have always miced the kit up first and
the visceral nature of then worked on the sound, but the approach we took here was to get the
having your tracks laid out overhead sound first and then spot-mic where we felt it needed it. It felt
in front of you is a joy. like a controlled way of going about it.

44 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Analogue, live and two tracks Studio Session MTF

AMPEX 300
f Greg Ekadek did a phenomenal job of restoring the Ampex tape
machine it is great to work with extremely vintage gear that has been
STEINWAY GRAND PIANO WITH COLES 4038 AND NEUMANN U87
e The Steinway has an instantly recognisable sound. You realise
brought back to new condition. Greg also tape-oped for the session and
it was great to be reminded of how having a skilled tape op makes the
how many records you have heard one in once you start micing it up. We session run smoothly. You have to really know what you are doing as far
used the Coles for warmth and the 87s for some top end. as calibration goes if you want to get this legendary machine to its
optimum performance.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 45


MTF Studio Session Analogue, live and two tracks

Neumanns finest, is a really important part of 30th Street This pair of original
1176s are superb,
history. We didnt have that many of them, so used a but just below them
Beesknees Tribute 1 mic on the upright bass, which is a clone. is the star of the
This ran into an LA-2A, which I always use for bass and vocals. show: a stereo
EMI compressor.
For drums we used an M49 as a mono overhead running into a
UA 610. Then I added an AKG pencil condenser for hats and an
AKG 414 for the bottom skin of the snare. Although we used
the 30th Street recordings as an aspiration, this wasnt a
history experiment. It was more important to use our ears, so
although we used classic gear, I wasnt shy of changing things
to become what I felt it then needed to be on the album.
Next in the room was the piano, which Mike says he
captured using a pair of Neumann U87s which ran into a
Manley variable-mu. Finally, Nathans saxophone was
captured with another M49, running into an 1176 Blackface.
Mike had all but the bassist in the same room, as he says hes
learned that drum spill can be a real issue with upright bass.
He goes on to tell us more about his use of outboard...
EQ was only used to counteract resonant frequencies in taking it away for reflection and then being able to come back
the room, standing waves and a touch of reduction in harsh to process or re-record problem areas. So any decisions for
frequency areas. As the album is very dynamic, compression better or worse are there to live with, which is refreshing. On
was only there to pull things in a touch when they were really the first day we spent five hours performing mic shootouts,
cracking it out. So they were acting more as limiters than for deciding what needed baffling for separation, getting the
adding a compressed sound. Recording to tape has a massive right plate sound, revving up the tape machine and then
effect on dynamic shaping. Even when youre not driving that being ready to roll. Then we had a day-and-a-half of recording
hard, its amazing how it glues instruments together. Tape has while we continued to fine-tune everything. At the end it really
a great sound for blending and warming, but if you want to span me out as wed recorded an entire album in two days.
retain transients for a sharper sound, tape is not your friend. Mikes experiences with these recordings will certainly
shape his future work: I now have confidence in how its
Under pressure possible to make a great-sounding album with a bunch of
Committing live to 2-track obviously puts pressure on players in a room. It seemed like a fabled story from those old
everyone involved in the recording. Mike tells us about his albums, but I can see that its possible to do. You can know
approach to dealing with it: There are no second chances so how every mic, every preamp, every plug-in sounds, but with
most of the decision-making is done through instinct. Its the this nature of work it boils down to trusting your instinct and
opposite to normal when you have the luxury of recording, your ears to make the right decisions. MTF

MTF Insight Real ambient spaces

Mike made use of various real spaces to record the Vermillion Skies
album and would use a full-range Genelec speaker along with a pair
of AKG 414 mics to capture the output. A massive loft space and
100-foot garage with a wooden vaulted roof were used to create a
real sound that stood more true to the 30th Street approach than the
plate reverb used on The Poets Embrace. Mike tells us about how he
uses this technique: Id been thinking about this before for my
sessions recorded on a DAW but hadnt had the chance to do it until
Here Mike is feeding the saxophone and piano
now. Now I want to do it more, exploring different spaces with nice
through a speaker and capturing the room through a
acoustics and then recording a whole pass of an instrument through pair of AKG 414s. He says the decay was too long in
a loudspeaker. Reverbs must be one of the most complicated sounds this space for the other instruments.
to try to produce because of the amount of information that needs to
be emulated. I know there are IR responses but theres just not as whatever is around. In terms of stereo, he says: Unless its a
much information in there as a real space theres something more stairwell, which is pretty much a mono source, any other type of room
open about it. I always find that with a digital reverb: you can hear certainly has stereo information to capture. This is important as mic
when it tails off, whereas a real space seems to be endless. positioning and room shape/design all have an impact on how the
Mike tells us that the quality of the mic doesnt seem to have as stereo field sounds, which all adds to the naturalness. You just have
much of an impact on quality as it would if you close-miced a direct to choose the space and then positioning on a case-by-case basis to
source. So many times it may be set up in an ad-hoc manner with best suit the source youre adding ambience to.

Analogue Analogue tape Multitrack tape and an SSL desk


education My first proper analogue tape experience was at my own I produced a single for Shelley Nelson at Jerry Boys famous
Mikes hardware studio and label (Exploding Plastic) back in 1998. I had a Livingston Studios. We used 24-track 2-inch tape with
favourites... Fostex R8 and loved the sound, working with UK artist Don-E. Dolby SR through an SSL and I was amazed by the sound.

46 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Analogue, live and two tracks Studio Session MTF

Artist
Q&A
Nathan Haines
MTF talks to Nathan about his experience of the
recording process from a musicians viewpoint.
How did you find the live take approach to recording sounded like a real jazz record, the kind of record that I
1
these albums? own hundreds of its like the Holy Grail of recorded
As Im from a jazz background, playing in the same room sound for me. Mike and myself have spent hundreds of
at the same time is how I started making music. I did my hours researching, listening, trying to take apart and find
first album, Shift Left, this way back in 1993. There were out what makes those records sound the way they do.
some overdubs as well, but the largest part of its You have to be very analytical and Im not even
recording was all done live, together. Ive wanted to talking about the music. Things such as panning, EQing
commit to a project with no overdubs to 2-track for many and what stands out in the mix are all so ingrained in
years, so its great to finally be doing it. With The Poets peoples minds when it comes to jazz they are all just
Embrace, my writing had to fit the sound of the record as important as writing the music. There was a lot of
and vice versa. So I went for a classic 60s jazz sound on mystery in these classic jazz records and we wanted to
the recording and worked heavily on John Coltranes capture that, to get the spirit of a real band all playing at
cycle of descending thirds for many months. This the same time.
informed my writing and improvisation. Most of the tunes
on both albums were vehicles for improvising on, using Whats changed in your approach from recording
4
melodic ideas I had been working on to really try and Poets Embrace to Vermillion Skies?
move forward as a saxophonist and improvisor. Using real live rooms for reverb was the biggest
difference. The recording sounds much more spacious
Can you give us some background information on with the real reverbs. I also wanted to sing on the new
2
the musicians you worked with? album, so its not so much a classic quartet record,
Ive been working with Kevin Field for almost 25 years. We though they still share similar DNA. Both albums were
learned how to play jazz together through my father Kevin intended to be released on vinyl and I read years ago
Haines, whos a jazz bassist. Hes an incredible musician that Quincy Jones considered the optimum length for
and it was wonderful to play at Ronnie Scotts with him in one side of a record to be 20 mins. Almost all albums
October 2012. The drummer, Alain Koetsier, was quite from the 60s and 70s are this length. So this determined
young at 24 when recording the first album, but he plays how many songs were on the album. I also closed each
very much in the style of a classic jazz drummer. The side of the newer album with a ballad as a lot of classic
bassist, Tom Botting, is the same age and I see that a lot records have done the same. Having two sides on vinyl
of young jazz guys are now investigating the sound and to consider makes a big difference in how you approach
style of the 1960s. Ive seen them using gut strings and a the running order.
Nathan playing into a
high action settings on the bass, and using a classic style
Neumann M49 with
of tuning drums. You cant make a classic-sounding jazz barriers around him How do your future plans for recording look?
to reduce bleed while
5
record without classic-sounding instruments! My horn is Mike and myself will keep on trying things out,
not obstructing visual
a 1964 Selmer MK6 tenor with a 1940s Otto link communication with listening, researching and refining what we started with
mouthpiece. I had to do a lot of research other performers. The Poets Embrace. There arent many people out there
into mouthpieces before I got that doing what we did in this fashion. It took a
particular one. leap of faith to do it, and now its done, we
will move on and make more records. We
Whats important for you from a are not anti-technology in fact, we chose
3
technical point of view when the Prism Orpheus after doing tests of many
youre recording? interfaces for the quality of A-to-D
With anything technical it should never conversion. Being able to work in both
stand in the way of the music. It was environments is really great. At the end of
important that The Poets Embrace the day its all about the music!

Space Echo Sony 800G


I have been a dub fan since I was young, but hadnt realised how much rock music I was working with Seiji (Bugz In The Attic) on Risn Murphys
used this effect. I use a Roland RE-301 tape echo a lot still to this day. I first heard album and the Sony C-800G really surprised me. I realised that
it used by Mark Brown of Smoke City I was in the band and Mark was using it live, to amazing effect. there are modern mics that can also be exceptional.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 47


MTF 10MM Optical compression

Minute
Master
Optical
compression
The Shadow
Hills Mastering
Compressor
combines an optical stage
followed by a VCA compressor.

Sixty years since the LA-2A was first released, the In short, the levels were controlled, but often at the
added expense of modulation artefacts and, even worse,
sound of optical compression is still a much sought- distortion. Not surprisingly, therefore, the art of gain-
after entity. Mark Cousins reveals why. riding didnt die out with the invention of limiting
amplifiers, its simply the process that ensured the peak

G
iven the relatively straightforward role of the Tech Terms limiter wasnt called into action.
compressor in music production, its surprising GAIN RIDE
to note the variety of approaches taken to its The task of manually riding Warming glow
design. From vintage variable-mu limiting a fader to even out the Alongside the development of variable-mu compressors,
dynamic range is known
amplifiers to fast-acting VCA compressors, theres a tool as gain-riding. Even with the big shift in gain control came with the introduction of
for every type of flavoured squash you can imagine. the wealth of compressors optical compression, courtesy of the Teletronix LA-2A
available, a manual gain-ride
Whats particularly intriguing, though, is how some of the can still be effective.
Leveling Amplifier. The principles for optical compression
oldest designs particularly optical compressors are MODULATION ARTEFACTS
were developed by electrical engineer Jim Lawrence, who
still as popular as when the technology was introduced Modulation artefacts saw the potential of repurposing optical sensing
back in the early 60s. Is our love of optical compression, are created whenever a technology developed for the Titan missile programme.
compressor works in an
therefore, simply a nostalgic nod to the past or one of the unmusical way, leading His aim was to produce a limiting amplifier that was far
most musical ways to control the level of a signal? to the listener hearing the more sympathetic to the material it processed, with
compressors movements in
lower distortion figures and less unwanted modulation.
and out of gain reduction.
The birth of compression Arguably, the genius of optical compression is in its
To understand the development of optical compression relative simplicity. As the name suggests, the key
we need to take a step back to the 1930s and the birth of component is the optical gain cell, which is used as a
dynamic control. While we like to think of the means of controlling the amount of gain reduction
compressors home as being the music studio, its applied. To control the amount of gain reduction,
birthplace was actually in the realms of radio production. therefore, the input signal is fed to an electroluminescent
Back in the early days of radio, it wasnt uncommon for an panel, which glows brighter as the input level increases.
engineer to have to manually gain-ride the output levels The level of light is captured by a photo-electric resistor,
of the station, both as a means of avoiding damaging which generates a variable impedance that controls the
expensive broadcasting equipment and to prevent the amplifiers level. Put simply, the brighter the light glows,
station from being shut down for failing to meet strict the more gain reduction is applied.
transmission rules. As you can imagine, manual
gain-riding was both a costly and inefficient solution, so Optical ears
the search for some form of automated gain control As youd expect, the sound of optical compression is
began to be explored. inextricably linked to the unique performance of the
To solve the problems of excessive modulation, optical gain cell. Put simply, an optical attenuator isnt
companies such as RCA and Western Electric started great at responding quickly to changes in the input
hot-rodding amplifiers to include some form of peak signal. As the signal level rises, therefore, it takes some
limiting. Although tools like the RCA 96A and Western time for the electroluminescent panel to reach full glow.
Electric 1126A were efficient in reducing unwanted With its simplified control Likewise, when the input level falls especially after long
panel, the Teletronix LA-2A
peaks in the stations output, they werent what you Leveling Amplifier is the classic
periods of illumination it takes time for the light energy
would call transparent or musical forms of gain control. optical compressor. to be fully released, often not returning to its initialised
state for up to half a second.
At first, the sluggish
response of an optical gain cell
might not seem the ideal of
technical perfection until you
factor in our ears response to
amplitude. In theory, our ears
operate in a similar way to an
optical gain cell, often ignoring
short transient peaks and
instead responding to broader

48 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Optical compression 10MM MTF

The unique sound of optical


averaged levels of sound. Likewise, our built-in auditory compression is defined by
compression takes a while to restore normal listening its optical gain cell, which
creates musical attack and
levels after long periods of abuse a phenomena weve
release characteristics.
all experienced after visiting a loud concert.

On the attack
Looked at more closely, therefore, the sound of optical
compression is largely dictated by the unique and
somewhat fixed attack and release characteristics.
Although the precise figure varies between different
designs, the attack time is relatively long, at around ten
milliseconds. As a result, compressors like the Teletronix
LA-2A tend to be known for their soft approach to Tech Terms
transients, which arguably helps to preserve and/or ELECTROLUMINESCENCE
Electroluminescent material
enhance transient details within a piece of music. For produces light in response to compressors, but
that reason an optical compressor is often an excellent current. An LCD backlight is a despite all these
good example of electro-
choice for something like acoustic guitar, especially if you innovations few other
luminescence in action.
want to preserve the detail of the picking. compressors delivered the same
Given the time lag in the electroluminescent panel levels of musical gain control as a true
dissipating all of the light, the release characteristics of optical compressor.
optical compression are particularly interesting. In effect, Inevitably, therefore, the sound and performance of
the optical gain cell produces a distinct two-stage optical compression has never left the music studio.
release, whereby the first 50% of the release curve When the Universal Audio brand was revived back in
happens rapidly, while the later stage can last several 1999, a faithful re-creation of the revered Teletronix
seconds. The next point to consider is the duration that LA-2A was one of the first products it produced, alongside
the compressor has been working, as release time is also a virtual alternative as part of the UAD platform.
dependent on how long the electroluminescent panel Manufacturers such as Joemeek and TFPro have done a
has been glowing. In theory, short momentary lot to keep optical compressors alive and well, partly
movements in gain reduction will result in shorter because of the general revival of 60s production
release times, while longer excursions into the red tend techniques, but also because of the relative ease with
to produce proportionately longer release times. which optical compression can yield great results (unlike
As well as having a notable musicality to them, these the relative confusion potential of a VCA compressor).
slow attack and release settings are also good as a Earlier criticisms of optical compression namely, the
means of avoiding unwanted waveform distortion. This fixed attack/release settings and its somewhat
musicality is particularly evident on instruments like laissez-faire response have also been addressed
bass guitar, which on faster-acting compressors can through technical evolution and refined working
actively have individual wave cycles within a note practices. Prism Sounds MLA-2, for example, has an
reduced in level (introducing a noticeable form of optical gain cell, but thanks to an innovative accelerator
modulation distortion). Of course, the downside of this circuit manages to achieve attack times that youd usually
musicality is that an optical compressor isnt an exacting expect from a VCA compressor. Whats more, engineers
and precise tool, more a means of levelling an input often take an approach that pairs an optical compression
without introducing noticeable distortion. stage with other types of compressor, as exemplified by
Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, which places both
Compression evolution stages of compression in the same box.
Despite the apparent sonic perfection of optical
compression from such an early point, it didnt stop True innovation
designers pushing through further technical evolution. A truly great technical innovation can transcend the
The need to have adjustable attack and release settings generations, being every bit as good at its application
(the Teletronix LA-2A is notable in its omission of attack despite its apparent obsolescence. An optical
and release controls) as well as the need for the gain compressor, therefore, is one of the few true classics of
reduction to be more responsive led to the development music production still as relevant to a digital music
of FET compressors, particularly the Urei 1176. Later on, studio powered by zeros and ones as it was when it was
the drive for greater transparency and affordability first introduced into valve-powered radio stations back in
ushered in the era of precise and fully variable VCA the early 60s. Whether in hardware or plug-in form, the
sound of optical compression will continue to be an
essential part of our enjoyment of music. MTF

FURTHER INFO
For more information on the practical application of
compression, see: www.musictech.net/2013/01/buss-
compression-tutorial
For more information on other compression types,
visit: www.musictech.net/2010/11/10mm-180-multi-
Refinements to the technology that powers optical compression have greatly improved its flexibility band-compression
and performance, as exemplified by Prism Sounds MLA-2.
www.musictech.net/2008/02/10mm116

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 49


MTF Technique Mid-side recording & processing

Pro Tools Step-by-Step On the disc

Using mid-side
Pro Tools project
file included on
the DVD

techniques in Pro Tools


If your experience of stereo recording goes only
as far as coincident pairs, its time to extend
your repertoire. Mike Hillier explains why.

M
id-side (M/S) is a popular recording
PRO TIP
technique in which a figure-8 mic is
Rolling off the low
placed at 90-degrees to a cardioid mic. frequency
The two mics are then processed such information from
the sides of an
that the signal from the figure-8
M/S signal is a
microphone is doubled, with the polarity of the doubled great trick for
signal being reversed. These two signals are then sent centring the bass
information in the
one to the left channel and the other to the right centre, giving your
channel to create the sides, while the signal from the mix more headroom and a
cardioid microphone is kept mono as the mid channel. more focused low-end. The Mid channel
Mid-side recording enables the engineer to blend was recorded using a Sontronics
the mid and sides to fine-tune the stereo width as STC-1 with a cardioid capsule pointing at the 12th fret
desired. However, it isnt just of use as a recording of the guitar from about 30cm away. The side channel
technique: it can also be employed as a processing was captured using an sE RNR1 ribbon mic placed just
technique on stereo recordings. It is commonly used by underneath the STC-1 so that the RNR1 transducer was
mastering engineers, enabling them to process the mid as close to the STC-1 capsule as possible to keep any
where the kick, bass, snare and vocals typically phase cancellation to a minimum. Furthermore, the
reside separately from the sides, which often house figure-8 response of the ribbon was turned 90-degrees
the guitars, reverbs and delays. Mastering engineers to the guitar, as we described above. If you want more
can also use M/S processing to judiciously add width to detail on M/S micing techniques youll find plenty of
a stereo mix, and it can also be a great technique to use articles on MusicTech.net. For this part of the tutorial
when working with samples. Stereo drum loops, for were going to focus on how to process the signal after it
instance, are likely to have most of the kick and snare in has been captured.
the centre, while any hi-hats and cymbals will be If you listen to each of the two channels in solo youll
panned to the sides. hear that the mid channel has a solid, clean guitar
sound, while the side channel has a more roomy, distant
Code breaking sound. While it is possible to blend these two signals in
Open the M/S Pro Tools session file on the DVD. This mono to get a balance, we can use M/S processing
session contains an M/S acoustic guitar recording techniques to create a stereo image.
tracked onto two mono channels. 1

2
Mid-side recording is a great way of creating mono-compatible stereo recordings,
and with a little knowledge of busses you can route everything in Pro Tools without
needing to buy any expensive plug-ins or hardware.

50 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Mid-side recording & processing Technique MTF

3
5

Some plug-ins, such as


these by UAD, Brainworx
and IK Multimedia, come
with M/S processing
capabilities built-in. 6

Start by duplicating the side channel so we have two To process the mix in this way we use a sum and
identical channels weve chosen to name the first PRO TIP difference matrix to create our mid and sides. Note that
Any processing you apply to an
Side+ and the duplicate Side-. 2 Pan one far left and the mid in this is not actually just the elements of the
M/S signal will alter the stereo
the other far right in the mix. 3 image slightly, so be sure to mix that are centred but a simple mono sum of the mix;
If we leave the two channels in this state we havent monitor the re-encoded L/R equally, the side is not just those elements that are hard
mix. This side effect can often
created any stereo at all, as both the left and right are be used to your advantage, but
panned, but is in effect the difference between the left
identical weve simply created a mono signal from two be aware of its cause. and right sides of the mix.
channels. However, if we flip the polarity on the side There are several ways of creating a sum and
channel and blend in the mid signal we create a sense difference matrix using busses, but they all involve the
of width with a strong centre focus. To flip the polarity same basic maths. The mid (or sum) is 1/2 x (left + right)
you can simply add an instance of EQ3 to the side and the side (or difference) is 1/2 x (left - right). To
channel and engage the Polarity switch. However, we reprocess the stereo mix the left becomes the
prefer to use the Invert AudioSuite plug-in to do this as mid+side, and the right is mid-side.
an offline process. 4 To create the matrix first right-click on the stereo
For the sake of convenience we will generally buss loop audio channel and select Split into Mono. You
the two side channels to a single stereo side channel, should now have three audio channels; were going to
then further buss both the mid and side channels to a leave the first one untouched to use as a reference later.
stereo channel. 5 Name the two new mono channels Left and Right
You can then hide the initial two side channels as respectively and buss both to a new mono aux channel
any further processing, such as EQ or compression, you titled Sum. This satisfies the left+right condition of the
do in the mix will want to be applied to the side buss to formula, but we still need to multiply it by 1/2. This is
affect both sides equally. Experiment with different simply a matter of reducing the level by 6dB. It is best to
blends of the mid and side channels to hear how it do this before the two signals are summed to prevent
affects the stereo width of the recording. Be aware, digital clipping when theyre added together. Bring the
however, that if you mono the stereo M/S recording the faders down on both the left and right channels by 6dB
sides will disappear completely, leaving only the mid, so each. If you are using a mouse, hold down [Ctrl] (PC) or
dont rely too heavily on the sides. PRO TIP [Cmd] (Mac) while dragging the faders to get fine
If the cymbals in your mix are control over the fader level. 8
too sibilant you can clean
Sum and difference them up by de-essing the
Some mastering processors, such as the Fairchild 670 stereo signal in
6 enable you to use a similar trick to convert left/right mastering. This
should bring down
stereo recordings into mid and side for processing the sibilance in the
(referred to as Lat-Vert mode on the Fairchild 670). cymbals without
affecting the
Some plug-ins also have this mode, such as the centre vocals.
Brainworx bx_digital V2 mastering EQ and IK
Multimedias T-RackS Opto Comp. 7 However, many
plug-ins, including all of those built-in to Pro Tools 10,
dont have this function, so in order to use them you
have to create an M/S processing matrix. While M/S
matrix plug-ins for splitting the signals to different
channels do exist, its a fairly simple process to perform
on your own using the built-in bussing in Pro Tools.
Open the M/S Processing session file on the DVD.
This session is a simple stereo drum loop on an audio
channel. The loop itself is entirely ordinary, with no M/S
techniques used in its construction.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 51


MTF Technique Mid-side recording & processing

9
8

Creating our own M/S encoding and de-coding matrix in Pro Tools
uses quite a few busses, but it can open up some incredibly creative
options for working with stereo files.

To create the sides or difference channel we Re-create the mix by then routing this channel to the
need to sum the left channel with a polarity-reversed right of a new stereo aux, the difference channel to the
right channel. Hold down [Shift]+[Start] (PC) or left, and the sum channel to both the left and right.
[Shift]+[Ctrl] (Mac) and click on the output of the right Note that because of the panning laws in Pro Tools the
channel to add an additional output. This time send it to sum channel must be sent independently to the left and
a new mono aux channel titled -R. Do the same to the right channels of the mix. If you send it to the centre you
left channel and send it to a new mono aux channel will find that if you try to null the new mix with the
titled Difference this is sometime also called L-R. PRO TIP original that they dont cancel. If you are using the
The left should now be routed to both the sum and Sub-paths in the I/O window default -3dB pan law you could also simply lift the sum
difference channels and the right to the sum and -R are mono paths that make up by 3dB. 11 However, be aware that this will cease to
channels. To flip the polarity of the -R channel add an part of a stereo path. These work if you change the pan law, so its good practice to
can be incredibly useful for
instance of Trim or EQ3 and engage the Polarity switch. routing mono channels to the route the signal to both left and right independently
Finally, route the new -R channel to the difference sides of a stereo signal using sub-paths in the I/O window. 12
without using the pan knobs.
channel. This gives us our left-right condition. 9
Parts of the process
Make a difference Now that you have created your matrix you can
Combining the sum and difference channels to go ahead and process the sum and difference
re-create the stereo image is done in exactly the channels with any mono plug-ins you like or
same way as we summed the M/S recording even route them out to hardware if you prefer. You
earlier. Take the mid or sum signal and add that will find that this method brings a whole new
to two copies of the side or difference channel, lease of life to your existing processors, as you
with one panned hard left and the other can get great results by compressing the mids
polarity-reversed and panned hard right. The and sides differently, re-balancing the image, or
polarity-reversed difference channel is also by adding more sides to your mix to create a
sometimes called R-L as it is effectively the wider stereo image.
same as adding the original right channel to a When using processors, though, be aware
polarity-reversed left channel. that any phasing or latency that isnt copied
We can create it by routing the difference exactly onto both sides will smear the image
channel to a new mono aux channel titled R-L slightly. To prevent this we usually prefer to use
and flipping the polarity with a Trim or EQ3 linear-phase EQs rather than analogue or
plug-in, just as we did with the -R channel. 10 analogue modelling EQs. MTF

Its good practice to route the signal to both left


and right independently using sub-paths in the
I/O window.

12
10 11

52 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Advanced M/S processing Technique MTF

On the disc

Pro Tools project


Pro Tools Tutorial file included on
the DVD

Advanced mid-side
techniques in Pro Tools
Having explored the intricacies of M/S PRO TIP
bussing, its time to take things to the You can make a track sound much wider using a variation on the M/S
approach. Simply feed the left signal with the polarity inverted into
next level. Mike Hillier is your guide. the right, and the right signal with the polarity inverted into the left.

T
This trick is built-in to several plug-ins, but why waste money on a
plug-in, when a little bussing can do it for you?
his tutorial takes advantage of the mid-side
matrices available in Pro Tools via the use of
bussing, which we explored in the previous down the centre, with a ticking hi-hat playing quarter-
tutorial. With this technique we can create a notes off to the right. Using the M/S matrix we can now
standard L/R stereo mix from a mid-side process the kick and snare separately from the hi-hat.
recording or take an L/R stereo mix and create an M/S Solo the Difference channel and you will hear the
version for processing the mid and side separately, ticking hi-hat, with just a little of the kick bleeding
which can then be reprocessed back to an L/R stereo through too, indicating that the kick also has some
mix. Here were going to explore some of the processing stereo information. Now solo the Sum channel notice
techniques we can use alongside M/S processing. that it still contains the hi-hat. The Sum channel is
M/S is the mastering engineers secret weapon, but made by adding the left and right, so audio which is
its use in the mix phase is not so obvious. However, panned to the sides is also part of this channel unless it
there are various interesting ways to use M/S is the inverse polarity to that on the opposite side. This
techniques within the mix processing drum loops is why weve chosen to call these channels Sum and
being the most obvious example. Difference rather than mid and side.
Open the tutorial project on the DVD and youll notice The initial loop is a fairly generic techno beat. Its a
weve already created the M/S matrix for you, hiding all good solid foundation if youre building that style of
the additional busses and leaving only the original audio track, but its not all that exciting on its own. Lets start
channel, mid and side aux channels and the final L/R by dirtying-up the kick and snare. You can use any
stereo aux channel. 1 If you hit play you should hear a distortion plug-ins you want for this amp simulators,
simple electronic drum loop, similar to those you might compressors, tape saturators but were going to use
find in a sample library. The loop has kick and snare the AIR Lo-Fi effect 2 to bring down the bit rate to 8-bit.
This has added a little grit, but were going to dial

M/S is the mastering engineers down the sample rate too to bring in more of an old
sampler vibe to the kick and snare. The snare really

secret weapon, but its use in the starts to pop out at around 20kHz. Turn on the
anti-aliasing feature if youre not a fan of the high-

mix phase is not so obvious frequency aliasing sound that is added to the snare and

Processing the
centre differently
from the side can
give a greater
sense of width to
a song and even
a little can go a
long way.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 53


MTF Technique Advanced M/S processing

Using M/S weve


been able to
process the hi-hat
independently of
the kick and snare.

Understanding what your bass information in the mid channel that was going to
be nulled when the Difference channel was added back

processing can do to the mix is in is retained, in effect moving the bass information
from the sides to the centre of the mix.

important when working in M/S This is an important lesson for EQing in M/S:
anything you do to the Difference channel will affect the
centre of the mix not just the sides, and alterations to
then use the Mix parameter to dial in just enough of this the Sum channel can also affect the sides. If, for
distorted signal alongside the original. This should instance, we were to filter off the top information from
create a dirtier, more interesting foundation for our loop. the Sum channel, the Difference channel wouldnt have
anything to null against in the high end when inverted in
Side effects polarity, and so the high-end energy in the hi-hats
Listen closely to the newly effected loop and compare it PRO TIP previously panned to the right would now be on the left
Weve saved our M/S matrix
with a bypassed version; you should notice some as well but inverted in polarity, which can create some
and width matrix to a template
unwanted side effects. The loop has shrunk in width; project. This enables us to odd and often disconcerting spatial effects. This will
this is because the distortion has created additional quickly import them using the also mean that when played on a mono system the mix
Import Session Data tool into
frequency content for the hi-hats in the Sum channel whatever project were
loses this high-end information from
which isnt cancelled out when the Difference channel working on, without having to
is added back in the matrix. This means that there is set up all the
bussing manually
now some hi-hat information in the centre of the mix each time.
that wasnt there in the original loop, bringing in the
stereo width slightly.
Another side effect of this is that the clean hi-hat
sound is now slightly distorted as well, despite the
Difference channel remaining unprocessed. Usually
these side effects are small enough to not be of any
major significance in the final mix, but theyre
important to bear in mind.

Focusing the centre


Next up, lets experiment with the Difference channel.
When we soloed it we noticed it had a small amount of
the kick drum as well as the hi-hat. The kick drum
information in the Difference channel has a lot of
energy across the spectrum. We want to keep the low
end of our mix focused, so lets filter off the low-end
information from the Difference channel, keeping it out
of the sides of our mix.
Add an instance of EQ3-1 Band to the Difference
channel and engage the high-pass filter mode. Turn the
Q parameter all the way up to 24dB/Oct and lower the
cutoff so that the low-end information of the kick is
completely removed. 3
A side effect of removing the low-end information
from the sides is that the low end is not only focused on
the centre, but is actually boosted slightly. All of the

54 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Advanced M/S processing Technique MTF

5 7

Here we have opted to


use a stereo delay send
channel and route the
6 signal coming from the
Difference channel to
the far right.

the sides too and your mix can fall apart. A solid
understanding of what your processing can do to the
mix is important when working in M/S.

Temporal effects inside an M/S matrix Multi-Delay to the aux send channel. This way the
PRO TIP
The loop is still fairly generic in nature, and while it delayed signal isnt being re-processed through the M/S
If you find your reverbs are
might make an excellent foundation for a track, were starting to muddy the centre matrix and can be panned however you want it. We have
going to keep working on it to give the hi-hat pattern a of your mix you can use M/S opted to use a stereo delay send channel and to route
processing on the reverb
little more movement. the signal coming from the Difference channel to the far
returns to compress the
Add an instance of AIR Multi-Delay to the Difference centre more than the sides, right. 6 This will let us set up a ping-pong-style delay
channel after the high-pass filter. 4 Used in series like leaving more space in the for the hi-hat signal. 7 Depending on what type of
centre for the dry signal.
this, every delayed signal wont match up with anything signal you are working with you may want to stick to
in the Sum channel; this means that the dry hi-hat will sending the signal down the centre, or even using a
remain panned to the right but the delays will be mono send buss rather than a stereo one.
panned equally to either side in opposite polarity by the The same trick of routing to a send effect outside of
PRO TIP
matrix. Mono the end result and they will null to zero. the M/S matrix works well with delays, but can also be
Sometimes it can be useful to
You will get no delay at all, which isnt what we want. set up an M/S matrix purely for used to achieve interesting results with other time-
The mix wont be mono-compatible, and even in stereo monitoring purposes. Not only delay-based effects such as reverbs 8 and choruses.
does this give you a mono
the delays will be fighting with each other in the room version of the mix to quickly
9 These can be used to great effect to add stereo width

unless youre listening through headphones. monitor, but you can also to mono signals panned hard to one side. The effect is
Instead, send the Difference signal to a new aux listen to how much stereo not as useful on the Sum channel of the M/S matrix as
information is present in the
send channel and route the output of that to the M/S Difference channel. this channel contains all the signal from both the left
output channel independently. 5 Now move the and right channels.
In this example the Difference channel contained

Interesting results can be only the hi-hat, which was panned hard right; however,
if your loop contains more stereo information perhaps

achieved with time-delay-based two guitars panned to opposite sides the effect
cannot distinguish between the two, so while it can be

effects such as reverbs fantastic tool in some circumstances, it is highly


dependent on the material being processed. MTF

By experimenting
with different
effects in both
mono and stereo in
parallel with the
M/S chain you can
achieve some
otherwise
impossible sounds.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 55


MTF Feature Future Effects

MTF Masterclass Studio Technique

FUTURE
EFFECTS
The next generation of software processors is upon us, and with it brings untold power,
new production techniques and possibly even new genres of music. Alex Holmes dons his
X-ray specs, warms up his hoverboard and checks out the best of the new breed

W
hen youre starting out in the world of music production, its
important to understand the basics. Most DAWs these days
come with stacks of instruments and effects that cover all the
major bases, and its possible to create highly professional
tracks and mixes using just the native plug-ins. However, there
comes a point when youve learned your parametric EQs, your compressor
ratios and your reverb pre-delays, youve spent hours reading the manuals,
and have a decent grasp on how everything works. Now is the time to look at
different ways to do things; to search out some more advanced software that
does things differently, or

Now is the time to search out


just more efficiently. Its
time to go hi-tech!

some more advanced software


In this feature well be
looking at a range of

that does things differently


plug-ins by forward-
thinking developers that
take the techniques we
know and love and turn
them on their heads in new and useful ways. Some of these plug-ins seem like
genuine witchcraft, offering up incredible power, whereas others are just
innovative developers coming up with new and original ways to do things better
and more easily. You might find that you get only minuscule improvements by
using certain tools, which might make their high price tags seem a bit steep.
However, when youre clawing to get those last few percent in the quality of your
mix, then every little bit counts, and those small wins all add up to a bigger,
more rounded and more effective mix.
Of course, its easy to get caught up in being sold snake oil, and theres no
guarantee that certain different techniques will yield better results. In the end,
its all down to how, where and when you use them. Although engineers have
been crafting pro mixes for years without these plug-ins, its worth exploring
these ideas now as they may become the ubiquitous tools of the future.

56 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Future Effects Feature MTF

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 57


MTF Feature Future Effects

Where to begin
So you understand
dynamics, EQ and
stereo spread and
you know what you
want to achieve, but
youre not sure of the
best way to do it.
There are now so
many different
software developers
and hundreds of
different options
open that it can be
hard to work out
exactly what it is
B2 from 2CAudio is a modular dual-engine, non-linear
you need to improve spatial processor with built-in harmonic distortion and
your mixes and flexible dynamics (try saying that fast!). Great for deep,
workflow. Rather expansive sounds but maybe not an essential purchase
if youre writing up-front house.
than go on a mad
techno, then something like 2CAudios complex B2

Its satisfying to discover a


reverb would be ideal. Also, if you see something that
looks like it could be useful, be sure to thoroughly

plug-in that simplifies a task youve


explore your plug-ins folder to check that you dont
already have an item that will do something similar.

been struggling with for years


We were recently convinced that we needed to fork
out on a new dynamic EQ plug-in to help tame
certain parts of the spectrum, but discovered we
spending spree and fill up your plug-ins folder with could get the same results by using a narrow band
the latest toys, its important to take stock of how on a multiband compressor. Is it as elegant a
you work. As an example, if you write pounding solution? No, not really, but it allowed us to explore
house music with close, analogue-style sounds the results and gain a better understanding of what
alongside upfront drum beats, youre probably not we wanted to achieve. It also meant the wallet could
going to get much use out of a cutting-edge new stay closed for a few months longer!
reverb plug-in that features advanced engines and After scouring the internet and reading the
complex modulations. Youre better off focusing on forums, its immensely satisfying to discover a
warm EQs, saturation and dynamics processors that plug-in that simplifies or refines a task that youve
are aimed at creating a loud and punchy sound. been struggling with for years, such as Xfers LFO
However, if youre writing deeper house or minimal tool or CableGuys VolumeShaper for quick, easy

MTF Step-by-Step Cleaning up audio with RX3

RX3 is not just for cleaning up noisy Now our loop has been processed, we Our work is nearly complete, but a look
01 dialogue and can be used on all kinds of
02 can turn our attention to the noisy reverb
03 at the spectrogram reveals that there is
material. To tidy up this clicky sub bass loop, tail and add the Denoise module. To home in on still some content above 6k that we want to
we can apply the Declick module. As we still the element we want to remove we select clear out for other elements in the mix. By
want the thump of the bass to come through, Output Noise Only and fine-tune the curve to using the Spectral Repair module and one of
we switch the algorithm to multiband take out the upper frequencies of the reverb the selection tools, we can highlight the
(periodic clicks) and skew the frequencies to tail but leave the weight of the sub intact. We offending area and attenuate the content.
focus on the top end of the spectrum. Finally, then fine-tune the Reduction slider to pull our This is a quick and intuitive alternative to EQ,
we adjust the sensitivity so that were just unwanted sound out of the mix. which can even be used to remove specific
cleaning it up, not taking out all of the attack. frequencies or harmonics.

58 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Future Effects Feature MTF

MTF Technology Latency and CPU issues


Unfortunately, all this power, processing, slick modern GUIs and different quality or oversampling settings, which means you can get
graphical feedback comes at a price and thats often either a hefty the sound you want then reduce the quality while you continue to
CPU hit, added latency or, in the worst cases, both. Our computers work. The monster, analogue-modelled soft synth Diva, from u-he,
these days are capable of running rings around the setups we had will automatically switch to full-quality on bounce-down, no matter
just a few years ago, but developers are utilising that power by what setting youre using, which is useful as you dont have to
creating better, more accurate emulations and ever more remember to change it every time you do a bounce.
complicated plug-ins. Added latency is a different kind of problem
Even a single instance of Pi will
A saturation effect such as Wave Arts Tube add significant latency to your altogether. Some plug-ins, such as the phase-rotation
Saturator models all aspects of a tube amp down to a projects, leaving a several- plug-in Pi, by Sound Radix, are spread across multiple
second gap before playback
mathematical degree, and although the results are occurs every time you hit the
tracks, need to run in real time, and need to read ahead
stunning, the CPU hit is extremely high. This means play button. to do their job. Although the CPU hit is
that you have to make a choice: to use these relatively low, this unfortunately
plug-ins only on critical tracks means a large amount of latency every
like vocals or busses, or to time you hit play, whether youve got
bounce the effect down. In a way, one instance or 20. With an effect that
this almost harks back to the can sometimes be incredibly subtle,
days of hardware units, when you you really have to make some hard
had to commit to a decision and choices about whether you can live
record it off as you had only one with this while you work. The best
EQ or compressor to play with. option is probably to leave adding
The clever developers have found these kinds of processors until the last
ways around this and offer possible minute in the mixing process.

and precise sidechain duties. Alternatively, you


might discover a new piece of software that achieves
something you didnt even know was possible, such
as removing reverb using Zynaptics Unveil RX3 from iZotope is a forensic
although, as suggested earlier, you need to decide if
this is actually something that will realistically fit audio repair tool thats capable of
your workflow and improve your mixes or merely an
interesting alternative option. some incredible feats
Squeaky clean forensic audio repair tool thats capable of some
Lets start by taking a look at some of the new kids incredible feats. There are more than ten modules
on the block that have been eliciting cries of that focus on different tasks, plus a large
excitement and shouts of disbelief here in the MTF spectrogram view in which small portions of audio
office. The recently released RX3 from iZotope is a can be highlighted with drawing tools and removed

MTF Step-by-Step Phase control using Pi

Pi can work wonders on some tracks Next well add a simple sub with another Finally, weve added some extra drum
01 but have little to no effect on others.
02 instance of Pi underneath the heavy kicks.
03 parts along with a couple of guitar riffs.
Your best bet is to experiment, and Now that theres more going on in the low end These can be separated out into different
potentially use headphones to home in on the Pi has to work a little harder to line things up. groups within Pi (kick and sub, snares and
subtle differences. Weve got two quite As such, the sound of the sub is warbling a little hats, guitars). As theres now more high-
thick-sounding dance kicks and we want to as it tries to line up with the kicks. If we turn up frequency content weve changed the
use the weight of both, but theres a bit of the CHNL WEIGHT on the sub Pi it prioritises emphasis back to Full Range. If you find that
phasing in the low end. Instantiate Pi on both this instance over the others and is the different groups are affecting each other
channels and switch it on to align the phase subsequently less affected by the kick. too much, you can change from Pi balancing
and bring back the low-mid punch. You could the whole mix to just working internally
also set it to low-frequency mode to help within the groups.
focus the plug-in.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 59


MTF Feature Xxxxxxx
MTF Feature Future Effects

with incredible precision.


This makes it possible to Pi isnt Sound Radixs only
innovative tool. Its first plug-in,
take out pops, clicks and
Surfer EQ, allows you to track the
even pitched noises with pitch of an instrument and lock
ease, plus you can reduce the movement to the band on an
EQ, which is great for notching or
background noise and even boosting resonances as they
rescue a recording that has move up and down the scale.
been digitally clipped. Due
to features such as the
Dialogue Denoiser, RX3 then turning that into a
has been heavily marketed rhythmic percussion
towards the post- part? iZotope saw that
production crowd, but there are many many sound designers
creative possibilities open to musicians. Although were using RX to create
we wouldnt condone illegally sampling someone weird new instruments in this way, and decided to
elses record, RX3 could be used for cleaning up old put the technology to use in its Iris sampler/synth.
samples that were previously unusable or bringing Moving on, we have Pi arguably the poster boy
your own old recordings up to scratch. You can also for inventive design. The Sound Radix development
do scientifically precise EQ cuts using the drawing team saw a common problem with many tracks
tools (just dont forget to use your ears, too!) or where multiple instruments are playing at once and
isolate a unique portion of a recording and turn it certain frequencies overlap to cause phase issues.
into special effects. How about taking a piano There are several plug-ins available that help to
recording, isolating just the clunk from the keys, combat phase problems, such as Waves InPhase and
Sound Radixs own Auto Align, but these are focused

There are several plug-ins


on lining-up multi-mic recordings. Cue the boffins at
Sound Radix developing a new idea: what if the

available that help to combat


phase alignment of each track could be analysed and
compared in real time as the track is playing, then

phase problems
each one could be dynamically rotated to minimise
frequency cancellations? With Pi, you place an
instance at the end of the signal chain on each of the

MTF Buyers Guide Quality hardware emulations


VIRTUAL BUSS
Its not just innovative ideas and hi-tech software that are COMPRESSORS
pushing the envelopes of whats possible. Weve seen a real Company Slate Digital
shift in the last couple of years, with developers painstakingly Price $249
Slate Digital is behind a string of
working to replicate classic studio compressors, EQs and
high-quality releases, including its
tape machines to make them virtually indistinguishable from Virtual Console Collection and Virtual
the real things. Although this is something that has been Tape Machines plug-ins. The latest,
happening for quite some time, the more recent versions are however, is Virtual Buss Compressors,
taking emulation to the next level by looking at every stage in which features three unique-sounding, 100% analogue-modelled
the signal process to closely replicate the characteristics of dynamic processors. The Slate team has looked into re-creating every
nuance of the real units, include the exact non-linear characteristics of
the kit in question. Maybe well never quite reach a 100%
their transformers, tubes, VCAs, amplifiers, phase distortions,
replication of the hardware, but well take 99%, multiple harmonic distortions and timing.
instances and instant recall any day! Web www.slatedigital.com

PULTEC PASSIVE SATIN


EQ COLLECTION Company u-he
Company Universal Audio Price $129
Price $299 Urs Ulkman and his team
The original Pultec Pro at u-he are also well known
was one of the flagship for their incredible
plug-ins on the UAD attention to detail. The
platform back when it recently released Satin
launched. However, times Tape Machine offers not
move on and Universal just an emulation of a
Audio has re-visited the single machine, but a
Pultec, calling on a decade of intensive modelling research to faithfully complex collection of
model the over-built transformers and complex tube amplifiers of the different models that allows you to mix-and-match different
original hardware. Although the results are sublime, you may need to characteristics. Controls include continuous tape speed from 7.5 to
consider whether your UAD card can run enough instances, as the new 30IPS, saturation and realistic bias and hysteresis, head adjustments,
plug-ins require over twice the DSP. tape delay with up to four repro heads for on-the-fly flanging and more.
Web www.uaudio.com Web www.u-he.com

60 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Future Effects Feature MTF

tracks you want to try to improve, then let the the incredible demo video on YouTube. A filtered-
plug-in do the rest. down and completely muffled track is brought back
Although some may argue that phase- to a bright and full mix simply by turning a dial.
cancellation is a natural side effect of combining The plug-in uses a clever deconvolution algorithm
sounds (and in some cases adds a certain charm to to identify the original signal and the filtering
older-sounding records), the ability to increase the process that has been applied, then generates an
punch of a crisp, modern track is an enticing one. opposite process to reverse the effect. This could be
Where the real-time nature of Pi really shines is used to improve old recordings, tracks that have
when you get situations like a certain bass note been recorded from the radio, or even vocals
recorded through a dull-sounding microphone.
Theres also the Unveil plug-in, which uses a similar
Experiment with building technology to isolate a signal from its reverb tail.

instruments or effects from the


Again, this is an immensely powerful plug-in that
can process audio in real time, although its also
fairly CPU-hungry. As you have the reverb as a
haunting sounds of a reverb tail separate signal, you could experiment with building
instruments or effects purely from the haunting
sounds of a reverb tail. Were also looking forward to
being lost as it clashes with the kick drum, or a Zynaptics next release, Unchirp, which looks set to
snare dips in volume because its out-of-phase with be the first plug-in capable of successfully removing
the resonance from the toms. We found that Pi the chirping and warbling that occurs from low
works wonders on some instruments but does bit-rate lossy audio encoding.
nothing for others, so you wont necessarily want to
use it on everything. Our favourite use for it is to get Pitchcraft
massive, powerful-sounding kick drums when Like many pivotal events in world history, we can
layering different kick sounds for dance music. remember the exact moment that we first saw
Melodyne bend audio physics in an online example
Lifting the veil video. At the time, the ability to manipulate pitch
Although it has been around for only a couple of and time with such fluidity was totally mind-
years, German company Zynaptic has made a sizable bending, but it wasnt long before Celemony did it
splash in the plug-in world with its remarkable again with its unfathomable DNA technology. Direct
plug-ins Pitchmap, Unveil and Unfilter. Built on Note Access makes it possible to identify and edit
state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and signal- individual notes within polyphonic audio material,
processing techniques, Unfilter is a real-time plug-in meaning you can now tidy up and tune minor
that removes filtering effects such as comb filtering, mistakes in a guitar performance or string quartet.
resonance or excessive EQ, bringing the overall Aside from using Melodyne in its more traditional
response back to a balanced level. This is definitely capacity to fine-tune vocals and instruments, tweak
one to cry witchcraft at, as youll see by watching vibrato and help line up double-tracked vocals, there

MTF Step-by-Step Controlling depth using Zynaptic Unveil

Although you can use transient Next we have some live drums that have Unveil can also be used to breath new
01 designers to reduce reverb tails, it often
02 been recorded extremely dry and have
03 life into your loop and instrument
ends up sounding artificial. Here we have a sharp transients. Unveil can be used in reverse libraries. We have a large-sounding
vocal stem thats drenched in a long plate to put grit and weight back in. We hit the I/O orchestral string instrument, with epic hits
reverb. We can use Unveil to tighten this up DIFF button to listen to what Unveil is throwing and a long reverb tail. By using Unveil you can
and bring it to the foreground. By tweaking away, then carefully tune the Transient control reduce the reverb and bring the instrument to
the Focus faders for different frequencies we to purposely select the transients. By turning the foreground. This works wonders on
can also clear out some mud and add some the Focus control down, these elements are percussive loops as well. Of course, you could
brightness. Finally, weve adjusted the output reduced, creating a compressed-sounding also use this as a haunting special effect and
gain to compensate for the change in volume. beat with further tweaks to the Focus sliders work with just the reverb portion of a signal.
acting like a subtle EQ.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 61


MTF Feature Future Effects

are also plenty of more creative uses for the and limiting. Many brickwall mastering limiters
technology. In single-track mode, you could take a claim to offer the clearest and most natural-sounding
solo instrument line and either create a new results, often through intelligently analysing the
harmony part or go more avant-garde and craft a input and adjusting the attack and release times
thickening layer with the pitch set an octave up but accordingly. An example is the Maximizer in Ozone 5
the formant set an octave down, which could then be and Ozone 5 Advanced, which features iZotopes IRC
blended back in with the original as a special effect. (Intelligent Release Control) system.
Alternatively, you could take a drum or percussion Now in version 3, IRC III runs several different
section and pull out the hits to last a whole bar, loudness algorithms in parallel, then intelligently
giving them a stretched, granular quality. chooses between them in real time to produce the
With DNA, available in Melodyne Editor, you could least number of perceivable artifacts. The result is a
take a strummed guitar chord from an old recording super-loud master without crushed transients or
and pitch the notes to fit the chords of a new track, pumping effects. Another interesting approach
or re-purpose a piano part from your loop library to comes from FG-X by Slate Digital, for which Steven
play a different progression. In theory, the age-old Slate and expert algorithm engineer Fabrice Gabriel
problem of having a great loop or riff that doesnt fit developed a dynamic and intelligent transient
saturation system, as its often the transient detail
that gets damaged the most by over-limiting on the
Its often the transient detail that master. FG-X analyses incoming transients and

gets damaged the most by over-


selects an optimum saturation curve to achieve the
best results, with an additional control called
Dynamic Perception offering the ability to dial back
limiting on the master in some perceived dynamic range.
Our favourite among the new dynamics plug-ins,
however, is the Dynamic Spectrum Mapper V2 from
the key of your track is a thing of the past. For the Pro Audio DSP, which takes a frequency snapshot of
most part this works well, although youll end up your track to use for large-scale multiband
with artifacts if the material is too complex for compression. Once the threshold curve is captured,
Melodyne to pull apart. Most DAWs now have the any signal that passes over it will be attenuated, but
ability to manipulate the pitch and time of as youre using the shape of the actual track the
monophonic audio, be it Pro Tools Elastic algorithm, results are much more natural.
Cubases VariAudio or Logics Flex features, but none Potentially more interesting is the possibility to
offers quite the finesse that you get with Melodyne. use this on individual parts such as vocals or on a
drum buss, where the curve could come from
Pump up the volume another pro-sounding recording. In this way, your
Given the apparent need for seemingly louder and instrument or part will be massaged into the shape
more compressed music, its no surprise that many of the original in a much more dynamic way than if
developers put a focus on transparent compression you simply used an EQ-matching plug-in. You can

MTF Step-by-Step Dynamics control using Melodyne

Melodyne can be used for all sorts of Our beat is now more evenly spread, Were quite happy with this loop, but we
01 trickery aside from pitch, and the
02 which means when we feed it through a
03 could take things further to create an
malleable way in which it presents audio compressor, it wont have to work as hard. We extra layer thats more effected. By pulling
makes it particularly good at controlling can now get a bit more creative and use the the pitch up and the formant way down and
dynamics and transients. Weve got a drum Attack Speed tool to pull out certain notes and muting a few hits, we have a subtly different
beat with some spiky transients and a few shorten others. In this way we can start to loop that complements the first. We can now
hits that are noticeably louder than the bring out the character of the snares and bounce this into our DAW, blend it with the
others. We can isolate the single drum hits emphasise the groove of the kicks by extending original beat from step 2 and add some
that we want to turn down and use the the first down-beat hit, shortening the compression to gel it together. We now have a
Amplitude tool to reduce them and line them subsequent less important ones. thicker, more balanced and textured loop.
up visually with the other hits.

62 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Future Effects Feature MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Creating space using Track Spacer 2

Track Spacer can be used in place of The only problem here is that the Another use would be to create space
01 more traditional sidechaining
02 high-frequency content of the kick is
03 for a vocal. We can feed the entire track
techniques to get a more accurate result. reducing some of our top synth layers. If we go bar the vocal to a buss with an instance of
Here we have a kick drum pattern and a into the Advanced panel we can choose to hear Track Spacer, then use the vocal as the
series of sustained sub bass notes and only the SC signal and can fine-tune the sidechain to subtly duck the competing
layered bass synths that are competing for high-pass filter to take out the content above frequencies while the singer is singing. If the
space in the mix. Add an instance of Track 280Hz on the input. We can now use the central mix is still sounding a little too cluttered we
Spacer onto the bass buss and set the kick dial to control how much of the low end to take can switch the plug-in into M/S mode. This
drum as the sidechain input. The blue line out, while keeping our upper synths intact. way, the vocal would just duck the centre
shows the kick signal and the white line frequencies where the vocal resides, leaving
shows the subtracted frequencies. any panned instruments intact.

also use quite extreme ratios and thresholds while help to carve out more space in your mixes. The
retaining a natural sound, although you have to be recently released Track Spacer 2 from Wavesfactory
careful using a very low threshold on an entire mix improves on the task of sidechaining by giving it a
as the quieter sections will leap up in volume. little more accuracy. It takes the frequency shape of
a sidechain input and uses a 32-band EQ to
The final frontier dynamically reduce the same frequencies from the
Dynamics isnt all about loudness and squashing channel where its inserted. A simple use would be to
signals, though: its also about space, and there have duck a bass part whenever a kick drum occurs, but
been some very simple but clever plug-ins that can where traditional sidechaining techniques would
duck the entire signal, Track Spacer will remove just

There are some very clever the frequencies of the kick. This allows you to be
much more precise and retain a more natural-

plug-ins that can help to carve sounding bass, where the higher frequencies arent
also removed. You could, of course, go very deep with

out more space in your mixes this and apply it on multiple tracks in which
different elements are dynamically reducing the

MTF Step-by-Step Dynamics/EQ control using Dynamic Spectrum Mapper


MT Step-by-Step Xxxxxxx

DSM can be used to balance elements We can take this further by capturing the DSM can also be used as a highly
01 in your mix, such as this slightly uneven
02 shape of another professionally recorded
03 transparent mastering limiter. If we
vocal part with loud s sounds. Insert an vocal and using it as our template. Unlike a insert an instance at the end of the chain on
instance, set moderate attack and decay match EQ function, DSM will dynamically our master buss we can capture the shape of
times and then hit the Capture button while squeeze your material into this new shape. If the entire track, then do quite heavy-handed
the track is playing. We can now use a high we feel we want to put a little more brightness compression with a 15:1 ratio and -15dB
100:1 ratio, pull the threshold down to -24dB back in we can make adjustments using the threshold. This works especially well on
and bring the gain back up, but because Parametric Threshold EQ at the bottom. Simply bass-heavy material as the low-end bump no
weve captured the average shape of track it skew the frequency towards the top end of the longer works the limiter so hard.
still sounds natural. spectrum and lift the threshold.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 63


MTF Feature Future Effects

MTF Buyers Guide Cutting-edge instruments


Although subtractive synthesis remains the most popular and easy-to-understand
method for creating sounds, there are many developers exploring different
techniques and interfaces in an effort to come up with completely new and
unheard of timbres. Despite often heralding their inventions as a revolutionary
new form of synthesis, many end up simply offering a different take on a familiar
theme. Sometimes, however, we see genuine innovation and powerful sound-
design tools that go beyond what was previously thought possible.

RAZOR
Company Native Instruments
Price $99
Razor works with the latest version of Reaktor
and the free Reaktor Player and is the brainchild
of German producer Errorsmith in conjunction
FG- X from Slate Digital features an with Native Instruments. Although the bare bones
innovative algorithm that analyses the incoming of the synth resemble a typical subtractive setup,
transients and picks from a range of different saturation curves to the oscillators, filter section, envelopes, LFO and
achieve the most transparent results. even the effects are sculpted purely in the additive domain. Razor assembles sounds
from 320 partials on a harmonic-by-harmonic basis to create edgy, deep and
relevant frequencies on corresponding tracks. powerful sounds. The well-designed GUI provides unique visual feedback of the
Ultimately, the goal is to smooth-out those areas synthesis in action, although this is combined with a hefty hit on the CPU.
where frequencies are stacking up, but without Web www.native-instruments.com
affecting the neighbouring parts of the spectrum.
What we love about a plug-in like Track Spacer is
HARMOR
that its not complex, futuristic or CPU-intensive, but Company Image Line
just a really good idea thats elegantly realised and Price 111
incredibly easy to use. Maybe this is also what more Harmor, from Image Line, is a Windows-based
of our plug-ins of the future will be like. VST instrument with a unique additive synthesis
engine thats also capable of emulating classic
Music of the future subtractive synthesis. Harmor can re-synthesise
any sample, giving you new levels of flexibility for
Now that we have these and many more incredible
stretching, mangling, pitching and manipulating audio. You can also import images
tools, what does it actually mean for our music and and turn these into new sounds, opening up endless possibilities such as drawing
our mixes? The fact that we can clean up problems shapes in Photoshop and importing them or turning a childs doodles into an FX patch.
and manipulate recordings in amazingly transparent Web www.image-line.com
ways only really gives us the same results as if wed
recorded or performed the material well in the first
place. We now have studio-grade processing in the IRIS
home studio, but you still need a good ear (and Company iZotope
ideally a good room) to get equally pro-sounding Price 129
Iris is a sampler with a difference. Using the same
results. We can, however, capture and extract
technology that youll find in iZotopes RX, Iris
portions of an audio signal that we previously allows you to select parts of a sound from a
couldnt, which has led to some unique waveform or spectrogram using a comprehensive
opportunities for sound design. The main result is set of drawing tools. These portions of found
that we have more powerful ways to get cleaner and sound can then be combined with other sounds,
more scientifically spacious mixes. Of course, this with up to three layers per patch plus a sub layer for adding low frequencies. Imagine
isolating the high-pitched whine of your fridge, cleaning up the audio, then pitching it
isnt good for all genres as we still enjoy the vibey
down to make a bass, while adding in the closing of the fridge door as the attack
sound of old recordings, where character comes portion of the sound...
from the grit, natural phasing, overlapping Web www.izotope.com
frequencies and other non-linearities. Electronic
music in particular though, will continue to explore
and benefit from these techniques, pushing the
boundaries of sonic perfection and breaking the see individual processors that can still be tweaked
rules in creative new ways. but that will analyse your material and make
One area in which we expect to see some adjustments and decisions that will aid in the
interesting developments over the next ten years or mixing process.
so is in artificial intelligence. There are already Ultimately, any tool or additional functionality
services on offer (such as www.mixgeni.us) that that enables you to achieve an effective mix more
allow you to upload the stems of your mix, then quickly thus giving you more time to work on the
receive back a track mixed by a computer. This melody, groove, harmony and arrangement of the
wouldnt take into account the required emotion music itself has to be a good thing. But be warned:
needed to convey a good track, but its feasible that its also essential that we dont lose sight of the end
AI can scientifically balance your material and give goal and end up choosing precision over emotion,
you a good starting point. We wouldnt like to give up otherwise the music of the future may end up being
all control, however, and its more likely that well sterile and unlistenable... MTF

64 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


MTF Feature DIY studio acoustics

DIY
Staple
taple

studio
acoustics
Creating that pro studio acoustic experience at home is
easier than you might think. Russ Hepworth-Sawyer offers
some affordable DIY solutions to bring a professional
acoustic and aesthetic to your studio

W
eve witnessed significant advances in music technology over the past 15 years or
so which, combined with ever lowering costs, now mean that many more of us can
and indeed choose to record at home. However, there are changes that you will
need to make to your home environment in order to get the best sonic results.
Fortunately its not as difficult nor as costly as you might think. Over the
following pages were going to detail some of the problems you might encounter and, of course, the
solutions for a perfect mixing and monitoring environment.
The most immediate aspect aside from annoying the neighbours (which is not covered here) will
undoubtedly be the acoustic performance of your listening environment. This is a subject that could
see you tinkering with your setup until youve got it absolutely right, but a detailed and reliable-
sounding room is perfectly possible with some simple tools and materials from your local DIY store.
As we start to improve our lot, we predominately have to address the negative results of sonic
reflections. The reflection plays havoc not only with our desired flat frequency response and stereo

66 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


DIY studio acoustics Feature MTF

imaging, but particularly the bass end,


meaning that our mixes dont translate to around your rooms surfaces and if the mathematics
other systems. In this feature, therefore, we are right (see boxout), certain wavelengths either
explore some budget-busting ways to create a reinforce themselves or cancel each other out
fabulous and trustworthy sonic environment. depending on where you sit in the room. You might be
able to hear this most evidently in the bass end if you
On reflection move around in your control room. These standing
It all starts with the humble reflection. Surfaces, waves are known as room modes and, once
hard or soft, all reflect sound in one way or calculated, can be treated.
another. Harder surfaces will typically reflect At higher frequencies standing waves can present
sound clearly and accurately, whereas softer themselves as flutter echoes, sounding as though a
surfaces will soak up some of it. The problem is space is resonating at certain frequencies clapping
that reflections can later reconnect with direct your hands in a corridor should provide you with the
sound from a monitor or instrument, blurring effect if the conditions are right. These also need to be
what we should be hearing via problems such as absorbed and managed.
excessive reverb, comb filtering, flutter echoes Comb filtering occurs when reflections merge with
and standing waves. the direct signal from your sound source. These small
Given these problems, youd be forgiven for delays will cause phase shifts at certain frequencies
thinking it best to place your monitors in a and again make for an uneven frequency response. It is
completely dead room an anechoic chamber therefore important to ensure that you receive all the direct
where the only sound you hear is from your Universal Acoustics signal uninterrupted from the monitors. To tackle these
monitors. However, this would sound too artificial. Jupiter Bass Trap is a issues we have some neat starter solutions.
good example of a
Actually, what we need to do is maintain an even and foam corner bass
low reverberation time across the whole frequency trap that also Three ways forward
spectrum. Theres much debate around the precise absorbs higher The first task is to assess your room. Accurately measure its
frequencies, too.
value, but a reverb time of around 0.3 seconds (known
as RT60) is an ideal to aim for.
MTF Pro Technique Studio ergonomics
Standing still
The ergonomics of your studio is something to consider
Standing waves are perhaps the first phenomena to
both in terms of your comfort as well as its impact on
deal with. These are caused by sound reflecting off and
your room acoustically. Naturally, it is important to
ensure that all the equipment you use regularly is well

Comb filtering occurs when within your reach and doesnt require stretching for,
something that perhaps later results in injury (difficult-

reflections merge with direct to-reach equipment can also hamper the creative flow if
extra time is required to access or set something up).

signal from your source Ensure that your chair is up to the job and that youre
comfortable when youre working. Your desk needs to be
at the right height and should be suitable for the kind of
work youre doing. Placing your most often used
equipment within what I call the arc of reach will
Tech Terms therefore prevent you moving your arms in repetitive
BROADBAND movements that can cause injury.
No specific
Also consider installing your equipment in racks built
frequency is
indicated or within your desk or having them in a desktop rack.
absorbed but However, spare a thought for reflections that may be
a wider range
of frequencies,
caused by such devices and how you might tackle them if
perhaps from they cause unwanted reflections.
100Hz20kHz as in
a corner bass trap.
CARA FABRIC
Cara fabric is a
hessian-like lining
used in many
studio applications
due to its sonic
transparency.
MINERAL WOOL
FIBRE
Mineral wool
fibre is used in
many building
applications to
insulate buildings,
but is also
exceptional at
A custom frame design complete with corporate branding absorbing sound.
demonstrates the potential to personalise your studio.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 67


MTF Feature DIY studio acoustics

Room modes. Standing waves out-of-phase cancellation.


Reflected frequency (red) reflects back out-of-phase, resulting in cancellation (blue)

Loudspeaker wall

Room modes. Standing waves combine in-phase.


Reflected frequency (red) reflects back in-phase, resulting in an increase in amplitude (blue)

Standing waves can play havoc with the bass end of your mix but are Taking things to extremes: full-wall studwork and rockwool covered
easily identified and controlled. with Cara fabric can provide tightly controlled results.

dimensions to apply to one of the formulae or the free absorber or a bass trap, but doing so offers both sonic
calculators discussed in the Measurements boxout. These excellence and visual appeal. Leading commercial
should immediately inform you of the problem frequencies manufacturers of diffusors include RealTraps (www.
and direct you towards the treatment you need to apply to realtraps.com) and RPG RPG Diffusor Systems (www.
remedy them in your particular space. rpginc.com), both of which offer a range of solutions.
Treating the reflections is achieved using three typical key
components. The foremost is the standard absorber that Absorbers
restricts reflections across a wide range of mid and upper Absorption is the easiest course of treatment as it
frequencies. This could be one of the foam offerings made by, immediately improves your acoustics with only
for example, Auralex (www.auralex.com) or EQ Acoustics minimal installation. Essentially, an absorber is
(www.eqacoustics.com) or a DIY creation of timber and

Making your own diffusor


mineral wool fibre (Rockwool is the trade name to you and I,
although I tend to use Knauf).

offers both sonic excellence


Bass traps, meanwhile, work on lower-frequency
reflections. These can sometimes be tuned to a specific

and visual appeal


frequency to target a problematic room mode something
like Vicoustics Vari Bass (www.vicoustic.com) or take the
form of a broadband absorber, such as GIKs244 Bass Trap
(http://gikacoustics.co.uk). Commercial bass trap designs
predominately adopt the foam-triangle or square-section constructed using a soft porous material capable of
(for corners) formats, but the options open to the DIY dissipating sonic energy as it tries to pass through it.
enthusiast are legion, from hanging heavy matting inside a Absorbers such as these are known as broadband
much deeper than usual absorber to attractive and highly absorbers as they will absorb a wide range of
effective corner bass trapping. frequencies. As previously mentioned, foam solutions
Finally we come to the diffusor the jewel in the from Auralex and other manufacturers are common
acoustics crown which provides a means of scattering sights in studios, but can quite easily be constructed at
sound away from its intended direction. Making your own home from mineral wool fibre and a timber frame.
diffusor takes a little more time than making either an First, purchase some mineral wool fibre from your

MTF Step-by-Step Building an absorber

Back
3

Staple
4

Frame
1

Using 2 x 3-inch pine, make a frame that Turn the frame over and insert a Cut enough Cara fabric to wrap around
01 is 1,199 x 650mm in size. Use screws to
02 60mm-deep mineral wool fibre slab
03 the front and to be stapled to the rear of
connect the timber together. Staple in some snugly within the frame. A tight fit will help the the absorber. You may want to place tape
Cara fabric or attach a hardboard back. This material to stay in position. over your staple heads to prevent marking on
will keep the Rockwool in place. your walls. Alternatively, make a wooden
frame to face the absorber. Use picture
mounts to hang it.

68 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


DIY studio acoustics Feature MTF

local DIY store. What you are looking for are the 1,200 x
600mm slabs (not loft insulation) with a density of at
least 60kg/m3. These come in a range of depths, but
somewhere between 60100mm is ideal. From 3 x
2-inch timber you can construct a frame that will look
very attractive hanging on your studio wall we have
included a walkthrough so you can have a go at
building one yourself for less than 30 each if you build
a few of them in one go (the slabs usually come in
packs of five or six pieces).
Taking this frame principle a huge step further, you
could line the whole of your room with a 3 x 2-inch
timber framework. You could then place absorbers Although somewhat labour-intensive, the fully installed corner bass trap can be the most
throughout your room, resulting in a more dead- effective at dealing with extreme low frequencies. To satisfy aesthetic requirements, the trap can
be faced with Cara fabric or an elaborate drilled-out wood panel.
sounding environment. This kind of broadband
absorption will eliminate many potential problems
within your room; however, key issues and problems in
the bass end will remain. absorption and resonation by utilising barrier matting or
another dense material suspended within a frame and with a
Bass traps layer of dense rockwool to the rear. It is the surface area that
A basic bass traps is simply a deeper absorber. determines the frequency at which the trap works, but they
Low-frequency wavelengths are very long; in many cover a wider band than the tuned Helmholtz. There are many
cases, longer than the length or width of your room. For examples of these on the internet.
The most reliable solution I find space permitting is to

A Helmholtz Resonator is
build a corner bass trap. Its arguably the most labour-
intensive, but is effective, attractive and affordable (around
50). One of two approaches can be taken: one whereby an
extremely effective at tackling absorber (as described above) straddles the corner of a room

problematic frequencies
example, a 50Hz waveform has a wavelength of 6.8
metres. We cannot assume that a typical absorber,
described above, with a shallow depth will soak up
these wavelengths. To use absorption we need to gain
depth, and as bass often lurks in the corners of your
room, enter the corner bass trap.
Other forms of trap exist that are not based
completely on the same static form of absorption but
Clouds about the mix position
resonate, instead. The Helmholtz Resonator can be can be useful to absorb/diffuse
extremely effective at tackling many problematic sound away from you. The
frequencies, but it must be constructed and tuned with example here is a suspended
absorber which doubles up for
the room modes in mind. Some approaches blend both a nifty position for lighting too.

MTF Step-by-Step Building a bass trap

Were going to look at a corner Connect the parts together either with Complete the corner trap by facing with
01 broadband trap here. Take some timber
02 screws or fixing blocks on the inside.
03 Cara fabric or a perforated wooden
12mm plywood is ideal and cut two Using a saw, cut Rockwool slabs into triangles panel of some description, ensuring it is
right-angle triangles (300 x 300 x 424mm). slightly smaller that can stack up snugly inside acoustically transparent.
These will form the top and bottom of your the frame. These will provide a very deep
trap. The backs will be 300mm by the height absorber essentially, but work well for trapping
you can accommodate in your room. bass and other frequencies.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 69


MTF Feature DIY studio acoustics

MTF Pro Technique Materials and tools


If you choose to have a go at building your own acoustic
treatments rather than buying an off-the-shelf
commercial solution, there are a few things youll need
before you start. Tools will include a workbench of some
description, a saw and, ideally, a jigsaw for making some
of the cuts a little easier. A drill/driver combo is always
highly beneficial, but at the very least youll need an
electric drill and manual screwdriver.
The materials youll need are readily available from DIY
outlets. To build absorbers youll need 3 x 2-inch planed
pine timber for the frame. You may wish to obtain some
Although a purchased full package is thin plywood or MDF for the rear or simply use some
the minimal fuss solution (such as the
London 12 Room Kit pictured here from cloth. For the corner bass trap youll need some ply for
Primacoustic), your room may benefit the top and bottom plates and the rear 9mm or 12mm
from the more custom treatment when ply will suffice. Probably the one tool youll need to buy as
building your own solution
you may not have one is a staple gun. These can be
dangerous but are essential for the job.

with air behind it; the other employing deeply installed


mineral wool fibre slabs. The second approach can be messy,
but you can face the trap with either some Cara fabric that There are several types of
matches your absorbers or wood with holes cut into it. The
wood covering looks good, but be warned: youll need a good diffusor you may want to
holesaw and a drill (plus operator) with stamina.
have a go at building
Diffusors
Diffusion is an excellent way of ensuring that the direct signal researcher working at Bell Laboratories, developed
from your monitors reaches your ears uninterrupted. The much of our current diffusor thinking. The easiest
theory of diffusion is to scatter sound around the room as diffusor to make is the Maximum Length Sequence
much as possible rather than reflecting sounds in the Diffusor, whereby lengths of wood are arranged and
expected pattern. If you draw a birds eye view of your studio spaced to scatter sound. However, more effective is the
and plot the line from your monitors to the side walls Quadratic Residue Diffusor (QRD). These follow a
reflecting to your ears you will find the point at which a mathematical sequence to scatter the sound, which
diffusor would be best employed what Ill call the mirror can be calculated using the online resources at
point. Placing a diffusor here will scatter the signal away www.mh-audio.nl/Diffusor.asp.
from your ears and assist in clearing up the focus and stereo The most pretty, though, is the plain blockwork
width of your mix. quadratic diffusor also known commercially as the
There are several types of diffusor you may want to have a Skyline Diffusor because of RPGs old product. This
go at building. Manfred Schroeder, a foremost acoustics comprises small lengths of wood connected to a back

MTF Step-by-Step Building a diffusor

Building a diffusor is perhaps the most Cut the blocks of wood into the Leave the blocks to dry overnight (or
01 difficult task presented here, partly
02 appropriate lengths. Purchase some
03 longer, depending on the adhesive).
because theres more maths involved, but hardboard or 9mm MDF and cut to the required Next, turn the whole diffusor over. Using a
also as it takes a little more skill in the frame length to support the blocks. The next drill, pilot four holes through the rear
workshop. The prettier of the two is perhaps step is the tricky bit: arranging the blocks as hardboard to the longer lengths of block.
the blockwork Quadratic (Skyline) Diffusor, per the grid provided by the calculator. As you Screw together to aid adhesion. Make two
but both varieties are difficult. The best arrange youll need to glue each block to the holes through the 0 sections (no blocks) in
starting point is to download one of a diffusor back and to any adjacent blocks it comes into the sequence to connect the diffusor to the
calculator and consider how the diffusor contact with. wall or ceiling.
should perform.

70 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


DIY studio acoustics Feature MTF

panel and arranged to a specific mathematic


sequence. Online calculators can be found for these, There are some
too. Essentially, in both cases, the width of the flat products that are
difficult to DIY.
surfaces whether that be the blocks/planks or the Vicoustics products
wells are calculated to the high frequency response, are both elegant and
highly effective such
while the depth of the wells corresponds to the low as this WaveWood
frequencies. One of these can be made for under 30. Bass Trap

Sound advice
Take time to experiment with your space and consider
the sound youre aiming to achieve. You can tailor the
number and position of absorbers and the types of
bass traps until youre starting to hear that
professional sound. Obviously, diffusors may take a
little more time to build, so using the calculations is
sensible for identifying what you need and where.
Bringing that professional acoustic response to
your room the DIY way does mean a little investment in
time and money, but will reap rewards at a fraction of
the cost of commercial solutions. The benefits are that Excellent calculators
you can tinker with the materials and the finish until are available here, but scroll to
youve got the ideal sonic response, and choose from a the bottom of the page for the acoustic-specific
ones: www.mh-audio.nl/spk_calc.asp
A good diffusor calculator is downloadable as an

Take time to experiment and application from: www.subwoofer-builder.com/


qrdude.htm

consider the sound youre Cara fabric is available in all kinds of colours from
www.eqacoustics.com/products-page/acoustic-

aiming to achieve treatment/acoustic-fabric/cara-acoustic-fabric

wide range of fabrics and finishes to personalise your MTF Pro Technique Room readings
room. In the links section youll find a reference to Cara The first step to identifying and treating potential issues
fabric; Id recommend choosing the foam-backed in your listening space is to make an accurate
option despite the higher cost as it prevents fibres assessment of the rooms modes. Axial modes are the
escaping and increases durability. On the subject of easiest to start with, and are based around the parallel
personalising, I have colleagues who have screen- surfaces of the room. These modes can be calculated by
printed logos and images onto fabric to truly taking the speed of sound and dividing it by the length
personalise their spaces. (or depth or height) of your room. Remember that you
Whichever route you choose, be warned: you may need to measure the distance it would take to travel
catch the DIY bug, so let us know how you get on! MTF there and back. For a five-metre room length the
Tech Terms
calculation would be:
FURTHER INFO RT60
The time it takes
See the Custom Audio Designs website for some for a sound to f = 330 m/s (speed of sound)
excellent examples of bass traps: reduce its sound
5
www.customaudiodesigns.co.uk/basstrap-basic- pressure level by
60dB within an whereby
design-principles.html acoustic space. f = 66Hz
HELMHOLTZ
RESONANCE
Resonance in an Using this equation you could develop or download one of
enclosed space, the freely available calculators to automatically assess
such as that your axial modes.
caused by blowing
over a bottle. This Tangential modes deal with the corner-to-corner
principle can be lengths; oblique modes deal with a top corner to a bottom
used to accurately
opposite corner. The tangential mode (d) can be
trap frequencies in
the studio. determined by:
WAVELENGTH d = \/L2 + W2
Wavelength
is determined
by frequency. Oblique modes (D) can be calculated using:
The lower the D = \/L2 + W2 + H2
frequency
the longer the
wavelength To get a fuller picture of the sound of your room employ a
and the deeper room analyser such as the shareware one provided by
your acoustic
REW (www.hometheatershack.com/roomeq). This will
Waterfall plots can be extremely useful in identifying the problem absorption will
frequencies that your DIY acoustic solution will need to address need to be. identify areas of resonance that need attention.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 71


MTF Back Issues

VOLUME 28:
MIXING 2013
Perfect the art of
mixing with this
in-depth guide.

VOLUME 29:
RECORDING 2013
Make the most of
your recording
sessions and get
perfect takes.

VOLUME 30:
LOGIC PRO 2013
All you need to know
to become a master
with Logic Pro 9.

VOLUME 31:
PRO TOOLS 2013
Pro tips and tricks
revealed in this
definitive guide.
Available as both printed
and digital editions
complete your collection!
VOLUME 32:
ABLETON LIVE 9 2013
Get more from Abletons
all-round DAW, whether
youre a novice or a
veteran user.

VOLUME 33:
LOGIC PRO X 2014
All the new features
in the latest version
of Logic explained.

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MTF Interview Hal Ritson

MTF Studio Session

Cooking up a
vintage sound
The Young Punxs Hal Ritson goes along way when it comes to making original yet vintage-
sounding dance music. Liam OMullane discovers his incredible process

W
ere taking time out here to explore the skills for artists such as David Guetta, Chase and Status,
production methodology behind two On the disc Avicii, Dizzee Rascal, Jessie J and The Black Eyed Peas, to
pre-released singles from The Young Punx name but a few. He begins the interview by sharing the
album All These Things Are Gone. This album meaning of the albums title: As we move forward, many
Remix files for
gives musical and production nods to times Harlem Breakdown
things can be lost. Some are for the better for instance, now
past, while keeping a foot firmly in electronic dance music. are included. the barrier to entry for music production is much lower, you
Although the revisiting of previous styles of music production can work on a home computer rather than needing to hire a
is nothing new, The Young Punx have taken quite a unique multi-million-pound studio but the way you make music
approach to generating the material they use, following a affects the outcome and so many people are using the same
three-stage process to clearly separate the tasks of tools. I wanted to make a record that deliberately didnt do
sample-making, editing/sequencing, and mixing. We talk to what everyone else is doing, so I decided to look at the whole
those involved to learn how the singles Harlem Breakdown 20th century of music production as a toolkit for what could
and Kowloon Kickback were honed to perfection. happen. I started the creation of this record by working with
purely vintage methods to create the source material.
Lost approach Kowloon Kickback is based on 30s swing and Harlem
Hal Ritson is the producer, main writer and general driving Breakdown on mid-70s New York jazz-funk. Other tracks on
force behind The Young Punx, and is accompanied by DJing the album take influence from 80s boogie, Swiss yodelling,
maestro Nathan Taylor for gigging. This outfit gives Hal a 90s jungle and more, so there are all sorts of styles.
chance to be in the limelight as the majority of his work is in
that layer that sits underneath public awareness. His Secret locations
day-to-day work involves production, writing or performance We are in a studio in north London, called Rock of London
Studios. Owner Steve Honest is a vintage fanatic, as
evidenced by his collection of classic outboard gear and mics.
The live room at Rock Hal explains why he chose to work in Steves studio: I often do
of London studios
sounds much larger everything myself on other music projects performing,
than it is and engineering, mixing, mastering and so on. I wanted to start
definitely has a we
this project by working with people who arent trying to do it
spend all our money
on gear not decor all. I chose people who just focus on their own role really well.
vibe to it. He then tells us about his approach to working: Id start
the day by trying to create a specific mindset; for instance,
one day Id start by telling everyone that its 1974 and were in
New York. Then Id discuss both the gear and playing styles
with Steve and the musicians respectively to try to re-create
an authentic performance.
If you listen to either of the singles, youll hear that the
samples from these studio sessions are quite long and
sound like they could have been lifted from someone elses
work. But the recording stage is just the first part of what he
refers to as a twice-baked approach. At Rock of London, Hal
worked very hard to get anything from a few bars of
vintage-sounding audio to almost a full songs worth. Once
hed created the sample material, he took it to his own studio
for the second stage of the baking process.

74 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Hal Ritson Interview MTF

During the shoot Hal


took us on a sonic
journey through
jungle music using
his trusty JD-800.

Although there is a large range of vintage gear at the As an example of


getting in the right
studio, Hal is keen to show the importance of remembering
mindset and the
to replicate the musicianship details, too: The musicians I sheer diversity of his
work with know they need to be adaptable at a moments chosen musicians,
Hal had the famous
notice. Weve all worked on recordings for various A-list metal-shred master
artists and understand how to play in certain ways. For Guthrie Govan play in
instance, I could say could you arrange that piece in a way Gil the style of Django
Reinhardt on this
Evans would and that sentence will convey enough 1950s Gibson ES-175.
information for the musicians to know how to stand, how to
play, what attitude to apply to their style and so on. Its very
interesting with drums in this respect. If you watch old
performance footage from the 1960s, it looks hilarious as
theyre holding their sticks in such unique ways, flailing their
arms around, etc. The whole body language was different and
this is something thats important to replicate for an
authentic vintage performance.

Classic techniques
From talking to Steve for just a few minutes, its obvious that
hes a living history book on engineering techniques. We ask
him about the drum-mic placement for Kowloon Kickback:

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 75


MTF Interview Hal Ritson

MTF Insight Rock Of London mic selection


Steve Honest talks us through a few of the mics in his collection...
AKG D7A (a):This would have come with a cheap tape recorder. Its a b
plastic carbon mic like how the old telephones used to work. It
needs a tap before use to loosen-up the carbon. I tend to Sellotape it
c
to the drum kit somewhere and distort the life out of it for snares.
Sennheiser 419 & 421 (b): When close-micing came into fashion
youd see these all over drum kits, and on toms in particular. Hals a
big fan of those disco tom sounds that sound like someone hitting a
Tupperware boxes these are the mics for that.
STC 4021 Ball & Biscuit (c): This is fantastic for guitars and kick
drums. STC was eventually bought-out by Coles and this mic is a new
addition to our range.

We used just one mic on this record, as the crucial element


for engineering in those days would have been to walk If the drummer is
smashing the cymbals
around the room and place the mic by ear in a sweet spot.
Whereas your ear can easily detect the elements of the
source and the room, a mic needs some help to strike that
perfect balance of direct and indirect sound. This took more
time than the recordings themselves and I ended up using a they will kill the sound by
making the compression
Telefunken U-47 and explored rolling it over on its axis as this
can make a big difference.
For other drum recordings, Steve explains: We did a late

dive down as a reaction


50s two-mic technique, with one at the front around the kick
drum and a snare mic placed above the kit. As there are two
mics youre relying heavily on the correct phase alignment
between the two and this can be used to null or boost
frequencies in the final sound. We also used the three-mic get that tight and controlled sound. This sounds close to a
Glyn Johns technique, which relies heavily on the drummers drum machine but has an element of warmth that you dont
playing technique. If you look at the old greats like John hear a lot of these days. Steve adds: There was also a move
Bonham and Keith Moon they would tear the life out of the to using dynamic mics at that time . These had a lot of attack
drums yet be very light on the cymbals. The balance also and midrange. They were very directional and would be
affects the compressor youre using: if the drummer is overloaded by being so close to the drums, but this was all
smashing the cymbals they will kill the sound by making the part of the distinctive sound of that time.
compression dive down as a reaction. For mic placement,
theres no black art to it. I learned a lot early on by putting Cooking with brass
headphones on and soloing out the mic to explore and listen For the second stage of the baking process we journey across
to its position as the performer plays. London to Hals studio. At this point, Hal will have the stems
A relatively more contemporary sound was needed for bounced out at Steves so he can move from recordings made
Harlem Breakdown, as Hal explains: As we were after a 70s in Pro Tools and use his Logic-based rig. Hal explains the next
disco sound, we close-miced everything and gated them to step: Ive half-produced these tracks already at Steves by
having the character of his gear printed onto the files. But I
keep things flexible enough for me to continue with further
processing to mix and master them as the final part of the
sample-making process.
Hal will then bounce down his project as a stereo file so it
becomes like any other sample. He explains how this process
can help creatively: By bouncing a finished audio file out of

Steve: The DBX 165 is very mid-70s as it was used in studios a lot during that period. We used this Hal: This Federal AM-864/U was used in the military to achieve longer
on the snare with the Glyn Johns technique. The DBX 118 was historically used on kick drums a lot, broadcasting distances and comes with amusing info on how to destroy
even though it was designed for domestic use with tape decks. it. Its crunchy and nasty-sounding while having a pleasant, organic tone.

76 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Hal Ritson Interview MTF

this project Im deliberately shutting down my options. This


encourages you to do something different with the material Wez: The ME Geithain RL
901Ks are the best
instead of continuing to run those files and mixes live within speakers Ive ever heard
the next project used to write the final version of the song. and Hal can hear theres a
We then learn how he added to the initial intro section of striking difference in how
his stuff sounds through
Harlem Breakdown, which starts much like any jazz-funk them when he brings his
track of the era: At the point when the sample starts being files across for mixing.
looped, the listener is reminded that this is actually a dance
track. This is when other elements come in, including an
additional breaks layer that originates from other drum
recordings, a synth stab for the bass, sidechain compression
on the main sample, and then the brass stem, which I also
bounced out from the first project for some flexibility. Theres
also a single kick and snare, and the main sample is used
with different treatments throughout the track.
Hal shares another trick, which involves splitting and
spreading his home-grown sample across a MIDI keyboard.

Bouncing an audio process: Whereas Steve has detailed knowledge of mic


positioning and vintage kit, Wezs function is to be a second

file out of a project


set of ears; use his specialist expertise in mixing and give his
valued opinion for how the tracks will transfer to different
formats. Wez adds: Its difficult to mix your own production

encourages you to do
work and it can be hard to get everything to its best.
He continues by talking us through his setup: Hals room
is more about being in the right headspace for writing and

something different working together whereas my room is incredibly dead, which


can actually be a bit depressing when youre doing long

with the material


shifts. The JBLs are for an imperfect-sounding PA reference
and Ive had them since I was 11, so I know them inside-out. I
find the iPod Dock is good for checking sibilance as they
distort easily when its not quite right.
Asides from sending the album to Finyl Tweak for
This hands-on interaction is quite common in the sampling mastering, weve reached the end of this vintage-inspired
world, but its fascinating to see Hal take his work to another journey. From the three studios we can see and feel how the
level of creativity and generate new ideas. different surroundings and interaction with all involved could
make for a highly dynamic and creative environment
Second set of ears through the entirety of the album you can hear the level of
The third studio in the production chain is located across the effort applied, and how enthusiastic the performances and
building from Hals studio and belongs to commercial dance Harlem Breakdown, subsequent writing is in the second baking stage. We have
music mix engineer Wez Clarke. Wez has the Midas touch baking stages 1 and 2: already been inspired to try these techniques and encourage
Logics Flex Markers
when it comes to mixing and has numerous hits under his you to do the same by baking your work as required. MTF
were used to tidy up
belt, including tracks by DJ Fresh, Example, Tinie Tempah and timing issues as Hal
James Arthur. prefers to use first All These Things Are Gone and both singles are out now and
takes to capture
Wez is surrounded by an impressive array of monitoring energy and spirit Hals vintage drum samples are available on Vintage Breaks
options consisting of Avantones, Yamaha NS10s, JBL PA rather than laboured 1 & 2 from Sample Magic.
speakers, an iPod Dock, an iPhone speaker and some rehearsals and www.theyoungpunx.com
perfection but a
interesting-looking combo sub, mid and high-range monitors potential lack of facebook.com/theyoungpunx
made by ME Geithain. Hal tells us about Wezs role in the enthusiasm. www.samplemagic.com/search/vintage%20breaks

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 77


MTF Feature Studio monitors

78 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Studio monitors Feature MTF

MTF Feature Studio Monitors

So what are the best monitors in the world today? MTF recording expert
Huw Price has the answers, no matter what your budget.

S
ince we first hit the shelves over a decade ago we have reviewed a
decent number of studio monitors some relatively poor, others
life-changingly good. And while many are sadly no longer in
production, the best tend to stick around, so we thought it was time
for a round-up of our favourites.
Were concentrating on nearfields and have divided our choices into five price
bands. Everybody has to work to a budget, so well examine what you can expect
to get for your money and what you cant. Well also be sharing some tips to help
you make the best of what you have and providing some technical information
about drive units, enclosure design and room correction.
When we consider other
items of audio recording
hardware such as mics and
preamps, we often make
If you want speakers that make
subjective decisions to
achieve specific goals. So we
everything sound good visit your
may prefer a valve mic for a
vocalist not because its
local hi-fi emporium
accurate, but because the
HF roll-off and fat midrange flatters a particular voice.
But choosing a set of speakers should not be based on subjectivity. If you want
speakers that make everything sound good just visit your local hi-fi emporium.
Good monitors must be able to tell us what is actually going on during sessions
because we base critical decisions on what we hear. Monitors that roll off below
60Hz may disguise issues with low-frequency garbage that can eat up a lot of
your tracks energy. Similarly, if speakers are voiced brightly, we may not realise
that our mix is lacking in high frequencies so it sounds dull when played on other
systems. Creating tracks that translate well onto other systems is the
fundamental challenge, so we need monitors that inform rather than entertain. Its
tough, but choosing monitors is one of the most crucial decisions you will make.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 79


MTF Feature Studio monitors

BUDGET CHOICES
W
e start, of course, at the budget end of You may also need a dose of power if your
the scale. Its cheaper than ever to set up workspace has been acoustically treated with
a studio as so much of the grunt work absorbers. The treatment soaks up acoustic energy,
can now be done inside a computer. In so you may be obliged to push your speakers harder
theory, then, this should leave cash for those to achieve decent volume. Inefficient drivers and
still-important bits of choice hardware, like monitors. insufficient amplification will make it more likely
So as a magazine, we always suggest that you throw youll push your monitors into distortion. This is
as much money as you can afford at monitors the equally bad for your tweeters and your hearing, plus
most important link in your production chain. it will alter your perception of HF content.
However, we also understand budgets are tight these For accuracy you might be better advised to go
days, so if you find yourself lacking in funds or in for smaller speaker enclosures with higher-quality
need of a second set of cheaper monitors, dont components. Size and power wont be of such
worry: there is
plenty of choice at
the lower end of
the market.
You might decide that youre
In this price
bracket its
prepared to trade accuracy for
inevitable that
compromises will
volume and lots of bass
need to be made,
however, so potential purchasers will need to concern in smaller rooms, but the
prioritise. For instance, if you need the speakers only compromises may be less volume and ESI AKTIV 05
for recording and you tend to mix in a commercial bass then again, how much do you really Price 218/pair Contact
studio, you might decide that youre prepared to need? If your budget is tight, consider Time+Space 01837 55200
trade accuracy for volume and lots of bass qualities buying a pair of high-quality monitors ESI claims to be the first
manufacturer to offer
that may vibe-up musicians and help them to now, with a view to augmenting your
Kevlar-coned drivers in this
perform at their best. system with a subwoofer later. price range. Theres no
equalisation adjustment
and control is limited to a
MTF Technology Enclosure types single volume pot. An XLR/
TRS audio input socket is
Most of the monitors featured in this round-up those up to the Transmission-line designs provided with power
1,200 bracket have reflex-ported enclosures with a hole (or holes) can be more expensive to switching on the rear
located on the front or rear of the cabinet. This hole (or holes) allows make and much depends on the panel. 60 watts of onboard
the air inside the cabinet to move more freely so that the drivers length of the transmission line amplification is split evenly
dont have to work against such high internal air pressure. The port and the effectiveness of internal between the drivers.
Web www.esi-pro.com
can be tuned to boost the lower frequencies, which introduces absorption, but the results can be
unevenness into the frequency response. Its also very common to amazing. PMC is probably the most
hear wind turbulence at the opening of the port (often referred to as famous transmission-line monitor
chuffing) at particular frequencies and expensive ported monitors manufacturer and its products are
are not always immune. found in mastering rooms as well as
Infinite-baffle enclosures are completely sealed, so there are no recording studios.
vents or ports. The bass extension of this cabinet-
type of speaker is closely related to cabinet size.
Illustration of
Larger cabinets are required to achieve a flat
a typical
frequency response down to 40Hz or so, and the transmission-line
sheer size may be impractical in project studios. enclosure design.
Full-frequency infinite-baffle designs are mostly
found in the upper price range and many engineers
regard phase performance as superior. Interestingly,
the iconic but tiny Yamaha NS10 was an infinite-
baffle design, which is probably whey they were
always criticised for lack of bass.
Transmission-line cabinets contain a long
tapering tube with an abundance of internal
absorption material that enables relatively small
cabinets to achieve excellent bass response in
comparison to equivalently sized ported and
infinite-baffle enclosures.

80 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Studio monitors Feature MTF

MTF Buyers Guide 6 of the budget best

M-AUDIO BX8 D2
Price 249/pair Contact M-Audio 01923 204010
These sport an 8-inch curved Kevlar woofer and a
1-inch silk-dome tweeter, plus specially tuned
Linkwitz-Riley crossovers distributing 130 watts. The
rear-ported cabinet has a natural frequency of 30Hz
and rounded edges to reduce diffraction. Audio ins are
made via XLR or jack.
The BX8 sounds big and generates righteous
volume. HFs are bright and transparent, but
thunderous bass steals the show. With no LF
adjustment youll have to adjust your ears before mix
transferability is guaranteed. There is some lack of
midrange clarity and depth, so room ambience and
reverb may be hard to detect or even inaudible, but we
really enjoy the larger-than-life vibe.
Web www.maudio.co.uk

BEHRINGER B2030A TRUTH FLUID AUDIO F5


Price 246/pair Contact Behringer Price 199/pair Contact Hand in Hand
+49 215 492 064 1667 01752 696633
The Behringer Truth has twin amps (75W and The F5 has 70W of Class A/B bi-amp power. It has a
35W) feeding a 6.75-inch polypropylene 5-inch woofer with a composite paper cone and the
woofer and a domed 3/4-inch ferrofluid- tweeter is a 1-inch treated silk dome with an integrated
cooled tweeter, active crossovers and a waveguide. The magnetically shielded enclosure
low-vibration MDF cabinet. Measuring 214 x features a front port slot located beneath the woofer
317 x 211mm and weighing in at 10kg apiece, and the front-mounted volume fader is a first for us.
these are solidly constructed and have
balanced XLR/TSR ins, level control, treble/ The onboard power is impressive for the cabinet
bass adjustment and room correction for size, so theres no shortage of volume. In fact we
lowering bass range. thought they sounded better when they were pushed
They are sensitive to positioning, but harder. With a very decent sound quality for the price,
once set up come over as forthright, wed feel very confident mixing through the F5s.
energetic, flexible and non-fatiguing. With an Web http://www.fluidaudio.net
airiness reminiscent of more expensive
monitors we feel that Behringer has quite
possibly pulled off a minor miracle.
Web www.behringer.com

ADAM F5
Price 349/pair Contact Adam 020 7737 3777
The F5 is the entry-level model in the affordable F Series.
The ported enclosure is 290 x 185 x 230mm and contains a
5-inch carbon/paper woofer and Adams signature ART
(folded ribbon) tweeter. Inputs include XLR/TRS/RCA and
the F5 features auto-standby mode. EQ adjustment
comprises +6dB adjustment at 5kHz and 300Hz plus a
80Hz filtering for subwoofer use.
The F5s live up to expectations, with clarity, crisp
imaging and impressive bass extension. They have a
forward midrange so leaner mids may require an
adjustment period before you can judge levels with
precision. We also noticed that very low-frequency dubby
bass lines tended to drag a little, but given its price point
the F5 is a remarkable and accomplished monitor.
Web www.adam-audio.com
PRODIPE PRO 8 V2
Price 349/pair Contact Music Track 01767 313447
An 8-inch glass aramid woofer is paired with a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter driven by 140 watts
of power. Balanced inputs are XLR/TRS and although theres no bass equalisation, treble can
be set to -2dB and +1dB and the volume control provides -30dB to +6dB of adjustment.
Yielding a big sound with plenty of power, theres no shortage of bass but theres no sense
of hype. Prodipe takes the bottom end to the limits of the cabinet/driver but no further. This
leaves room for the midrange to breathe, with natural-sounding vocals and realistic guitars.
The treble is also unhyped and non-fatiguing and the Pro8s seem to enjoy being pushed hard,
filling out nicely without losing cohesiveness. Decent all-rounders that deliver a hint of the
high end at a bargain price.
Web www.ipemusic.com

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 81


MTF Feature Studio Monitors

MTF Buyers Guide 6 of the best midrange

EVE AUDIO SC205


Price 699/pair Contact Nova Distribution
020 3589 2530
Two-way with a 5-inch SilverCone woofer and an AMT
ribbon tweeter. The woofer has a honeycomb structure
and glass fibre coating for stiffness. Analogue inputs
feed Burr-Brown converters, allowing the signals to be
processed digitally before reaching the PWM-class
digital amplifiers. A multi-function front knob adjusts
volume, activates standby and accesses filter settings.
The SC205s have nicely controlled and clear bass
and a remarkably open and deep soundstage. With
natural acoustic recordings you get a real sense of the
recording space. Theres no hype in the low mids/upper
bass and its very even down to 50Hz. Low-end
performance is impressive, while left/right imaging is
crisp and fine details are conveyed with ease.
Web www.eve-audio.com

FOCAL CMS-40
Price 564/pair Contact SCV London 020 8418 0778
Recommended for post-production and home
studio use as well as full-size pro studios, two 25W
Class-A/B amplifiers power a 10cm Polyglass cone
woofer and an inverted dome tweeter. The
reinforced cabinet has the level control and power
FOSTEX PM 8.4.1 switch on the front. LF and HF shelving switches
Price 499/pair Contact SCV London 020 8418 1470
apply +2dB correction from 450Hz and 4.5kHz.
Three-way monitors are uncommon in this price bracket.
Rubber feet and table stand minimise vibration.
Papered Kevlar woofer (8-inch) and midrange (4-inch) sit
These look small but sound huge. We detected a
with a 3/4-inch soft-dome tweeter. The speaker enclosure
small amount or port turbulence, but weve heard
is divided for the bass and mid drivers. Measuring 270 x
far worse. Imaging is outstanding, bass lines are
432 x 290mm and weighing 13.6kg youll need space and
deep but tight, and transient response is lightning-
sturdy stands.
fast. Without being bright, hyped or forceful, the
Producing a loud, room-filling sound with well
degree of detail and clarity is simply amazing.
proportioned bass they are also clear and transparent. The
Web www.focalprofessional.com
treble can be strident and there was a little port chuffing.
Web www.fostex.com

ADAM A7X
Price 750
Contact Adam 020 7737 3777
The A7Xs supersede the much loved A7
range, adding new technology that allows
the tweeter to produce sound as far as
50kHz. A 7 inch mid woofer and
front-firing ports handle a deep and solid
bottom end, and each driver has its own
amplifier. The tweeter is driven by a 50
watt A/B amp and the woofer by a 100
watt PWM amp. The front panel contains
a power switch and volume control, and
these speakers produce a clear, powerful
sound that will help you accurately mix
and master your tracks.
Web www.adam-audio.com

DYNAUDIO BM5A MKII


Price 782/pair Contact HHB 020 8962 5000
A rear-ported enclosure contains a 7-inch woofer, wire-protected 26mm soft-dome
tweeter and 90W of amplification. There are boost/cut switches for HF and LF and an
attenuation switch for the low-mids. The HP filter with Flat/60Hz/80Hz settings allows
the BM5As to be matched with a subwoofer and the input level can be set to +4/0/-10dB.
With the frequency switches set flat the BM5A produces a huge, room-filling sound
with deep bass that retains its rhythmic drive, punch and harmonic content. Stereo
imaging is way above average and the soundstage is very deep. Essentially neutral in
character, the comprehensive equalisation allows them to be used in rooms with or
without acoustic treatment.
Web www.dynaudio.com

82 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Studio monitors Feature MTF

MIDRANGE
T
he 400800 range is where feature lists harder to figure out whats going on in the low end of
start to grow and sound quality starts to your mixes especially if your workroom isnt fitted
ramp up. Its also at this point that out with acoustic treatment.
everything else seems to get a bit bigger, too. Rather than looking for monitors that are bigger,
Most monitor manufacturers provide a range of bassier and louder, consider other features in this
products but it is most obviously at this price point price range. For instance, you will often find quite
where there will be some correlation between price sophisticated equalisation adjustment that will help
and cabinet size, power, driver dimensions or maybe integrate your new monitors into your workspace. You
even a combination of all
three. In a range of
similarly speced Many monitors in this price
monitors youll
typically get bigger range offer professional sound
woofers and larger
cabinets for your quality and work superbly in
smaller rooms
EVENT 20/20BAS hard-earned cash.
Price 758/pair Contact
These features
Hand in Hand 01752
696633 may not
Quoted power figures necessarily be as desirable as they may also find front-mounted power/standby switches
include 80-watts initially might sound. For instance, if you and volume controls. Also, investigate high-pass
long-term power, work in a very limited space, it may be filters, which will make it much easier to augment
120-watts burst power and harder to place larger cabinets in the your left/right satellites with a subwoofer if and
250-watts peak power into
ideal listening position. when funds allow.
the woofer. Rear controls
set gain (+12dB), HF shelf Also, larger enclosures will usually Many monitors in this price range offer
and LF shelf (both +3dB). mean more bass, but at the cheaper end professional sound quality and work superbly in
You can really crank the of the market more doesnt always smaller control rooms. Indeed, we think you wont be
20/20s without losing mean better. If the bass response is disappointed with any of the six weve listed. But if
clarity, low-end composure hyped too much, youll probably find it you have more money, turn the page
or your sanity. They are
upfront but non-
aggressive, have character
without colouration and
MTF Pro Technique Positioning monitors
left/right imaging is very If you dont set up your to compromise on speaker placement, but youd be advised to avoid
sharp. Youll hear plenty of
monitors properly you will the issue when determining your studio layout, locating things such
detail, with room ambience
and reverb tails clearly never get the best out of that you avoid problematic placement.
audible, but the 20/20 them. Most manuals contain a Your working position should be exactly in the centre of the
doesnt have an especially rudimentary setup guide but speakers and you will need to listen carefully to determine the
deep soundstage. So the issues are worth addressing correct amount of toe-in. If you dont get this bit right, your monitors
theyre less involving with again here. wont be imaging properly.
acoustic music, but excel
Firstly, well assume that your Conventionally, the lead vocal will sit squarely in the centre of
with electronica and rock.
Web www.event1.com room already has some basic the mix ditto the kick and snare. Turn each speaker towards the
acoustic treatment even if its just centre by a couple of centimetres until the audio image becomes
some foam panels, a rug on the floor solid and clearly located in the centre of the mix. Youre aiming to
and maybe some diffusors (check pages combine solid centre images with the widest possible stereo
6671 if not). If your room has issues such spread. If you go too far and the stereo seems too narrow, it means
as reflective surfaces, standing waves and theres too much toe-in.
flutter echoes you cannot hope to cure your
problems by buying a more expensive set of
monitors. Youll simply be wasting your money.
For a conventional stereo monitoring setup, both
speakers must be positioned at exactly the same
height with the tweeters firing towards your ears when
you are in your usual working position. Studio monitors are
often placed sideways to align the tweeters with your ears.
However, most monitors are designed to work upright and generally
sound better that way because theres less interference from sound
waves reflecting off the surface of the mixing desk or workstation.
If you put speakers against a wall or, even worse, in corners Avoid positioning your
monitors too wide. Ideally,
the bass end will rise dramatically. Active monitors are sometimes the arrangement of you and
equipped with compensation controls if space restrictions force you your monitors should form
an equilateral triangle.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 83


MTF Feature Studio monitors

MID TO HIGH
W
hen youre investigating speakers in the Individual tastes vary just as much as room
8001,000 price range there should be acoustics so the ideal set of monitors will satisfy
no necessity to compromise on sound both. Most distributors should allow you to audition
quality or power. By and large, the speakers in this price range. But when you do, dont
enclosures will still be front- or rear-ported, although just listen to your favourite CDs because poorly
other options may now be available to you. produced tracks will often sound worse on accurate
Also at this level, the law of diminishing returns monitors and you will already have an idea of what
applies. By this we mean that when you upgrade to expect. Instead, if you can, do some recording/
from hi-fi or computer speakers to your first set of mixing work and check the results you get on a
active monitors youll find that it is a massive step variety of systems.
and you can easily

You need to be able to hear


appreciate what
the extra money

everything clearly if you are


spent has meant to
your production
FOCAL CMS-50
to work efficiently
process. But
Price 892/pair Contact
moving from a
SCV London 020 8418 0778
600 set of This monitor is the
monitors to a award-winning middle-size
1,000 set of monitors is unlikely to be a life- Finally, at this price point you tend to model of the CMS range.
changing or dramatic experience ie, the start getting very accurate monitors. Dont You get a 5-inch woofer,
improvement-to-investment ratio deteriorates. be surprised if these become tiring during beefy 80W/50W
amplification and a rear
The criteria professionals use to select and assess long mix sessions.
power switch with a
studio monitors are generally quite different from Mix for accuracy on more expensive standby switch on the
those of semi-pros and hobbyists. You need to be able sets and switch to a set of cheaper front. EQ controls include a
to hear everything clearly if you are to work monitors for a more pleasurable switchable high-pass filter
efficiently and be confident that your mix decisions experience and comparison (not to (45, 60 and 90Hz) for
will be correct. mention a rest). subwoofer use and a 160Hz
desktop notch filter
(-2/-4/-6dB).
They have a slightly
MTF Technology Isolation open and transparent
Its important to isolate your monitors as much as possible. Avoid 7.5cm or 20cm to align the character. Bass is deep
and the extra range seems
putting speakers directly on surfaces such as wooden shelves, work tweeters with your ears or tilt
to decongest the midrange.
desks or hollow boxes because these will resonate and alter the back or forward for use on a The metal covers are great
sound youre hearing. An otherwise tight and well-controlled bass meter bridge or desktop. for mobile engineers but
response may become boomy and flabby. If you have a pair of follow Focals advice and
Hi-fi freaks often pay more for speaker stands than the speakers particularly large and heavy remove them for optimal
themselves. Fortunately, cheaper and more practical speaker speakers, placing them on sound quality.
Web www.
stands are available for studio use. Studiospares own-brand stand concrete blocks is a cheap and
focalprofessional.com
is sturdily made with a weighty triangular base, a height-adjustable cheerful solution thats surprisingly
shaft and detachable carpet spikes. You can also get shorter effective. Just pay a visit to your local
speaker stands such as the K&M 26790 for shelf and desktop use. builders merchant.
Isolating the speaker from any resonant surface
can further tighten up bass response and you can
An acoustic
reduce vibration transfer by minimising the area of
decoupling
physical contact between the speaker cabinet and device can help
the surface its resting on. Speaker spikes are ideal, eliminate
vibration if you
especially on the bottom of speaker stands if theres need to stand
carpet involved. your monitors
Alternatively, acoustic foam can be placed on a desktop.

between the cabinet and the mounting surface.


Auralex offers some very cost-effective solutions.
More sophisticated products augment the foam
with added mass from heavy metal plates and
dense rubber, and the Silentpeaks SPK Isolator and
Primacoustic RX9 are worth a look.
We currently favour the IsoAcoustics ISO-
L8R155 adjustable speaker mounts. As well as
providing isolation it can raise monitors by either

84 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Studio monitors Feature MTF

MTF Buyers Guide 6 of the best mid-to-high end

SONODYNE SM 200AK
Price Around 800/pair
Contact Synthax Audio 01727 829750
The flared, rear-ported enclosure is made from 15mm
MDF with a rigid aluminum front baffle for the 8-inch
Kevlar woofer and 1-inch metal-dome tweeter. The
front panel is angled for driver time alignment. The
front baffle has curved edges and an integral
waveguide for the treble frequencies. Power is rated at
150W for the woofer and 100W for the tweeter. Four EQ
DIP switches are provided at 70Hz, 100Hz and 4kHz.
The power and loudness will vibe-up any room and
the energetic low end gets right inside your chest. The
treble is wide-open and clear, with plenty of air and,
although the soundstage could be deeper, theyre well
suited to aggressive rock and electronica.
Web www.sonodyne.com

EVE AUDIO SC207


Price 960/pair Contact Nova Dist 020 3589 2530
These are from the same 2-way driver series as the
SC205 but the woofer is 7-inch rather than 5-inch. The
rear-ported bass enclosure has been made larger, and
extension reaches down to 44Hz. Nonetheless, the
SC207s fit comfortably onto a meter bridge or into a
project studio and EVEs ingenious and simple-to-use
front-mounted multi-function controller handles
GENELEC 8030
Price 858/pair Contact Source Distribution
volume, treble, bass and mids.
020 8962 5080
The SC207 handles bass frequencies superbly,
Genelec has a real sci-fi look going on with its
providing rhythmic drive without boominess. Upper
minimum diffraction die-cast aluminium casings and
frequencies are airy yet not excessively bright. Imaging is
Directivity Control Waveguide. The 8030A features
crisp with deep and natural room ambience. The
two 40W amplifiers powering a 5-inch bass/midrange
desktop midrange cut is superb and the SC207s
driver and a 3/4-inch metal-dome tweeter. A range of
integrated into our monitoring system seamlessly.
DIP switches fine-tune the treble and bass settings
Web www.eve-audio.com
and a volume control is located on the front.
We found best results were achieved when
ACOUSTIC ENERGY AE22 ACTIVE listening dead-centre, with the monitors toed-in to
Price 880/pair Contact 01285 654432 point directly at you. Openness is captivating, with a
Looking like its designed to sit sideways on a stand or big, broad soundstage, a slightly upfront presentation
meter bridge, the tweeter is at 45 degrees to the and unusually precise stereo imaging. The 58Hz
woofer so you can stand them upright, too. Controls low-end limit may not be enough for music with heavy
include Sensitivity (Flat/+3dB) and three-way switches bass content, but the 8030As should prove just the
for H, M and LF adjustment. The latter is unusual as ticket in smaller studios.
you can roll off 3dB at 70Hz or add 3dB at 40Hz. Web www.genelec.com
Once they start pumping air, you can really feel the
thump of the bass and the kick drums. They dont go
super-low, but the bottom end is solid and controlled.
Attenuating the midrange dramatically opens up the
sound, with the AE22s excelling for vocals. Recordings
that tend to sound harsh or sibilant are easy on the
ear. The treble is smooth and refined but this may
gloss over rough edges and users should be aware.
Web www.acoustic-energy.co.uk

YAMAHA MSP7
Price 838/pair Contact Yamaha 01908 366700
Designed by the father of the NS-10 Mr Nakamura, the MSP7 features a resin-molded
bass-reflex enclosure with radiused corners and waveguide. A 6.5-inch woofer combines
with a 1-inch dome tweeter to be driven by 80W and 50W amps. In addition to high and low
trim and low-cut switching the speaker has preset 30dB/octave low- and high-pass filters.
HFs are refined, even a touch soft, but the treble is realistic rather than over-hyped.
With acoustic material they create an impressively deep sound stage with a sense of air
and instrument separation in the mix. Electronic bass lines track accurately with plenty of
fast rhythmic detail. A full and forward midrange is the only shared feature with the NS-10.
Web www.yamaha-music.co.uk

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 85


MTF Feature Studio monitors

MTF Buyers Guide 5 of the best high end

THE ROCK MKII


Price 1,899/pair
Contact Unity Audio 01440 785843
Measuring 325 x 220 x 290mm and weighing in at
11.2kg, The Rock were Unity Audios debut
monitors when they were released back in late
2011. But what monitors they still are! Their real
strength is timing, being extremely fast-
sounding speakers that allow rhythms to flow
with a grace unheard of in other setups. This is
helped by the sealed construction, which keeps
the bottom end tight and super-clean. The
monitors also reveal exceptional dynamics,
trip-hammer speed and precision. They are
definitely, as Unity Audio claims, exceptionally
accurate if your mix isnt happening, they will
let you know. In terms of honesty, then, these are
among the best monitors you can buy.
Web www.unityaudio.co.uk

EVE SC305
Price 1,536/pair Contact Nova Distribution
020 3589 2530
Three PWM 50W amplifiers drive two 5-inch woofers
operating on different frequency bands (50Hz350Hz
and 350Hz3kHz) and an AMT RS3 tweeter thats
central for 5.1 compatibility as well as stereo. DIP
switches fix the volume and filter settings. Burr-
Brown A/D converters and high-resolution DSP
electronics control frequency response parameters.
We were struck by the even depth and solidity of
the bass. Left/right stereo imaging is very crisp and
theres plenty of air in the front/back image. With an
ear-friendly, effortless quality that opens up your mix,
the size of their sound belies the size of the cabinet.
Web www.eve-audio.com

MACKIE HR824 MK2


Price 1,020/pair Contact Mackie 01268 571212
A studio staple since the 90s, Mackies MKII version has an aluminum baffle and a 6-inch
passive radiator for bass extension (35Hz). Drivers include an 8.75-inch woofer and a
1-inch tweeter powered by 150W and 100W amps. Bass roll-off can be set at 37Hz, 47Hz
and 80Hz with +2dB HF adjustment.
Some report improvements on the originals but similarities are more apparent than
differences. They require air space around them for the radiator, so might not be ideal for
small rooms. Big-sounding, powerful and vibey monitors with good transferability once
you get to know them.
Web www.mackie.com

QUESTED S6R
Price 1,270/pair Contact Sonic8 08701 657 456
Theres a Morel tweeter and 5-inch Ciare woofer,
with 65W and 45W for bass and treble. Input levels
can be attenuated and frequency adjustment
allows +/-2dB at 10kHz and -2/-4dB at 42Hz.
Detail resolution is phenomenal. The S6Rs dont
convey a mix so much as dissect it. Acute
awareness of acoustic ambience lends such
hyper-realism its almost unnerving. Technical
details are laid bare and you dont even have to
struggle to hear them. Left/right imaging is
razor-sharp and front/back imaging depth is
uncommonly good. The S6Rs almost vanish,
opening a window into the music.
Web wwww.quested.com

86 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Studio monitors Feature MTF

HIGH END
B
efore we get into our penultimate category, realistic and will reproduce the feel of a groove
lets do a bit of jargon-busting. Monitor better. Always check how well monitors deal with
manufacturers often claim that their percussion sounds, picked acoustic guitar, fast piano
products sound neutral, which means that parts and rhythmic bass lines with lots of low-
they dont colour the sound. It is risky to make frequency content.
equalisation and balance decisions on coloured- Mix sessions usually take several hours, and our
sounding monitors unless you know them extremely ears inevitably become tired. Some monitors will
well. Cheaper monitors

All the monitors in this price


are voiced for a quick
sale generally with
SE MUNRO EGG
range should sound neutral,
Price 1,650/pair Contact over-hyped treble
Sonic Distribution or upper-bass.
0845 500 2500
image superbly and be
Mixes need
For its first studio monitor width and
sE collaborated with

easy to listen to
depth, so
designer Andy Munro. An
through the
ovoid enclosure helps
eliminate diffraction and use of
resonance. Amps and panning, reverb and delay we can place induce listening fatigue earlier than others, which
controls are separate and individual elements in a mix at specific makes critical decisions that much harder. Always
the Egg has an adjustable points between the left/right and front/ audition monitors over a prolonged period and
stand plus LEDs to aid back of the stereo image. When we praise beware of speakers that sound bright and aggressive.
setup. A three-position MF
the imaging it means the monitors are Needless to say, all the monitors in this price
switch provides flat, hi-fi
and NS-10-like frequency able to reproduce mix placements with category should sound neutral, image superbly,
responses. A 6.5-inch precision and solidity within the stereo respond quickly and be easy to listen to. Very
woofer and 1-inch tweeter image. Unfortunately, imaging ability occasionally youll also encounter monitors systems
get 50W each. cannot be measured. that almost vanish sonically speaking. This tends to
Listening tests felt like Monitors with fast transient be the preserve of the high end, although, as well see,
sitting in on a live recording, response sound more lifelike and you can spend even more if you dare...
with each instrument
clearly positioned left and
right and in the soundstage
depth. Outstanding bass MTF Technology Driver types
reproduction and fast
Microphones turn sound is insufficient for low-frequency applications but they can be used
transient response reveal
details that may be waves into an alternating for used for tweeters. Known for low distortion and extreme clarity,
inaudible on other electrical current and ribbon tweeters used to be quite expensive and esoteric but
monitors. While exhibiting loudspeakers perform the companies such as Samson are now making affordable ribbon
no harshness, the brutal same function backwards. tweeter monitors, and folded ribbon designs from modern
honesty wont flatter. Once While its a gross manufacturers like Adam and Eve are more robust and efficient.
your mixes sound good on oversimplification to say that a Electrostatics are the loudspeaker equivalent of the condenser
these, you can be confident
speaker is a microphone operating microphone. They are mostly seen in hi-fi applications but some
theyll translate.
Web www.seelectronics. in reverse, the relationship between engineers who work in classical music use them too. No energy is
com driver technology and microphone wasted as heat and they exhibit very low distortion, but some find
elements is surprisingly close. There them lacking in top end and a subwoofer will usually be required to
are three main categories of studio mic: fill out the very lowest frequencies.
moving-coil, condenser (aka
electrostatic) and ribbon and three
corresponding types of speaker. This a cross
The vast majority of woofers and section view of
the folded
tweeters have a coil of wire suspended in a ribbon design
magnetic field just like moving-coil mics. In used by EVE
microphones, sound waves cause movement of a Audio speakers.

diaphragm thats coupled to the wire coil. The coil


moves inside the magnetic field, which induces an
alternating electrical current. With speakers, the amplifier
provides the alternating current for the voice-coil. The coil is
attached to a cone, which is moved backwards and forwards by
electromotive force and sound waves are generated.
Ribbon and moving-coil microphones work in similar ways.
Ribbons tend to be very small and delicate, so the surface area

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 87


MTF Feature Studio monitors

LUXURY It goes back to what we said at the start of


this feature. Many people are spending less on
hardware instruments and effects

A
unsurprisingly, given the fact that there are so
nd so we hit fantasy land with monitors many good and relatively cheap plug-ins now
that will set you back 2,000 or more. Again, available so have more budget for the
its the law of diminishing returns in this super-important components of the studio. And
territory. You can spend more than 5,000 monitors are important... But whether you
on a set of monitors but they might offer only a tiny want to spend 1,000s on them is a purely
percentage increase in quality (both in terms of personal decision. If you think not then feast
sound and build). To many engineers, however, that your eyes on these anyway.
extra percentage is crucial to their work, Youll be tempted MTF
so this is a surprisingly thriving
part of the market.

MTF Buyers Guide 4 of the best ever

EVENT OPAL
Price 2,360/pair Contact HHB 020 8962 5000
The aluminium chassis has two front ports running along the curved edges
a design called variable impedance porting that eliminates chuffing while
extending bass to 35Hz. The woofer cone excursion is 36mm and a secondary
coil is wired in parallel/out-of-phase to enhance force and response speed.
The ULD1 beryllium copper tweeter and waveguide were designed as a unit
and the waveguide can be rotated for sideways use.
With two onboard amps rated at 387W and 112W, comprehensive EQ
controls work with a Space control that adjusts for speaker placement. Bad
mixes will be ruthlessly exposed because the Opals are brutally honest.
Every frequency seems to occupy its own space in a faultless frequency
balance, yet it all sounds joined-up. The effortless bass is deep and
extremely well controlled, while imaging is as crisp as weve ever
experienced. We cant fault them.
Web www.event1.com

BAREFOOT MICRO MAIN 35


Price 4,935/pair Contact KMR Audio 020 8445 2446
Four drive units share 350W and two side-mounted
FOCAL SM9 7-inch aluminium cone subwoofers fire in opposite
Price 4,290/pair Contact directions to minimise resonance. The mid/bass driver
SCV London 020 8418 0778 has a 5-inch cone and the 1-inch tweeter is of the
Two monitor systems in a soft-dome variety. EQ adjustment is minimal, but a Sub
single enclosure. One side Level control allows some bass adjustment. The
has a 6.5-inch bass/ Standard switch recesses mids, brightens treble and
midrange driver and a provides steeper bass roll-off.
1-inch tweeter. The other Immediate impressions include loudness, intensity,
has an 8-inch bass woofer neutrality and ultra-solid bass. The term revealing
with an 11-inch passive hardly does them justice. Deficiencies and imbalances
radiator. You can switch in mixes become glaringly obvious, allowing you to work
between 2-way and 4-way quickly without struggling to hear details.
systems. Theres extensive Web www.barefootsound.com
frequency adjustment and
an EQ bypass switch.
Weighing in at no less than
35kg each they measure
320 x 490 x 390mm.
These are superb
nearfield monitors but THE BOULDER
without the usual missing Price 5,160/pair Contact Unity Audio 01440 785843
frequencies. While LFs are At 549 x 256 x 368 (HWD) and weighing 23kg, these are
non-directional, hearing big monitors. There are two 180mm Elac woofers with
ultra LFs at ear level rather an extremely tight and clean bass that extends down to
than feeling them in your 39Hz. Mid and high frequencies are handled by an
chest takes getting used to. interesting dual-coaxial ribbon design.
Imaging is surgical, and The Boulders sound like no other boxed speaker
transparency world-class. weve heard more like electrostatic panel speakers
Web www. renowned in hi-fi circles for purity and accuracy. Theres
focalprofessional.com no boom or bass overhang, no midrange glare and no
fizzy treble, just natural and faithful reproduction. They
produce astonishingly accurate audio and once you get
used to them they will make you a better engineer.
Web www.unityaudio.co.uk

88 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


FIRST WITH REVIEWS
FIRST WITH NEWS
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MTF Interview Optimum Mastering

MTF Interview

Time to call
the pros?
This magazine is dedicated to explaining the process of mastering and how you can do it within
your DAW, but sometimes its best to get the pros in and they dont come more reputable
than Optimum Mastering, which counts Portishead and Courtney Pine among its clients...

S
hawn Joseph is the director at Bristol-based The desk is one of a kind, offering the lowest possible
Optimum Mastering which has been providing a profile between monitor and listener. All of the gear is housed
bespoke mastering service since 2004. With a in pods linked by steel tubing to carry the cabling. Everything
specially created mastering suite costing in I need is at arms length, metering is at eye level and
excess of six figures to construct plus many, horizontal surfaces are finished in NEXTEL Suede to cut
many high-end pieces of hardware, its easy to see why you down on reflections.
might choose its services over doing it yourself, especially We also use the TC Electronic System 6000 Mastering
when prices start at just 50 a track. MusicTech Focus meets system, Shawn continues. I first used a TC Electronic M5000
Shawn to discuss todays mastering challenges and how in 1995. Creation Records and others were looking to
technology has changed the production landscape duplicate some of the hotter CD levels coming back from the
Optimum
I started my career in 1990 at The Exchange in London States. The M5000 was more than up to the task and I have
Mastering
and worked in various studios across London, he explains. I selected kit list used TC Electronic compressors and limiters ever since. I
am originally from the South West, so when the opportunity Avid Pro Tools LE have a System 6000 module and use it every day. If you do
came to move back I jumped at the chance. Bryston 7B SST need to put your foot down they can return a joyfully loud
Optimum Mastering is based in Bristols Paintworks, an amps master without the tiring artefacts (if you use it carefully).
Cedar Duo
old paint factory which is now a thriving arts and media And now to the all-important monitoring setup
Declickle
community. The main room was designed by Recording Cedar DeNoise I use PMC MB2-XBD monitors with OFC cable powered by
Architecture and built from the ground up in an eight-month Neumann VMS- Bryston 7B SST amps, says Shawn. Nearfields are PMC TB2s
period prior to Optimum opening in 2004. 70 lathe and Yamaha NS10Ms. Vinyl is cut on a lovingly restored
Neumann
Its a floating-floor construction with natural light Neumann VMS-70 cutting lathe with Neumann SAL74B amps.
SAL74B amp
designed specifically for mastering with our choice of monitor, PMC MB2-XBD The hardware has not changed since we opened, Shawn
Shawn reveals. It was a labour of love but its comfortable, monitors concludes on the gear front. Although I would love to splash
accurate and vital in offering professional reference. PMC TB2 out on new toys, mastering is more about what you do with
monitors
Optimum Mastering has since established itself as one of them, and often overlooked is the room itself, which sets us
Prism Sound
the best mastering houses in the country, with a big list of ADA-8 converter apart from refurbs.
high-profile clients (see box). Shawn puts this success down Prism Maselec To which we neatly arrive at the mastering process
to both the facility and their experience: I like to think its MEA-2
mastering EQ
because of our musical knowledge across all genres and our Prism Maselec
Common problems
empathetic approach, he says. We have a proven track MLA-2 As you might expect, the number one problem is lack of
record of successful releases and clients all across the globe mastering dynamic range, Shawn replies, when asked about the most
compressor
who keep coming back. Whats more, no one is going to let you Sadie 6
common problem he faces at Optimum. If you crush
loose on their album unless they are confident you know workstation everything on the mix buss or feel obliged to print louder than
what you are doing. TC Electronic anyone else, there is no point sending a track to mastering.
System 6000
Usually we send it back, which is not great if you have a tight
Yamaha NS10
High-end hardware monitors deadline, but we would be doing you a disservice if we didnt.
We quickly get into the nuts and bolts of the gear as Shawn Z-Systems I do appreciate that sometime a mix doesnt sound
runs through Optimums main components: We have the z-16.16r Digital finished without that little touch of SSL glue. But once
Detangler Pro
latest Sadie 6 workstation with Cedar DeNoising including transients are lost, I cannot get them back. By all means, if
Plus: an array
Retouch. Within the setup is a Prism Sound ADA-8 converter, of analogue and you need to normalize before you road test, go ahead, but
Prism Maselec MEA-2 mastering EQ and Prism Maselec digital playback please take off any of this additional processing before
machines
MLA-2 mastering compressor. submitting to us.

90 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Optimum Mastering Interview MTF

No one is going to let


you loose on their
album unless they are
confident you know
what you are doing
MAGAZINE Mastering 2014 | 91
MTF Interview Optimum Mastering

So has the advent of greater technology for all meant that something loud, but it is what keeps all music engaging. The
Optimum
mastering houses get better or worse mixes? Mastering way in which you achieve that in the session will be deciding
Quality hasnt really changed, says Shawn. I can get a selected clients on what to do first.
great mix from a basic setup and a shocker from a big studio. Portishead
More than anything, the advent of the project studio has Roni Size The online option
made it possible for many more people to make and release Courtney Pine As with many other mastering houses, Optimum has an
Jazzy Jeff
music without the traditional structure of studio and record online option and its very easy to access
Polar Bear,
deal, which is great. Consequently, there is a little more hand- Funeral For A There are real people at this end and we like to say hello
holding but I dont mind walking someone through the Friend first so do get in touch! says Shawn. Indeed, its this service
process if it shakes off some of the mystery that has been Get The Blessing that Shawn believes is the future for professional mastering
perpetuated for far too long. Franck Roger houses with some caveats
Louie Vega
It has opened us up to clients all over the world, he says,
The Blue
And solutions Aeroplanes but I am wary of it becoming more automated because I
So assuming that a track is not too compressed, how would a Pinch believe a good mastering service is as much about human
typical mastering session progress? Peverelist interaction as it is convenience. I dont want a dropdown
As many sessions are unattended it will start with a Appleblim, menu when I go for a haircut!
Anthony Joseph
consultation, either over the phone or by email, says Shawn. The Answer, Neil
Also, we are lucky to be Mastered For iTunes-accredited
It is important for me to understand what the artist or Davidge and I am excited at the prospect of listeners being able to
producer is trying to achieve and where in the market they John Parish, enjoy ever-higher-resolution audio. It wont happen overnight
Beak
see themselves. Also, there may have been time or budget on a grand scale because of commercial considerations, but
Steve Bug
constraints which meant they were not happy with a Luciano
there are already smaller labels offering uncompressed,
particular element in the mix. Attack Attack! high-res downloads. As storage media becomes cheaper and
As to the process, Shawn continues, in my opinion it is The Treatment bandwidths increase it wont be long before listeners hear
not enough to know which dither algorithm to use. Your Max Raptor things completely as the artist intended.
chosen engineer must understand the genre before preparing Maya Jane Coles Finally, Shawns clearly picked up a tremendous amount of
and many more
a master for the market. If its an album, I will try to listen to knowledge and experience and is keen to pass it on
the whole thing before trying to pull it together as a coherent Although Im not done with engineering just yet, its
piece of work. I might try different monitors and different important for me to give something back to the next
volume levels. generation of producers and engineers, he says. I am
At this point I think more about the appropriate tools for increasingly asked to pass on some knowledge and I already
the job in hand. I EQ most things in analogue before making invite local colleges and workshops for tours and find it
further adjustments in digital. Personally, I use broad strokes tremendously rewarding. MTF
to get me in the ball park and make ever-decreasing
adjustments until I am happy with the balance. Im not Further information
particularly averse to plug-ins but I reach for the outboard Optimum Mastering
first and foremost. Bath Road
Shawn then details how the process varies according to Paintworks
musical type Bristol BS4 3EH
Different genres will all have different objectives, he
says. Dance music is usually designed to move feet; rock T: 0117 971 6901
music often to knock you off your feet. We are lucky in that E: info@optimum-mastering.com
we cover both extremes and everything in-between. All W: www.optimum-mastering.com
require a different approach. Some may want a loud master,
some may want the music to draw a listener in. Either way, I The online mastering dropbox is at https://dropbox.
will try to preserve dynamic range as much as possible. That yousendit.com/Optimum-Mastering
might sound like a bit of a contradiction when I do deliver Single tracks for digital are 50

MTF Insight Should we all be going one louder?


Its a question that seems never to receive a definitive
answer, so we put it to Shawn and get a very emphatic
no it seems he has very definite opinions on the
loudness debate.
Of course we should all be working quieter, he
states. I support the aims of the Turn Me Up!
organisation (www.turnmeup.org) and admire its
championing of dynamic music. It shows a
fundamental lack of understanding to request
quantity over quality, but I am no audio snob. If a loud
and noisy band feel that decibels are a vital part of
their output or a pop act want to be able to survive
shuffle mode I am not going to give them back Shawn Joseph: keen
something below expectations. We are a service to keep dynamic
range in music.
industry, after all.

92 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


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MTF Reviews Aphex 500-Series modules

was strong in the lower-mids and

APHEX exhibited none of the brittle harshness


usually associated with low-voltage

500-Series modules
valve designs. However, neither did it
have the silky warmth of more
expensive valve designs. The A Pre
performed admirably on vocals:
Aphex has launched a range of 500-Series modules, comprising everything was clear and the low end
still benefited from the engaging of the
three preamps, EQ, compressor and exciter. Mike Hillier plugs in. high-pass filter, but not as noticeably
as the Dual RPA. The low-mids seemed

A
Details phex, along with API, was Limiter technology, which limits the a little less pronounced, too, with a
Price Comp 500 325 among the first manufacturer signal before the preamp stage, slight nasal quality around 2kHz a
Dual RPA 500 520 to take advantage of the ensuring that the preamp isnt common complaint of ours when
A Pre 500 325 500-Series format with its overdriven by high-transient inputs. working with the SM58.
J Pre 500 390
versions of the 602 Aphex Aural Exciter, The A Pre and J Pre are largely Of the three, though, it was the J Pre
EQF 500 325
EXBB 500 162
the EQF-1 and EQF-2, back in the early similar the A Pre using a custom that we liked most. It had a similar
Contact MSL 80s. Now that the format has achieved Cinemag input transformer, the J Pre quality to the A Pre but with slightly
Professional such popularity, its no surprise to see using a Jensen JT-11K8 input more polish. On softer vocalists the
020 7118 0133
the company back with a range of new transformer. Both have a Jensen Dual RPA might have edged it over the
Web
www.aphex.com modules, as well as an upcoming JT-11DL output transformer. Like the J Pre, but on this specific male voice the
USB-equipped rack. Dual RPA, the J Pre also utilises Aphexs J Pre was a clear winner.

Preamps
Three of the new modules shipped to us The Dual RPA takes a unique
by Aphex are mic preamps, comprising
the two-channel Dual RPA valve approach to valve amplification
preamp and two mono solid-state
preamps with different transformer inspired by the Aphex Channel
options, the J Pre and A Pre.
The Dual RPA takes a unique, Mic Limiter at the front to limit the Switching to a Sontronics STC-1
patented approach to valve incoming signal before the preamp with an omni capsule and an acoustic
amplification inspired by the Aphex stage. Aphex also claims there are other guitar we again opted for the J Pre. The
Channel and 207D preamps. This differences in the circuitry between the A Pre arguably picked out a little more
technology, which the company has A Pre and J Pre, designed to give a detail from the strings, while the Dual
dubbed Reflective Plate Amplification, slightly different flavour to each. RPA again brought subtle colouration
is actually a hybrid design employing a We began testing the preamps on that would suit some recordings, but
discrete, transformerless solid-state vocals, using a Shure SM58, and were the J Pre had the focus in all the right
Key Features
front end feeding a 12AT7 valve output impressed with the response of each places. The low-mids were big but not
Approved by the
VPR Alliance stage running on low-voltage power preamp. The Dual RPA brought out the boomy and the top end was smooth
Analogue rails. A single 12AT7 valve amplifies proximity effect quite strongly so we perfect for strummed folk guitar. The A
circuitry both channels at fixed gain, with a engaged the 75Hz high-pass filter, Pre, on the other hand, may be a better
3 different
single triode stage for each. The Dual which really cleaned up the signal, choice for capturing a more detailed
preamp options
RPA also features Aphexs unique Mic revealing a smooth, rich sound that picked performance.

96 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Aphex 500-Series modules Reviews MTF

Finally, we tested the three preamps Tracking a vocal through the J Pre
Alternatives
as instrument inputs. Each has a into the EQF we were able to tighten up
Once you have a 500-Series frame, the options
1/4-inch Hi-Z input on the front, so we the performance, removing low-end available to you are huge. Some of our favourite
plugged in a bass guitar and drove the rumble from the bottom with the preamps, EQs and compressors are now all
available for the 500-Series, but few can match
units a little harder to see what sounds high-pass filter, bringing out the clarity the Aphex modules on price. The Lindell Audio
we could get. Again, the J Pre was our with a high-end shelf, and adding a little modules, however, are similarly priced, and the EQ
favourite, providing a strong, deep more weight with the low frequency set and compressor in particular offer quite different flavours from the
Aphex options weve reviewed here.
punch with a smooth midrange that to peaking rather than shelving.
could be easily EQed to provide a range On acoustic guitar we applied both
of great bass sounds. The Dual RPA had filters to top-and-tail the sound into the 500-Series module. The Aural Exciter
less low end than the J Pre but a mix, and again used the low-frequency enhances the high end of the signal
stronger, more pushed midrange, which bands to bring out weight in the bottom while the Big Bottom does a similar trick
would really shine in mixes where the end. The mids were then cut around in the low end. Usefully, it responds
kick was carrying a lot of the sub- 2kHz to leave more room for the vocal. dynamically, enhancing the low end
frequency information. However, we felt Dialling in the EQ curve you want is more as the level drops and backing off
that the top end of the Dual RPA was a quick and easy, and while an extra mid when the input rises, ensuring that the
little brittle compared to the other two, band and better Q control would prove bottom end remains consistent.
and wed probably want to filter this a useful in some cases, for most tracking The Big Bottom is great for adding
little stronger. we prefer to go with only a small amount depth to a kick or bass instrument,
of EQ anyway, leaving most of the tonal especially if the recording lacks in this
EQ shaping until later in the mix. dimension. It can be a useful alternative
The EQF 500 is a three-band semi- to the NS-10 sub kick mic trick. We also
parametric analogue EQ with high- and Compressor enjoyed using it on some sampled horn
low-band filters. Its based on the The Comp 500 is an optical compressor parts we were mixing. The Big Bottom
original EQF 2 module from 1982 but with a custom opto-cell, again brought out a growl in the samples that
with modern components (including a employing a Jensen JT-11DL output made them more realistic than the
Jensen JT-11DL output transformer) transformer. The opto-cell has been samples on their own.
and an improved layout to make using designed to respond as fast as possible By contrast, the Aural Exciter
brought out mostly noise and bleed

Each of these modules has its from other instruments on our kick
channel, but placed on the vocal it

own uses, but its together that helped to raise the air around the voice,
enhancing not only the clarity but the

they become most useful sense of space. It would be very easy to


overuse a product like this apply it on
too many channels and any benefit is
EQ easier than ever. The high and low for an optical compressor, but Aphex lost as the tracks once more mask each
bands of the EQ default to shelving- has built a Release control into the unit other. But when used sparingly on vocal
style EQ, but can be switched to to slow down the response and behave or a lead guitar it can be sensational.
peaking EQ. There is no variable Q; Q is more like classic optical compressors, Each of these modules has its own
fixed at one octave at maximum boost such as the Teletronix LA-2A. uses and merits, but its together that
Method Spot
and the filters are fixed at 12dB/octave. Optical compressors are versatile they become most useful. Link one or
The Big Bottom
The filters and EQ can be bypassed units, and its great to see one available other of the preamps with the EQ, processor is a great
separately, which is a useful touch, in the 500-Series format at this price. compressor and EXBB and you have an tool for putting
enabling you to experiment with your On vocals, with a slow release, the Comp incredibly versatile channel strip. The some low end into
your kick. We often
settings and quickly bypass either the 500 can help smooth out a performance EXBB, though, is unique, and we can see find that after being
filters or EQ without affecting the other. without it sounding overly compressed; plenty of engineers wanting to compressed by the
drums buss that the
The EQF 500 is a great tool the at faster settings it can be used to incorporate it in their racks. MTF
low end can start to
filters are smooth and incredibly useful handle the dynamics a little better disappear slightly.
when tracking, especially when without sounding too spiky, but we MTF Verdict To bring it back we
processed the buss
combining the EQF 500 with a found this also brought out some of the + Three different preamp flavours into M/S and put
compressor like the Comp 500 as they unwanted vocal sounds that were kept + Optical compression the Big Bottom on
enable you to roll off the frequencies low in the mix at slower release settings. + Stereo link option on compressor the mid channel
+ Exciter and Big Bottom units in a before processing
you dont want before the mix hits the Unlike some other optical units weve back into stereo.
single module
compressor, ensuring unwanted used, the Comp 500 doesnt impose a This ensured that
the low-end
frequencies dont trigger compression. strong sound of its own, and theres only - No stereo link on EXBB 500 enhancement was
The semi-parametric bands are a small amount of top-end roll-off. The - Fixed Q EQ kept to the centre
simple and effective and theres no unit also comes with a stereo link switch and not spread out
The Aphex 500-Series modules across the stereo
harshness in any of the bands when that will make it possible to use two
make a great addition to any rack. field, creating a
boosting. However, without any control Comp 500s on your drums or mix buss. Whether used individually or stronger, more
over the Q it is difficult to notch-out together to create a custom stable mix. Be
careful to keep the
specific problem frequencies. Instead, Exciter channel strip, they all have their
phase aligned when
the EQF should be thought of as more of The EXBB 500 combines the latest own place in the studio. doing this, as any
a general tone-shaper while tracking,
leaving more specific EQing to the mix.
iteration of Aphex Aural Exciter and Big
Bottom technologies in a single mono
8/10 latency will disrupt
the stereo image.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 97


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PMC twotwo.6 Reviews MTF

Alternatives
PMC is pretty much out there
on its own as a large-scale
manufacturer of compact
transmission-line monitors.
Other models include the
twotwo.5 and twotwo.8. If you fancy building
your own passive transmission-line speaker,
IPL Acoustics offers several kits (344727/
pair). DSP signal processing is becoming more
common in monitors and other manufacturers
using this technology include PreSonus,
Genelec and EVE Audio.

indistinct for the record theyre not,


but the twotwo.6s just took things to
another level of transparency.
The detail resolution is phenomenal.
One of our reference tracks features a
jazz guitarist who occasionally taps the
top of his pickups with his plectrum

PMC Choice Editors Choice while playing. This barely noticeable


detail sounded clear and obvious.

9/10
9
9/10
twotwo.6
Bass content is handled smoothly
and evenly with not even a trace of wind
or mechanical noise. In our room the
response appeared to start rolling off at

PMC accepts the realities of modern music production with new around 50Hz, but the twotwo.6s were
still able to reproduce clear bass tones
monitors featuring DSP EQ adjustment. Huw Price tries them out. down to 30Hz. Watch this space,
because PMC tells us that a matching

T
Details he Advanced Transmission Line interesting because it reacts only to subwoofer is scheduled for release.
Price 4,192/pair (ATL) cabinet is a PMC staple, transient peaks rather than applying a If we were to get really picky about
Contact HHB but the twotwo Series has blanket limiter to the programme the bass we might say that some
020 8962 5000
features that represent a bit of material. Once again, the DSP stage speakers may convey the rhythmic
Web www.pmc-
speakers.com a departure. By and large, PMC has makes this possible. aspects of dubby bass lines with
maintained that acoustic issues are not High- and low-frequency shelving marginally more speed and tightness,
its responsibility, and consequently adjustments can be made in 0.125dB but were really talking about large and
didnt provide EQ-adjustment controls. increments. The shelf frequencies are expensive infinite-baffle types.
Thats all well and good if you spend 1kHz and 500Hz. You can also set a The principal reason the twotwo-6s
your life working in treated acoustic low-frequency slope at five frequency are outstanding is that nothing stands
environments, but most of us find points with a 6dB/octave filter. The out. Theres no low-mid hump, forward
ourselves recording and mixing in twotwo.6 has four push-buttons for midrange or glassy treble sheen and the
less-than-perfect rooms from time to adjusting settings, along with a small balance remains constant regardless of
time. So the big news is that the twotwo LCD screen on the back panel to let you level. The depth of the soundstage is
series has equalisation adjustment; the see what youre doing. incredible and left/right imaging is
even bigger news is that the signal is Two or more twotwo Series speakers about as crisp as it gets. If you prefer
processed digitally. In fact, the twotwo can be connected via In/Thru RJ45 listening to your speakers rather than
Series are the only PMC nearfields to sockets. The first speaker in the chain listening to the music, these may not be
feature EQ adjustment other than the provides volume data and digital audio for you. But if you want a clear and
ultra-high-end AML Series monitors. to subsequent speakers, and an neutral window into whats going on
optional remote control (due for release with your mix, the twotwo-6s deliver
Analogue and digital later this year) can be connected to its everything you could ask for. MTF
The twotwo.6 accepts analogue and In socket.
Key Features AES3 digital inputs up to 192kHz. The manual is replete with
MTF Verdict
Black/blue finish Analogue signals pass through a gain placement tips and diagrams. The + Outstanding clarity
Crossover + Pinpoint imaging
stage that should be adjusted to utilise twotwo.6s can be used upright or
frequency:
the full scale of the 24-bit A/D converter placed on their sides. In both cases, the + Extended bass
1.8kHz
+ Analogue and digital inputs
Dimensions: 406 that follows. Next in line is the DSP offset tweeter must be positioned
x 194 x364mm
+ Onboard EQ
controller for volume, driver response, towards the centre, so the left speaker
(HWD)
Drive units: 6.5 EQ, crossover and overload protection, in sideways mode becomes the right - Power switch at rear
inch LF, 27mm after which the signal is converted back speaker in upright mode. - No auto standby
soft dome HF - No optical digital input
to analogue to feed two Class-D power
Frequency
response:
amps, with 50W and 150W allocated to Open wide Outstanding sound quality with
4025kHz the tweeter and woofer respectively. Effortless clarity is the order of the day. DSP-controlled equalisation and
Amplification: After sample-rate conversion the We had our usual monitors set up right extended bass response.
200W Class-D
Weight: 8.4kg
digital signal is sent directly to the DSP
stage. The overload protection is
alongside the twotwo.6s and by
comparison they sounded muffled and
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 99
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AMS Neve 1073N Reviews MTF

Alternatives
AMS Neve still manufactures the
original 1073 modules as well
as rackmount chassis for these.
Chassis and clones of the 1073
module are also available from third-
party manufacturers such as BAE. As well as
the original design, AMS Neve makes the 1073
DPA and DPD models, which lack the EQ section
but provide two 1073 preamps in a 1U rack unit.
The DPD model also includes A/D conversion.
More recently, AMS Neve introduced the
1073LB and 1073LBEQ 500-Series modules.

AMS NEVE Excellence The 1073LB is a mono 1073 preamp without EQ,
while the 1073LBEQ omits the preamp section,

10/10
1073N
providing only the EQ.

On male vocals, through a Neumann


U87, the 1073N again sounded stunning,
AMS Neve has revisited the venerable 1073 preamp and EQ and by engaging the EQ we were able to
design once more. Mike Hillier charts the changes. radically shape the vocal without the EQ
sounding forced. It isnt as flexible as the

T
Details o the layman it may only be a components. This enables the circuit to four-band 1081 but it sounds glorious.
Price 1,795 four-digit number, but mutter remain otherwise identical and fully Not everyone likes to EQ on the way in,
Contact AMS Neve ten-seventy-three to a sound discrete, while creating enough room for so the 1073 also accepts line-level
01282 457011 engineer and youll get a the additional connectors. signals, which enables you to use the EQ
Web www.ams-
neve.com
knowing response. The Neve 1073 as a standalone unit, making the 1073N
preamp has achieved such legendary Testing times doubly useful in the studio.
Key Features status that even now, 44 years after its We tested the 1073N on an indie rock For our final test we plugged our
Discrete Class-A launch in 1970, it remains in production song we were recording, shooting it out bass into the DI input on the rear of the
preamp and is the first-choice preamp for many against a Neve 1081 and a Classic API 1073N. This isnt an option on original
3-band EQ recording engineers. The transformer-
Built-in Hi-Z

If youre looking for a desert


input
balanced inputs and outputs, discrete
Can be chassis- Class-A circuitry, high-pass filter and

island preamp, this has to be


mounted or used musical three-band EQ work together to
standalone
create a rich, larger-than-life sound.

on your shortlist
It would take a keener eye than ours
to spot the differences between the
1073N and an original by looking at the
front panel alone. However, peek around
the back and anyone familiar with the VP28 on kick drum via an Electro-Voice 1073s or our other preamps, and is one
original unit is in for a surprise. The RE-20 mic. Although very similar- of the few changes to the original 1073
original 1073 had an Amphenol sounding, the 1073N had a stronger low circuit. The hefty low end and larger-
connector on the rear that provided end than the 1081, with plenty of than-life sound of the Neve again shone.
power, audio and control connections sub-frequencies as well as more The bass sounded big, clean and
when plugged into a console or rack definition in the upper mids, making for punchy, a perfect starting point for
chassis. The 1073N still has this a stronger, punchier kick. Against the almost any situation.
connector, but breaks all of the VP28 the Neves demonstrated a The 1073 circuit is famous for a
connections out to their own ports and brighter top end and the low-mids were reason: it sounds great on everything
has switches to replace controls that cleaner. However, it was in the you throw at it. The new 1073N variant
would otherwise be built-in to the sub-frequencies where they really brings greater flexibility and is sure to
console or chassis. This means that the stood out, producing a weightier bottom see the preamp appear in even more
1073N can be used in existing end than the tighter-sounding VP28. studios than before. If youre looking for
compatible Neve consoles and rack To ensure a fair test we kept the a desert island preamp, this has to be
chassis, but can also be taken out on output stages of both the 1081 and on your shortlist. MTF
the road or installed in a studio without VP28 at unity. However, it is worth noting
a compatible chassis just like any other that both these preamps could be MTF Verdict
piece of rack gear. driven harder to get preamp saturation
In order to accommodate these and then attenuated to prevent them + Larger-than-life sound
+ Incredibly musical EQ
additional connections AMS Neve has from overdriving the A/D converter, + Portable
had to shrink the 1073 circuit which gives them a slight advantage if + Includes DI input
considerably. This is of course possible thats the sound youre after. The 1073N
with integrated circuits, but the folks at would have to be used with a rack - No output attenuation
AMS Neve werent going to sully the chassis or console to gain the passive The 1073N brings portability and
1073 design with anything but discrete attenuation stage, as including this in extended flexibility to the
circuitry. To shrink the circuit, therefore, the standalone mode would have meant legendary 1073 design.
AMS Neve moved from through-hole
components to smaller surface-mount
altering the 1073 circuit something
AMS Neve was unwilling to do.
10/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 101
MTF Reviews Eve Audio SC207

for the woofer so its 50 watts up on


Alternatives
the SC205. Of course, its not so much
Given the similarities of the
about maximum volume but rather tweeter design, the Adam A7X
pre-distortion headroom. Headroom is (826/pair) is an obvious
competitor for the SC207. The A7X
important because youll experience features a carbon/rohacell/glass woofer
greater clarity and less ear fatigue. Eve (100W) and an X-ART tweeter (50W). Also
claims a maximum output level of check out the cast aluminium Focal CMS-50
(892/pair) with 80W/50W amplification, a
106dB (SPL@1m), which should be more switchable high-pass filter (45/60/90Hz) for
than enough for any project studio. subwoofer use and a 160Hz desktop notch
filter (-2/-4/-6dB).
Between the analogue inputs (RCA
and XLR) and the re-emergence of the
sound waves into the physical world, Depending on the amount of bass
the signal is processed digitally. trapping you have in your room and the
Burr-Brown converters handle the proximity of the SC207s to walls/corners
transformation from A to D, after which you may experience slight tubbiness in
the signal can be manipulated by Eves the lows with very bass-heavy program
DSP engine before entering the PWM material, but for general-purpose
amplifier stages. listening its hardly noticeable.
This onboard processing has We have come to expect the upper
enabled Eve to install an ingenious frequency response of monitors
multi-function control knob on the front equipped with this type of tweeter to be

The SC207s deliver high-


EVE AUDIO Choice frequency energy without
9/10
9
9/10 sounding bright or forced
SC207 panel. It switches the SC205s in and out
of standby mode (where it idles at
airy and wide-open. The SC207s
certainly do not disappoint in this
The bigger brother to the SC205 is yet 1-watt power consumption) and regard, managing to deliver high-
another product from Eve to come our provides access to several different frequency energy without sounding
filter settings to tailor the response to excessively bright or forced in any way.
way. Huw Price gives his verdict. your working environment. Left/right stereo imaging is crisp and
theres plenty of depth to the

B
Details y comparison to Eve Audios Filter fun soundstage, with a realistic and natural
Price 960 (pair) SC205, the greater internal Press the knob once and the volume sense of room ambience.
Contact volume of the rear-ported ramps up gradually. This is a nice safety It has to be said that setting the
Nova Distribution
020 3589 2530
bass-reflex enclosure and the feature, plus they ramp down on frequency response using a front-
Web larger woofer of the SC207 combine to switch-off, too; the LEDs illuminate up mounted control with clear metering
www.eve-audio.com extend the bass response down an to the preset volume level. Press the was a real treat for us far better than
extra 9Hz, to 44Hz. This 6.5-inch knob again and the High LED lights up, having to climb over a pile of gear to
SilverCone woofer has a honeycomb and you can move the knob to select peer at tiny DIP switches. We found the
structure and glass fibre coating for High, Desk or Low. Press the knob once Desk midrange cut superb and the
maximum stiffness. Its driven by a more and you can adjust the levels at SC207s integrated into our monitoring
sophisticated magnet system with a four pre-selected frequency bands. system seamlessly with a further 1.5dB
Key Features 1-inch voice coil to optimise linear High- and low-shelf filters are of treble filtering. MTF
Free-field excursion and dynamic range. provided at 3kHz and 300Hz
frequency range:
44Hz 21kHz
The resemblance between Eves respectively. There are also two Desk MTF Verdict
Tweeter: AMT
folded ribbon tweeter and those filters that allow you to compensate for
+ All controls on front panel
RS2 featured in Adam monitors isnt merely the effects of reflected sound waves. On + Impressive low-end weight
Mid-woofer: skin-deep Eve company founder the SC207s you can cut up to 5dB at + Transparent acoustic quality
165mm/6.5-inch
Roland Stenz was a co-founder of Adam 170Hz or boost up to 5dB at 300Hz. + No port-chuffing
Crossover
(in charge of production and finances You can also change the LED display + Nice and loud
frequency:
+ Ease of use
3,000Hz though not product design or R&D) in or switch it off completely. DIP switches
Max SPL: 106dB
+ Standby mode
1999 and remained with the company on the back panel enable you to disable
Output power:
until 2010. This RS2 AMT (Air Motion the equalisation and volume - Best placed away from walls
150W
Transformer) ribbon tweeter was adjustment. Once you have the SC205s and corners
Protection
limiter designed and manufactured specifically set up how you like them you can lock
XLR & RCA inputs
A fine-sounding pair of monitors
for Eve monitors and features a bigger the level and filter settings individually with excellent sound quality and
Dimensions
front plate and a larger magnet. using DIP switches on the rear. ber-convenient and practical
(WxHxD): 215 x
330 x 280mm A PWM amplifier with built-in The SC207s handle bass frequencies front-panel controls.
Weight: 8kg limiters to protect the drivers provides
50 watts for the tweeter and 100 watts
superbly, providing rhythmic drive with a
pleasing absence of boominess.
9/10
102 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Serpent Audio SB4001 Reviews MTF

user controls does mean that the unit is


Alternatives
quite versatile, allowing precise setting
We are not familiar with any other
of compression parameters. Fully double-width 500-Series stereo
adjustable pots are provided for Gain compressors; however, we were
extremely impressed with Lindell
and Threshold, while other common Audios 7X-500 compressor (229).
compressor controls are stepped. This is something of a pro-audio
Six compression ratios are available, bargain, but two would be required
for stereo operation and they would
from a gentle 1.5:1 up to 10:1, which have to be very carefully set up to achieve a
takes the unit into limiter territory. true stereo picture.
Attack times come in 12 steps between
0.1ms and 50ms, while release times
can be selected by means of pre-set days for units such as this to feature
steps or via a continuously variable pot some sort of vintage colouring option,
that operates between 0.1 and 1.2 and the SB4001 has a push-button
seconds. The stepped release times can labelled Grind that adds a valve-like
be selected at three classic settings harmonic saturation to signals when
0.3, 0.6 and 1.2 seconds while two engaged; this feature can be used to
Automatic Release settings offer enhance signals even when
program-dependent response times. compression isnt taking place.
The first of these A1 (Classic Auto We found the SB4001 to be a very
Release) behaves in a similar way to capable and versatile compressor. Used

SERPENT AUDIO the aforementioned SSL compressors, gently with no vintage sonic colour, the

SB4001 The sonic rewards are plentiful,


with numerous compression
Serpent is aiming to satisfy every sonic
desire with its Lunchbox-format styles at hand
SB4001. John Pickford sounds it out.
giving a fast release time on fast unit is very even-handed and quite

F
Details
or many years, the 19-inch-wide transients and a slower response with transparent, but when pushed hard it
Price 999
Contact rackmount unit was the less dynamic sounds, while the second can produce some extreme
KMR Audio dominant format for studio Auto Release is faster, working well with compression effects. The filter section
020 8445 2446 outboard. While this size is still more rhythmically charged material. impressed us greatly, especially when
Web www.
serpentaudio.com very popular, it takes only a brief look at dealing with sub-groups containing
back issues of MusicTech to see that Curve ball significant bass content; treble spikes
the 500-Series also known as A very useful control is the Blend pot, can be tamed without bass instruments
Lunchbox style is becoming ever more which enables parallel compression kick drums, for example setting off
popular. US manufacturer Serpent effects to be achieved within the unit. the compressor. The Grind option
Audio has previously offered a version of We got some great sounds by over- proved to be a winner with all who
its stereo buss compressor as a DIY compressing the signal in Wet mode heard it, particularly on drum mixes,
project, and now, with a few tweaks, the and dialling in some of the dry signal to where it seemed to make the sound
SB4001 is available as a ready-built, restore natural dynamics. The filters both bigger and more cohesive.
double-width Lunchbox unit. also proved useful when compressing The crowded front panel makes
While the SB4001 is primarily signals with a lot of low end. setup rather fiddly, but the sonic
designed to be used as a compressor Five settings are offered, the first rewards are plentiful, with numerous
for stereo groups and mix busses, it can three being high-pass filters at 60Hz, compression styles at hand. MTF
also be used with mono sources, but it 90Hz and 120Hz, while the remaining
cant be used as a dual-mono device. two Boost and Slope send bespoke MTF Verdict
Employing Quad VCAs, Serpent Audio EQ curves to the sidechain, which again + Versatility
has seemingly voiced the SB4001 to be allow the upper frequencies to be more + Excellent sound
reminiscent of the classic SSL style of heavily compressed than low-end + Harmonic drive enhancement
buss compression that made Solid audio. These curves do not filter the + Useful filtering options
Key Features
State Logic mixing consoles so popular audio itself, just the frequencies to be - Crowded front panel
Quad VCAs
Relay-controlled in the 80s and beyond. The unit features compressed. The units sidechain can - Stiff switches and pots
true bypass eight control knobs crammed onto the also be triggered by making use of the
External/key front panel, making operation fiddly to mono balanced TRS connection on the The SB4001 performed very well
input with everything we processed
say the least; even slender-fingered front panel very handy for ducking
Grayhill and through it, whether it was providing
Bourns switches users may find this less than ideal. This effects or de-essing an overly sibilant transparent levelling of vocals or
and pots arrangement is further hampered by the vocal by sending the track to an adding power and punch to drums
Wet/dry blend fact that several of the knobs are quite external equalizer and then sending and sub-mixes.
Grind harmonic
drive
stiff, making operation a bit awkward.
On a more positive note, the number of
the EQed signal to the Key Input
connector. Its becoming common these
8/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 103
MTF Reviews UA LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection

Alternatives
Waves CLA-2A ($200)
clearly borrows a lot
from the Teletronix approach, although
its not an officially endorsed version. The
modelling on the CLA-2A is up to Waves
For PC usual standards and includes the important
& Mac Emphasis control omitted from the legacy
LA-2A, but it misses out on the variety of
models included in UAs latest version.

Choice compression, so faithfully captured in

9/10
9
9/10 all three plug-ins, is in the unique
multi-stage release characteristics. The
LA-2A isnt the fastest tool in the box,
but its certainly more musical than
many quick-acting compressors. Its

UNIVERSAL AUDIO also interesting to see the inclusion of


an Emphasis control (not found on the

LA-2A Classic
legacy version), which performs an
interesting role, skewing the
compression to have a greater bias

Leveler Collection
towards high-frequency signals.

Living colour
By comparison to the reissued 1176

After ten-plus years of faithful service, the Teletronix LA-2A is UAs Classic Limiter Plug-in Collection
which demonstrated ten-fold increase
latest plug-in to receive a major overhaul. Mark Cousins listens in. in colour and character over the original
plug-in the improvements to the

F
Details ollowing the release of the the polar opposite to the flexibility LA-2A are somewhat more subtle. Of
Price $299 redesigned 1176 Classic Limiter offered by a chameleon-like VCA course, an optical compressor like the
Contact Source Plug-in Collection, it was compressor. In effect, the LA-2A is a LA-2A should be a gentler beast,
Distribution
020 8962 5080
somewhat inevitable that two-knob compressor, with Peak arguably offering substantially
www.uaudio.com Universal Audio would take an Reduction working as a form of improved distortion characteristics to
Minimum system opportunity to revisit some of its other threshold control, and a Gain knob to that of a colourful FET design.
requirements classic compressor plug-ins. The raise the signal back up to unity after Significant improvements over the
PC Windows 7 (SP1),
UAD-2
Teletronix LA-2A, therefore, is the latest compression has been applied. Both the original legacy plug-in include a
Mac OSX 10.6.8, analogue classics plug-in to reach its Silver and Gray versions of the plug-in noticeable lack of image collapse as
UAD-2 second generation. Its certainly a timely also come with an additional Limit/ you push the compressor harder, and
move, especially given that the original Compress switch, which provides some the intriguing input of the Emphasis
Key Features plug-ins are well over ten years old and influence over the ratio of compression. control, which helps to tailor the
Plug-in that advances in computing technology performance and colour of the
emulation means that plug-in developers now Tube traits compression in an interesting way.
of Teletronix
LA-2A Leveling have a significantly greater amount of Of course, the key issue for existing UAD Given increasing competition from
Amplifiers CPU resources to play with. users is whether this next-generation other plug-in developers, its pleasing to
Includes 3 LA-2A plug-in offers any tangible sonic see Universal reappraising key products
historic versions
Models entire
Optical illusions improvements over the original design. to ensure its still leading the field. The
electronic path In its hardware form, the Teletronix As with the 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-in LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection is a
Easy-to-use LA-2A was arguably one of the most Collection, one of the immediately perfect example of how musical plug-in
Peak Reduction revered optical compressors of its time, noticeable differences comes from the compression can sound, and, thanks to
and Gain
controls famed for gentle, musical compression. colour of the compressor, which the inclusion of 64-bit support, a
In its plug-in form, Universal Audio has suddenly seems to refocus the sound, cornerstone of software mixing. MTF
taken the opportunity to offer the even with only negligible amounts of
MTF Verdict
plug-in in three distinct flavours the compression actually taking place. The
well-respected late 60s Silver version key difference here is that the + Excellent LA-2A re-creation
of the LA-2A, an earlier mid-60s Gray additional DSP resources have given UA + Added Emphasis control
+ 64-bit support
version, and an ultra-rare early 60s the opportunity to model both the
LA-2. If you havent already got the sound of the transformer as well as the - Not ideal for extreme compression
original LA-2A plug-in, youll be pleased non-linearities of the tube amplifier. - Greater use of DSP resources
to note that you also get an The differences between the three
A timely update to a key product in
authorisation for the legacy version, plug-ins arguably comes down to their
the UAD arsenal. The LA-2A Classic
which is arguably still of merit given its unique response times, with the Silver Leveler Collection faithfully
lighter DSP usage. unit being the faster of the two LA-2A captures every nuance of a classic
The charm of both the plug-in and versions, and the LA-2 having the most optical compressor.
the hardware Teletronix LA-2A has to be
its limited control set, which is arguably
sluggish response of the three designs.
Of course, the charm of optical
9/10
104 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Adam F5 Reviews MTF

used in the AX series and described as


Alternatives
the next step in this continuous
Competition in this area of
evolution in tweeter design. A 5-inch the active nearfield monitor
woofer made from carbon and paper marker is fierce. By and large,
all of the options are two-way
and a 25mm voice coil handle the lows. units with magnetic shielding
Input connections can be made via and ported cabinets. Here are some examples
an XLR/TRS socket or an RCA. Power (detailed specs are easy to find online):
Yamaha HS50M (127), Mackie MR5 MK2
switching is located on the rear panel (140), KRK RP6 RoKit G2 (151), Monkey
but the F5 automatically switches to Banana Turbo 4 (162).
standby mode after a short period of
inactivity and switches back to
operating mode when it receives an over the F5s in terms of smoothness,
incoming audio signal. refinement and low-level detail, but its
Setup can be horizontal or vertical a close-run thing and its also worth
and the rear panels have M6 screw bearing in mind that the F5s are not far
threads for wall/stand-mounting. off half the price.
Controls are fairly minimal, with plus or So, Brownie points are awarded for
minus 6dB adjustment at 5kHz and clarity, imaging and bass extension
300Hz. Theres a centre-detented Level just make sure that the high-pass filter
control (- to +6dB) plus a high-pass is switched off if youre not using a
filter switch set at 80Hz that should be subwoofer. By comparison to some
activated when the F5s are being used monitors the F5s may seem a bit lean in
in conjunction with a subwoofer. the midrange. Having said that, however,

ADAM Choice Given its very competitive price


9/10
9
9/10
F5 point, the F5 is a remarkable and
accomplished monitor
Adams F-Series hits a price point below
Despite the fact that Adam is it could be attributed to the fact that
the successful AX-Series, but can it still trumpeting the affordability of these lots of small-box nearfield monitors
do the business? Huw Price is all ears... monitors, their appearance is so tend to have relatively forward mids.
consistent with many of Adams other So its more an observation than a

A
Details dams new F-Series monitors that you cant tell their price criticism, but a familiarisation period
Price 349/pair comprises a pair of two-way point just by looking. Of course this is a may be required before you can judge
Contact Adam ported nearfield monitors, the good thing, but the crucial test is snare and vocal levels with precision.
0207 737 3777
F5 and F7 (we reviewed the F7 whether you can tell by listening. However, we also noticed that very
Web www.adam-
audio.com in the March 2013 issue of our sister low-frequency dubby bass lines tended
magazine MusicTech and it scored a Great expectations to drag a little with the F5s. The
very respectable 9/10), plus a dedicated The answer to that has to be not really. frequency content is there, remaining
subwoofer designated the SubF. Were Having become very familiar with Adam strong down to around the 50Hz mark,
informed that the F-Series is designed monitors over the last few years we but the rhythmic integrity of fast,
in the tradition of the legendary Adam tend to expect a relatively bright tonal low-frequency parts does become a bit
Key Features professional monitors. The aim is to characteristic with impressive clarity lost. Even so, given its very competitive
Input focus on the essence of Adam speakers and sharply defined imaging. So were price point, the F5 is a remarkable and
connectors: at a new, lower price point. pleased to report that the F5s fully lived accomplished monitor. MTF
XLR/TRS/RCA
Frequency
Retailing for around 155 each, the up to expectations.
response: F5 makes the ambition of owning a set Our previous experiences with MTF Verdict
52Hz50kHz of Adam monitors a more realistic Adams has also led us to expect a
Woofer: + Very transparent sound
25W RMS
prospect for project studio owners. certain degree of port-chuffing, which
Measuring 290 x 185 x 230mm (HWD), is the sound generated by air + Excellent imaging
Tweeter: + No port-chuffing
25W RMS theyre compact enough for smaller turbulence at the opening of the + Auto standby mode
Weight: 6.8kg environments yet at 6.8kg theyre cabinet ports. To be fair this was absent + No bass hype
reassuringly weighty. Other suggested from the last set of non-F-Series
applications include desktops, mobile Adams we reviewed (the A77X) and - Slightly slow low bass response
- Power switches at rear
facilities, post-production edit bays chuffing is absent again. Perhaps the - Not magnetically shielded
and connection to MP3 players and waveguide and oval port have helped in
gaming consoles. this regard, but whatever the cure, it Adam looks and Adam sound
Adam speakers wouldnt be Adams seems Adam has overcome this issue. quality at an entry-level price. We
expect the F5 will be a big success.
without the companys signature X-ART For a long time now the Focal CMS
tweeter (aka Air Motion Transformer). It
is a little smaller than the X-ART tweeter
40 has set our benchmark standard for
small nearfield monitors. They score
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 105
MTF Reviews AWTAC Awesome Channel Amplifier

AWESOME TRANSISTOR
AMPLIFIER COMPANY
Awesome
Channel Amplifier
The name promises a great deal but can it deliver in the
studio? John Pickford asks the questions...

W
hen you call the results of and Neutrik jack inputs
Choice two-and-a-half years of are employed, which, like

9/10
9
9/10 product development
Awesome Channel
Amplifier, it had better be just that. So
all of the components,
feature gold-plated
contacts; this is a
says the Awesome Transistor Amplifier no-expense-spared,
Company and we totally agree. The high-quality design.
Details
Awesome Channel Amplifier is a
Price 1,320
double-width 500-Series unit that Short and sweet
Contact KMR Audio
020 8445 2446 comprises a microphone preamplifier, a While many audio manufacturers
Web line-level amplifier, three-band EQ, DI strive to keep signal paths as short as
www.awtac.com input and mixer. Several units can be possible, AWTAC takes a different
patched together to form a multi- approach, providing a multitude of
Key Features
channel mixer, and several of the amplifier gain stages and impedance instrument jack input completes the
Discrete internal
components
Awesome Channel Amplifiers features loading options to give the unit its sonic line-up of features on the left-hand
Grayhill rotary have been designed with this in mind, character. Microphone and line-level side of the unit.
switches such as the Left-Centre-Right passive
Neutrik jack

The Awesome Channel


mix buss reminiscent of those found on
input
Gold-plated
vintage consoles from the 1970s. In fact,

Amplifier aspires to the sound of


contacts the unit aspires to the sound of classic
mixers in many ways, achieving this by

classic mixers in many ways


means of top-quality, discrete internal
components, which include a Sowter
input transformer, Cinemag inductor
and custom-wound Crimson Audio
transformer. Grayhill rotary switches sources pass through six amplifier Moving to the EQ section, we have
stages, which, the company claims, has three bands that incorporate Baxendall
each been tuned to be complimentary shelving curves for the high and low
to the ones before and after it. ends, with selectable frequencies of
Input gain is controlled by a nicely 6kHz, 11kHz and 17kHz up top, and
sculpted, 12-position Input Selector 35Hz, 70Hz and 130Hz down below. The
Switch, with the first four positions midrange offers eight selectable
dedicated to line-level sources; the frequencies between 300Hz and 8kHz,
remainder provide up to 65dB of gain with 1kHz and 3kHz available in both
for microphones. narrow and broad Q settings. An
Below this are switches for phantom Equaliser Network Control Switch
power, a high-pass filter (12dB/octave activates the EQ circuitry, while an
at 130Hz), polarity reverse and the interestingly labelled Forward/Back
aforementioned L-C-R passive mix switch offers further tonal shaping,
buss. Following this is the Output Fader more of which later.
pot and a three-position Output
Transformer Loading switch that places Pre disposition
either a 1,200-ohm or 600-ohm load on Using the mic pre with our usual array
the output transformer, or removes the of microphones which include
loading resister completely. The Neumann condensers, Shure dynamics
and Coles ribbons we found the
The Awesome Channel Amplifier: a 500-Series fundamental sound character to be big,
unit comprising mic preamp , line-level
bold and generous, especially with a
amplifier, three-band EQ, DI input and mixer.
1,200-ohm load or no impedance

106 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


AWTAC Awesome Channel Amplifier Reviews MTF

loading at all. With a 600-ohm load, the reminded us of performing the classic
Alternatives
sound is more rounded and slightly less Pultec low-end-trick of
The Cartec Pre-Q 5 (699) is a 500-Series mic pre with
full in terms of bandwidth, proving to be simultaneously boosting and cutting, Neve-style EQ featuring transformer-coupled input and output
useful when tracking guitars and other giving plenty of low-end weight while stages and a useful attenuator control that allows fine tonal
shaping. Neves Lunchbox format 88RLB (834) is a very
mid-dominant sounds. Another sonic removing muddiness. even-handed performer that will appeal to those seeking a
flavour can be achieved by engaging The Forward/Back switch alters the more transparent sound.
the EQ switch without applying any EQ way in which the EQ interacts with the
boost or cut, sending the signal through output stage of the channel amp; similar offerings over the last few issues
the EQ circuitry to create a huge however, when A/B comparisons were particularly in the 500-Series format
saturated tone now this really does made we struggled to hear the but this does demand consideration.
sound awesome! difference. Its effect may be more Let your own ears be the judge... MTF

We feel that the Awesome MTF Verdict


+ Excellent variety of preamp tones
Channel Amplifier really does + Very musical EQ
+ Great build quality

live up to its name + Top-grade components used


throughout construction

- No metering
With the equaliser in operation its noticeable when several units are - 500-Series rack required
possible to boost or cut quite severely patched together, with different signals The Awesome Channel Amplifier is
without destroying the fundamental operating in different modes. just that. It evokes the spirit of
tone. Even at the highest levels the classic consoles of the 1970 with a
sound remains beautifully musical. The Awesome? big, full-on sound that makes the
very best of every signal that
17kHz setting in particular sounds In conclusion, we feel that the Awesome passes through it. Purists might
superb, adding a wonderful sense of air Channel Amplifier really does live up to crave a shorter signal path;
and space to everything it touches. its name. The mic pre offers plenty of however, they will miss out on the
Some very good bottom-end EQ curves characterful tone options, while the superb vibe this unit has.
can be created by boosting low-end
frequencies with the HPF engaged; this
equaliser provides oodles of musical
tone-sculpting. We have looked at many
9/10

Mastering Now: The Complete Guide


Manufacturer Music-Courses.com microscope. tracks, with each lasting between 60
DOmbrain begins and 80 minutes. These cover a large
Price 48.25
with a discussion range of plug-ins, with one focusing on
Contact Producertech 01273 252909
on the concepts Ozone 5, one on Waves and the final one
Web www.music-courses.com of mastering, on a mix of software. Although we
before turning his picked up plenty of tips, we occasionally

A
lthough you cant beat a fresh attention to found the pace a little sedate as
set of ears, years of analysing audio, DOmbrain works slowly through each
experience and a room full of analogue-versus- track. This could work well for some as
quality outboard gear for pro digital processing it will allow them time to take in the
mastering tasks, its now possible for and the signal information, but may frustrate others.
anyone to achieve polished results chain. The next Although slightly hampered by a
using software. You will, however, need ten videos go on lack of audio examples and clear A-B
to know the tools of the trade and how to discuss the comparisons of the various processing
to use them which is where this new main tools involved being applied, there is a mass of
course from Producertech and Zeitgeist in mastering, plus a handful of special information here that offers a thorough
Mastering comes in. tools such as harmonic excitement and foundation to anyone starting out with
Mastering Now: The Complete Guide Key Features tape saturation. In each case the mastering at home. MTF
is an online video course that aims to 17 videos, plus functions of the processors are
bonus video on
give a thorough grounding in the
preparing a track
explained in detail, with examples MTF Verdict
principles and tools typically used for for mastering covering the major software plug-in
An in-depth course covering all
home mastering. Its presented by 6 hours 45 versions. However, rarely do we actually
aspects of home mastering. What it
Berlin-based mastering engineer minutes get to hear what they sound like, as the
streaming video
lacks in clear audio examples it
Nicholas DOmbrain and contains 18 Covers a
track that they are processing is, for the makes up for in the sheer quantity
videos totalling more than six hours. large range most part, faded into the background. of professional tips and
The first half of the course explores of software Arguably more useful are the three information on offer.
theory, while the second puts three
real-world examples under the
including Waves
and Ozone 5 mastering videos that tackle heavy
electro, deep tech house and pop rock
7/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 107
MTF Reviews Yamaha HS7 & HS8S

YAMAHA
HS7 & HS8S Subwoofer
Continuing the design philosophy of the NS-10M and benefiting from developments in the
MSP range, Yamahas HS Series includes three nearfields and a sub. Huw Price fires them up.

J
Details udging by the look of these joints, the corners of the speaker are The drive units are newly designed
Price HS7 199 each. monitors, Yamaha still has no apparently very firmly anchored, especially for the HS series and employ
HS8S 458 intention of burning bridges leading to dramatically improved Yamahas advanced magnetic field
Contact Yamaha
01908 366700
with the NS-10. And why should durability and the elimination of any design to more efficiently regulate the
Web www.yamaha- it? A black enclosure with a mesh- unwanted resonance that can colour flow of magnetic response. The
music.co.uk covered tweeter and a bright white- the original sound. 6.5-inch woofer and the tweeter share
cone woofer is just about as iconic as

A black enclosure with a white-


studio monitor branding can get. Many
of us started our studio careers working

cone woofer is about as iconic as


with NS-10s, but even those who
learned to love them will likely concede
that things have moved on.
studio monitor branding can get
Key Features
HS7 Yamaha certainly has and the HS7
Type: bi-amp, is the latest addition to the HS Series,
2-way powered slotting size-wise in between the HS8
speaker
Crossover and the HS5. This series of active
frequency: 2kHz monitors has been designed and priced
Frequency specifically for home studios. A
range:
43Hz30kHz
150-watt active subwoofer designated
HS8S the HS8S has also been added to the
8-inch bass- line-up, so were pleased to be testing
reflex powered that along with a pair of the HS7s.
subwoofer
Frequency
response: Rockin the joint
22Hz150Hz Despite the specs, Yamaha claims that
150-watt
the new additions share the same
amplifier
Low Cut switch design philosophy as the legendary
Low Cut control NS-10M Studio Monitors and the
(80120Hz) subsequent highly acclaimed MSP
High Cut control
range. Featuring an advanced
(80120Hz)
low-resonance bass-reflex enclosure The Yamaha HS7 active nearfield has a 6.5-inch cone woofer and a highly efficient 1-inch dome
Phase switch tweeter for an extended high-frequency response up to 30kHz.
built with traditional three-way mitred

108 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Yamaha HS7 & HS8S Reviews MTF

Alternatives
The Yamaha HS7 is pitched at a competitive and
congested price point in the monitor market. You
could check out the Genelec 6010 BPM (211
each), the KRK VXT4 (266 each), the Adam Artist
3 (255 each), the Monkey Banana Turbo 6 (258
each) or the remarkable Focal CMS40 (281
each). Corresponding subwoofers include the
Genelec 540 (400), the KRK 10S (371), the Adam
Artist Sub 7 (362), The Monkey Banana Turbo 10s (564) and the Focal
CMS Sub (682).

cymbals, full but controlled bass, and


lively transients that really allow
grooves to do their thing.
The HS7s worked best in our studio
with 2dB of treble attenuation, which
seemed to smooth the transition from
the mids to the highs. If youre used to
the forward midrange of smaller
nearfields a familiarisation period may
Packing a high-power 150-watt amplifier designed to focus exclusively on low frequencies, the be required, but we found the HS7s
HS8S 8-inch bass-reflex powered subwoofer delivers bottom end down to 22Hz.
very easy to get along with.
Used in a conventional stereo
95 watts of onboard power. The High Trim switch provides 0dB along configuration, the HS7s are certainly
enclosure has a rear port and Yamaha with +/-2dB settings in the range above not bass-light. In fact, the low-
employs proprietary technology to 2kHz. Balanced XLR and TRS jack audio frequency response is full and solid
reduce audible noise by up to 6dB at inputs are provided but unbalanced down to 50Hz and more than adequate
the port opening. A good number of jack connections can also be used. for the cabinet dimensions. There is a
sense of a small degree of upper bass

The clarity and transparency tip-up, but its subtle enough to be of


little concern. Method Spot

that the HS7s provided greatly Obviously, some degree of fine-


tuning will be required for the
Before attempting
to integrate a

exceeded expectations
subwoofer into a
subwoofer settings depending on the
conventional stereo
amount of absorption and bass monitoring system,
trapping installed in your studio. Even its worth
considering what
modern speaker designers these days The HS8S subwoofer measures so, we found a combination of test youre hoping to
swear by the diffraction-reducing 35cm tall, 30cm wide and 34.5cm deep tones and familiar tracks helped us to achieve. If the
qualities of edges that are rounded and the 8-inch drive unit is housed in a integrate the HS8S fairly seamlessly answer is simply
more bass, you
over, so its interesting to note that weighty bass-reflex MDF cabinet along with the satellites. might be better off
Yamaha has opted for a cabinet with with a 150-watt amplifier. Again, XLR For accurate monitoring purposes buying bigger
speakers, especially
square front edges. and jack sockets are provided for the its best when you are hardly aware that
if you mix and
audio connections and in this case its on, but you notice a massive record in a small,
Control freq there are outputs (XLR only) to difference when its not. Pushing the untreated room.
The primary
The rear-mounted controls are fairly daisychain the HS7s to the HS8S. HS8S very hard, we did notice a bit of purpose of a
minimal a state of affairs thats A Low Cut switch attenuates the mechanical vibration from the vicinity subwoofer should
strangely common to many entry-level low-frequency content of the signal of the heatsink, but at practical level be to provide you
with a clear and
monitors as well as products from thats sent to the satellites and it works settings we experienced no unwanted accurate
various high-end manufacturers who in conjunction with a Low Cut control noises whatsoever. MTF representation of
whats going on in
are confident that they have got the knob that sets the frequency point
the sub-50Hz
formula right. Theres a Level control anywhere from 80120Hz. Similarly, region. This will be
with a range from Min to -10dB and a the High Cut control sets the
MTF Verdict especially
important if your
centre-detent at 12 oclock thats subwoofers high-frequency cut-off + Very transparent sound work primarily
optimised for a +4dB input level. point. Theres a Phase switch, too, which + Low noise floor involves electronic
Disappointingly, the power switch is flips the polarity to help users to work + Ample power music or
+ Simple but effective controls low-frequency
located at the rear as well. around compromised room placement effects in sound
A Room Correction switch adjusts issues, plus a subwoofer Level control. - Soundstage could be deeper design. On the other
- Limited bass control without hand, you may just
the HS7s low-frequency response. Its
need something
there to compensate for reflections in Testing times subwoofer
that you can turn on
- Power switch at rear to vibe up the
some listening environments which We started testing with the subwoofer
clients then turn off
can probably be taken as referring to disconnected from the system and the An excellent-sounding and solidly (or perhaps turn
proximity to walls and corners. Theres a levels of clarity and transparency that built 2.1 monitor system at a very down) when it
flat setting, of course, alongside the HS7s provided greatly exceeded competitive price. comes to the

-2dB/-4dB settings at a fixed


frequency of 500Hz. An accompanying
expectations. Simply put, they sound
wide-open, with crisp hats and
8/10 serious job of mixing
and mastering.

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 109


MTF Reviews Genelec M030 & M040

an RCA/phono socket for unbalanced


signals. The power switch is at the back
which is fine considering the
auto-standby feature along with the
room-correction switches.
A trio of three-way switches control
the low-frequency response and the
sensitivity level. The Bass Level switch is
labelled Free Space and its function is
to compensate if working conditions
force compromises in monitor
placement. The setting is flat in the
centre, the left position provides a -2dB
shelf when the monitors are placed
adjacent to a wall, and the right position
is a -4dB setting for corner placement.
Both are active from 800Hz.
The EQ switch has a Tabletop setting
For PC with a dip centred around 250Hz to
& Mac
compensate when the M030 or M040s
are placed on a flat surface. You can
also opt for a -2dB bass shelf at 200Hz

GENELEC
and, once again, the centre position
Choice yields a flat response. To interface with

9/10
9
9/10
M030 & M040
various analogue sources the Level
switch has three settings: Low (-10dB),
High (0dB) and Very Low (-20dB).

M030
Genelec monitoring is becoming ever more affordable, but have The smaller pair display very open and
corners been cut to get there? Huw Price tests the new M Series. clear sound with crisp treble and an
up-front character so its very much

T
Details heres something reminiscent Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS) is the style of sound many of us would
Price M030 389 of the Stealth Bomber about another clever feature. After 20 associate with Genelecs in general.
each. M040 579 each Genelecs M Series monitors. minutes without signal the M Series Detail resolution is impressive and
Contact Source Maybe its the smoothly curved monitors go into standby mode and the stereo imaging is well defined and solid.
Distribution
020 8962 5080 outline, the absence of styling or the flat LED at the front switches off. Power The bass response is very even and
Web black finish, but after a while they seem consumption drops to less than 0.5W. smooth. Roll-off occurs around 50Hz
www.genelec.com
to vanish into the background... As soon as it receives audio again, the but the M030s continue delivering
The M Series monitors are not the monitor powers back up. However, it low-frequency energy down to around
most expensive of Genelecs products takes only the merest pop or crackle to 35Hz. We blasted them with some
Key Features and theyre aimed at audio pros, project reactivate the monitors. low-frequency test tones and there was
M030 studios, songwriters and musicians. To further improve energy efficiency no audible port chuffing at all.
Max SPL: 103dB When some manufacturers design Genelec has been developing switch- Compared to our usual monitors the
Response: products to hit a lower price point you mode-operated amplifiers. The M midranges sounded a tad thin, but
58Hz20kHz
sometimes get the impression that
Power: bass

Genelec saw an opportunity


50W/treble 30W theyve lashed something up from
(Class-D) various generic parts, stuck a

to develop some interesting new


5-inch prominent logo on the front and hoped
bass driver,
3/4-inch metal-
for the best. By contrast, Genelec saw

construction techniques
dome tweeter this as an opportunity to innovate and
Dimensions: develop some very interesting new
(HWD) 273 x 190 x
190mm
construction techniques.
M040
Max SPL: 107dB High fibre Series feature Genelecs own Class-D activating the Tabletop setting improved
Response: The cabinet is a case in point. The amp in both channels and neither things a great deal and we were
48Hz20kHz
curved sides and rounded edges may model has a heat sink at the back. The surprised that the mid frequencies filled
Power: bass
80W/treble 50W lead you to suppose that its machined M030 has 50W and 30W divided out. Image depth was improved, too.
(Class-D) aluminium or even plastic, but its between the woofer and tweeter; the
6.5-inch bass actually made by injection-molding a M040 has 80W and 50W of power. M040
driver, 1-inch
metal-dome fully recyclable fibre composite A/B testing the M040 against the M030
tweeter material. This material is made up of Switched on revealed substantial differences. For
Dimensions: 337 50% wood fibre and it has the added Three analogue input methods are starters, the M040 is louder, which is as
x 235 x 229mm
(HWD)
benefits of high structural rigidity and provided by way of an XLR/1/4-inch jack you might expect given the higher
optimised acoustic performance. combo socket for balanced signals and power amplification and the larger

110 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Genelec M030 & M040 Reviews MTF

surface area of both drivers. The Genelecs are not designed to give
Alternatives
wide-open treble and clear sense of you a warm and fuzzy feeling and its
The M030 goes up against the Dynaudio
detail are obvious Genelec family traits, business as usual with the M Series. BM5A MKII (378), with its two-way
but the M040 has fuller and better What youll get is transparency, a bass-reflex design, 7-inch woofer, 1.1-inch
soft-dome tweeter, 90W power and HF/MF/LF
balanced mids. forward sound characteristic and a analogue room filters. Theres also the KRK
Once again, bass roll-off commences slightly clinical quality. VXT 6 (382), with tamper-resistant switch
around the 50Hz point, but the M040 The M030 is an accomplished covers, integrated omni-mount support,
ground lift, auto on/off, switchable limiter, 6-inch woofer, 1-inch woven
has a more substantial bass end and nearfield that could be an ideal choice if Kevlar silk-dome neodymium tweeter, and 30W (HF)/60W (LF) power.
overall the response seems wider, fuller money and space are tight, but you will The M040 competes with EVE Audios SC208 (568): AMT RS1 ribbon
tweeter, 8-inch woofer, 50W/150W power, protection limiter and DSP
and better integrated. The trade-off is a need a sub if your work involves lots of
controls. The Focal CMS65 (585) is another contender, having a 6.5-inch
woofer, 100W/60W Class-AB amplification and molded chassis.

Big, room-filling sound with MTF Verdict Method Spot


plenty of low-end punch and + Sonic transparency
Genelecs molded
enclosure allows it

excellent detail resolution + Impressive bass handling


+ User controllability
+ Auto-standby
to maximise the
internal volume to
achieve higher
output at low
- Slightly clinical sound quality frequencies. The LF
small amount of wind turbulence with low-frequency content. The response also relies
- Midrange may require slight on Genelecs new
programme material that produces performance of the M040 is not learning curve integrated reflex
substantial energy below 50Hz. constrained by the size of the enclosure: - Slight port chuffing (M040) port. Most reflex
The M040s truly excelled with solo it has a big, room-filling sound with cabinets have ports
Trademark Genelec sound at a on the front or back,
piano recordings. The complexity of the plenty of low-end punch and excellent
more affordable price point and but here the ports
upper harmonics was laid wide-open detail resolution. By Genelecs with no obvious compromises. are located on the
and the tone of the lower registers was standards these are affordable underside. The
sides of the cabinet
M030
8/10
disarmingly natural. We werent quite so monitors. You may not get quite so much extend below the
convinced with some solo acoustic in terms of equalisation and user front and rear to
guitar, where our usual monitors control and the sweet spot may be a bit raise the underside
M040
9/10
away from the
reproduce the all-important mid narrower, but in every other regard there mounting surface.
frequencies in a more natural way. are no significant compromises. MTF

TrackSpacer limited to the number of


filter bands and would
effects, so for more subtle improvement
to the clarity of your mix, a little
take an age to set up application goes a long way.
Manufacturer Wavesfactory
like TrackSpacer. Version 2 brings a new Advanced
Price 59 Just like version 1, a mode for more control. Firstly, you can
Contact via website basic display screen has choose to process the mids, sides or
Web www.plugins.wavesfactory.com a Depth control to stereo fields, and a Pan control allows
determine how far the you to set a balance between either

S
ince its release, Wavesfactory EQ reduction is applied mid/side processing or panning the
has fine-tuned this mixing to the track being stereo field for a lopsided focus when
weapon for even better processed, plus low- required. Attack and Release controls
results and workflow based and high-pass filters are also now featured, which are
on user feedback. In short, TrackSpacer that can be used to limit essential for moulding the processing to
is a 32-band EQ that analyses a track the frequency area fit the tempo and content of your mix. In
via an external sidechain and then being processed. This works well if you, general, this is a much more mature
applies the opposing frequency curve say, push back an instrumental group update, offering a better level of control.
to the track you place the plug-in on. with a kick so the kick is more We tried this in a variety of mix
The process of removing frequencies Choice prominent. Although the kick has a situations and found it performed

9/10
9
9/10
from one track to not conflict with broad frequency range, the perfectly well for any given task. Presets
another is nothing new, but instrumental track will sound heavily arent provided but thats a good thing,
TrackSpacer is dynamic as it reads the filtered unless you limit how high up the as its a very case-by-case process and
sidechain input in real time and frequency spectrum the sidechaining shouldnt be seen as a miracle cure to
changes its EQ curve accordingly. effect goes by using the low-pass filter. whack on and fix your mix. MTF
Wavesfactory is keen to point out Key Features If you want to use TS for the basic EQ
that TrackSpacer isnt a sidechained AU, VST, VST3, technique weve already discussed, a MTF Verdict
multi-band processor as this generally RTAS and AAX Freeze button enables you to apply a
Simple and Does what it says on the tin, with
doesnt offer the same resolution of Advanced views
static setting, but capturing the correct low CPU consumption. The simple
bands (normally 35 rather than 32) Stereo or M/S curve mid-action can be tricky. layout suits how it simplifies a
and its worth noting that it offers processing The Depth control is the most sometimes exacting task.
higher detail than using a dynamic EQ
for this process as well as they are
Low CPU
consumption
important tool here as extreme settings
will create special sidechain-like
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 111
MTF Reviews Kush Audio Electra 500

empathetic to key equalization


Alternatives
activities, particularly on drums or other
The beauty of the 500-Series
transient-rich sounds where the approach is that you can mix-and-
Proportional-Q controls really aid match equalizers as you see fit,
matching their tone to the effect you
finding the right frequency and prevent want to achieve. Something like the
the EQ from sounding overly harsh. Harrison 32EQ, for example, will have a touch
more colour than the Electra 500 due to the
use of transformers in the signal path.
Electra-fied
The Electra 500 is available both as a
stereo, rack-mounted signal processor number of 500-Series modules, but
and as individual 500-Series mono also something that could potentially
equalizers. In keeping with Kush confuse some new users.
philosophy, the panel provides just The final piece of the puzzle is a
enough information to get you going, switchable Hi Pass filter control, which
letting your ears be the judge rather adds a touch of resonance and has a
than simply dialling in preconceived frequency range of 25400Hz. The Hi
frequencies. All four controls work as Pass filter is a great tool for enhancing
dual-concentric pots, with the outer bass-end clarity, but it can also perform
control usually setting frequency and some interesting work in conjunction
the inner control establishing the with the aforementioned Low Shelf and
amount of boost (3 oclock is 0dB). Lo Mid bands.

Choice A testament to the musical


9/10
9
9/10 approach Kush Audio takes
when designing its products
KUSH AUDIO Although we tested the Electra 500 The Electra 500 is certainly an

Electra 500
on a range of sounds, the unit really intriguing and powerful tool possibly
shines when it comes to drum not the most colourful EQ weve played
equalization. The high band works over with, but an equalizer that can really get
a musical range of 3.820kHz enough to the heart of a sound, bringing all the
to add bite in the lower range of the correct elements into focus. On drums,
The Electra 500 is the first electrified spectrum or really lift the air around a for example, we were positively
transient equalizer weve encountered. kit as you move above 10kHz. Things surprised by just how much better the
get particularly interesting in the mids, Electra-equalized version sounded
Mark Cousins finds out more... though, given the use of the not just simply different from the
Proportional-Q bands. source, but an enhanced version that

K
Details ush Audios unique ear-driven The concept here is that the Q varies really aided the musicality of the
Price 474 approach to equipment design in response to the amount of gain instrument it was processing.
Contact has brought us a number of starting off wide with a low cut or boost, Ultimately, its all testament to the
Unity Audio
01799 520786
intriguing products, from the then becoming increasingly sharp as musical approach Kush Audio seems to
Web unique modified version of Empirical more gain-change is applied. This take when designing its products one
www.kushaudio.com Labs Fatso, called the UBK Fatso, approach prevents the midrange bands thats arguably driven by a need for
through to the UBK-1 plug-in (which we from ever sounding too harsh, as well something to sound right rather than
reviewed in Issue 109 of our sister as enabling you to fine-tune the just ticking technical boxes. MTF
magazine MusicTech). The companys frequency setting in a way thats
latest product is the Electra 500 a empathetic to the source.
five-band equalizer teasingly pitched MTF Verdict
as an electrified transient equalizer. Living colour + Great on drums
But what makes the Electra 500 Given the flexibility around the mids, + Proportional-Q aids use
different from other 500-Series EQs its a little surprising to note that the + Never sounds harsh
Key Features
and, for that matter, what is an low shelving is fixed at a somewhat + Unique sound and approach
Hi Shelf:
sweepable electrified transient equalizer? high 350Hz. That being said, however, - Fixed low-shelving
3.8kHz20kHz Although the term electrified the Lo Mid can sweep right down to - Limited panel information
Hi Mid:
transient might suggest some form of 30Hz, so if you really want to add some - Requires ears!
Proportional-Q,
sweepable dynamic processing, the Electra 500 is rumble, its best to look there first.
250Hz5.4kHz The Electra 500 follows Kush
resolutely an equalizer, featuring a Intriguingly, the Low Shelf control can Audios unique sonic approach,
Lo Mid:
Proportional-Q,
resonant Butterworth HP filter, fixed also be switched to work in a unique resulting in an equalizer that really
sweepable low-shelving, two Proportional-Q Fader mode using a switch mounted helps to define and enhance the
30Hz730Hz midrange bands, and a high-shelving directly on the Electra 500s board a signal its processing.
Lo Shelf: fixed
350Hz
band. The concept is that the unit has
been tuned to be responsive and
feature that might be interesting to
those choosing to mix through a
9/10
112 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Heavyocity AEON Collection Reviews MTF

Alternatives
Other cinematic packs out
there at around the same price
as AEON include Cinematique
Instruments 2 (199) from Best
Service another organic/synthetic hybrid
pack or Q (204) from Vir2 Instruments, which
has a very large range of sounds including
drums as well as melodic elements.

feature ADSR amp controls for


sound-shaping and the Melodic presets
come with up to three layers, so theres
three of these to explore.
Alongside the punch-in effects
already mentioned, Twist and Punish
dials offer further processing
opportunities. These are a modulatable
tone control and compression/
For PC saturation knob respectively good for
& Mac
HEAVYOCITY Choice either fine-tuning the sound in the mix
or pushing hard for completely new

9/10
9
9/10
AEON Collection
tones. Master effects include reverb,
delay, distortion and modulation, which
is a mix of chorus and phaser again,
handy for mix work.

With moody cinematic libraries in abundance, Liam OMullane The last notable feature is the
arpeggiator section. For loop presets
tests Heavyocitys latest release, listening for something unique. this is called the Loop Mutator, and
enables you to sequence the duration

R
Details unning in Kontakt 5 or the free control. Finally, Single Loop presets offer of playback, choice of loop or slice per
Price $399 Kontakt 5 Player, this the most variety by focusing on one loop step, and velocity values. The arp uses a
Contact info@ collection combines with normal playback plus individual series of stepped sliders so its very
heavyocity.com
Heavyocitys AEON Melodic slices. These can be reprogrammed or simple to program and can be
Web
www.heavyocity.com and AEON Rhythmic libraries at a lower you can use just snippets of the sounds. randomised for happy accidents. For
overall price. Aimed at the cinematic Across the presets, a few of the the Melodic instruments, the arps
and soundscape worlds, both libraries highest keys are reserved for punching- functionality is pretty much the same,
offer a good range of deep, rich and in instrument FX, comprising distortion, except that the choice of loop per step
hard-to-describe sonic textures. They lo-fi, filter, panner, pitch mod and a is simply a change in melodic pitch to
are said to stem from organic, unique gated effect, giving you more options to the loaded sound.
and analogue sound sources, but are tailor the sounds to your needs. Overall, the preset selection is vast
mixed and layered in such a way that and varied. Throughout the pack the
youll sometimes struggle to identify On song production value is high and can be
what they are. But that isnt the point: The Melodic side is covered in a variety adapted as the user needs in a variety of
its more that the best of many worlds is of preset formats. Various hits are ways for variation and general
mixed together to create presets that included for moody blasts that can expression. Youd be hard-pushed to
are sonically rich and interesting. stand on their own for atmospheres or produce the mood, size and quality of
be used as transition tools to get out of these sounds from scratch, and if youre
Rhythm king a busy sequence. Across hybrid and a working professional, you probably
Although the Rhythmic library is organic flavours theres a huge variety of dont have the time. This makes the
loop-based, the loops carry a lot of instruments, which again all have that AEON collection a wise choice for
musical and melodic information, so organic and synthetic cross-breeding quality sounds as well as the longevity
dont expect a drum machine here. that the Rhythmic pack benefits from. of your investment. MTF
Theres a huge selection to work with Short percussive sounds, distorted
and you can manipulate them after brash tones, silky leads, swells and MTF Verdict
choosing from three types of preset. A more are present, with plenty of hybrid
Suite preset lays out many loops across tones between the extremes of organic + Rich, deep and varied sounds
+ Easy key-mapping
the keyboard, one key per loop. The and synthetic. For instance, a preset + Useful punch-in effects
Key Features loops playback pitch can be globally called Padded Piano Reflections starts + Well laid-out interface
Various controlled by keys in the lower octaves, as a pad sound, and the tailed reverb
randomising and their running order goes from dark sounds like the slap-back effect of a - AEON Rhythmics vast range of
functions sounds can be hard to navigate
timbres to the left, through to brighter piano being delayed.
Loop Mutator for
severe mangling tones to the right. A large and diverse range of deep
Large selection The next type of preset is a Three Common ground sounds that would complement a
of sounds Loop Combo, which spreads three loops When it comes to further editing, both range of production styles.
3 levels of loop
control
across the bulk of the keys, giving each
loop just under two octaves of pitch
libraries take a similar approach, but
there are a few unique differences. Both
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 113
MTF Reviews Lindell Audio 17XS MkII

Alternatives
For a more
affordable take
on the classic FET compressor sound, Lindell
makes the 7X-500 (229) in Lunchbox format,
which offers similar features to its bigger
brother, including wet/dry mix and HPF. If
money is no object, our favourite solid-state
compressor remains the Vertigo Sound VSC-2
(3,642), a stereo VCA design that can hold its
own against the very best valve-driven units.

LINDELL AUDIO Excellence unit, which seemed to flesh-out the

10/10
signal, adding a very pleasing amount of

17XS MkII
body to the voice this is not one of
those ultra-transparent units that adds
nothing to the sound: this compressor

Compressor/Limiter
demands to be heard.
FET compressors such as this often
sound great on drum mixes and we
couldnt resist sending a mono drum
mix through the 17XS. By making use of
Lindell Audio seeks to further its reputation in the compression/ the high-pass sidechain filters and wet/
limiting fields with a new model. John Pickford puts it to the test. dry mix pot we created a variety of
sounds ranging from fat and punchy at

B
Details ack in February 2013 we Another feature absent from the lower compression ratios to full-on
Price 779 tested a trio of Lindell classic Urei 1176 but, we are pleased to sucking and pumping in 100:1 all-in
Contact Nova 500-Series modules, awarding say, becoming increasingly popular on mode. Of course, the majority of drum
Distribution
020 3589 2530
them a coveted MusicTech modern compressors is the variable mixes are created in stereo, which
Web www.nova- Excellence Award. As impressed as we wet/dry mix pot that enables parallel would require two of these units;
distribution.co.uk were with the mic preamp and EQ units, compression effects to be performed in- however, we noted that there is no
it was the little FET compressor that the-box. This pot, like the Input and facility to link another 17XS for stereo
really blew us away. With that in mind, Output pots, is a high-quality Alps unit operation (two units would have to be
we couldnt wait to get our hands on and designer Tobias Lindell has chosen very carefully set up in order to work
Lindells latest incarnation of its first-class components throughout, successfully in stereo).
full-size flagship compressor/limiter. including superb-sounding bespoke The new Lindell 17XS MkII is an
The 17XS MkII is a single-channel, 2U hand-wound transformers, which are excellent compressor/limiter. It offers
19-inch rackmount unit based on, but responsible for much of the units sonic the classic sound of the legendary Urei
not an exact copy of, arguably the most character. This is a very well-built and 1176 but with the addition of some very
celebrated solid-state compressor of neatly laid-out piece of kit that looks useful features. The wet/dry control in
all time the Urei 1176. very smart in its black brushed- particular is a very welcome feature,
aluminium casing. making parallel compression effects
Pass over easy to dial in and compare without the
Like its little brother and legendary Release me hassle of setting up extra channels. On
forefather, the 17XS is a FET (Field Attack and release times, along with top of that the unit is very attractive in
Effect Transistor) design offering five compression ratio, are selectable via its elegant, classic styling, with a funky
selectable compression ratios; five-step switches with response times retro-looking VU meter and decent-size
however, this new model incorporates between 20800 microseconds for pots and switches that feel really nice in
some useful features not found on attack and 50800 milliseconds for use. We are sure the 17XS will win many
original 1176s. release. The 17XS offers the same friends in top studios worldwide. MTF
Firstly, there are two push-buttons compression ratios found on the 1176
that activate gentle high-pass and (4:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1) but adds an MTF Verdict
low-pass filters on the input signal, additional setting of 100:1 to emulate
+ Classic FET sound
operating at 80Hz and 8kHz the all-in method that engineers + Parallel compression
respectively and useful for taming discovered long ago by engaging all four + Useful filters
unwanted noise at both ends of the ratios on the 1176 at once. Incidentally, + Excellent build and finish
frequency spectrum. A separate the Mk1 17XS employed toggle-style
- No stereo linking
high-pass sidechain filter is available Fender Super Switches for these
Key Features
on a stepped switch that operates at functions instead of the rotary switches The 17XS MkII is a thoroughly
Variable wet/dry
mix control 100Hz, 200Hz, 300Hz and 600Hz. This found here. XLR connectors on the rear modern take on the classic Urei
High-pass/low- can be very useful when dealing with panel give the option of two outputs, 1176 compressor with several
pass filters useful features that make it an
audio that features lots of low-end either pre or post the wet/dry mix pot. extremely versatile single-channel
High-pass
sidechain filter information, allowing a healthy dose of We began our listening tests by dynamics controller. This is a
Bespoke compression to be applied to the strapping the 17XS MkII across a highly seriously good compressor at a very
hand-wound midrange and top end without dynamic male rock vocal track. Even reasonable price.
transformers
Alps pots
introducing negative pumping effects
that bass-heavy signals can induce.
without applying any compression we
could hear the sonic signature of the
10/10
114 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
KRK Rokit 5 Reviews MTF

50W: 30W and 20W for the 5-inch


Alternatives
glass-Aramid composite woofer and
Behringers B3030A Truth (257
1-inch soft-dome tweeter respectively. pair) is a two-way active studio
monitor with a 6.75-inch Kevlar
woofer and 2-inch velocity ribbon
Quiet affair tweeter, built-in 75W (LF) and 35W (HF) power
Auto-mute is another interesting amplifiers, magnetic shielding and
feature. It kicks in after the input signal servo-balanced inputs with XLR and 1/4-inch
TRS connectors. The Tannoy Reveal 601A
has been absent for 30 minutes. We (286 pair) has a 6-inch (165mm) LF/MF driver
discovered its actually an auto-standby, and 1-inch (25mm) soft-dome tweeter, 60W
(LF) and 30W (HF) amplification, trim switch
allowing power consumption to drop to
(+1.5/0/-1.5dB) for room adjustment,
just 0.5 watts. Additional shaping has rear-mounted volume control, balanced XLR
been applied to the edges of the front and unbalanced jack connectors.
panel to further reduce diffraction. The
look is certainly more sophisticated and effective for tightening things up.
the perimeter of the front port appears Monitors at this price point invariably
to have been rounded off, presumably to require some learning time and these
minimise chuffing. are no exception.
Since the Rokit 5s are likely to be The Rokit 5s really score with their
used with a wide variety of pro, soundstage depth. Whichever way you
semi-pro and domestic equipment, cut it, these are value-priced (budget)
they are designed to cope with a wide monitors and most monitors in this

The Rokit 5s make for a


very enjoyable and involving
listening experience
KRK Choice variety of input levels. The volume price category tend to come up short in

9/10
9
9/10
Rokit 5
control swings the level from -30dB to this area. The Rokit 5s came close to
+6dB with -6dB, 0dB and +3dB our Focal CMS40s for image depth
settings marked on the way. This something relatively few manage. This
flexibility is reflected by the input is great for acoustic instrument
choices, which include TRS jack and recording and mixing because you get a
Is KRKs third generation of its Rokit XLR for balanced connections and RCA/ sharply defined sense of natural room
series of monitors a worthy choice? phono for unbalanced. ambience and artificial reverb effects.
High-frequency adjustment is Left/right imaging is more than good
Huw Price takes the Rokit 5 for a spin. provided in -2dB, -1dB, 0dB and +1dB enough with uncluttered mixes, but
increments. Similarly, the low-frequency some blurring can be heard with more

K
Details RK claims that its Rokit series adjustment provides -2dB, -1dB, 0dB complex arrangements. Even so, centre
Price 249/pair is among the worlds most and +2dB settings. The manual images are solid and the midrange
Contact Focusrite popular monitors and therein recommends +2dB for open spaces, detail brings vocals and guitars across
01494 462246
lays a dilemma: in this 0dB for full rooms, -1dB for half-rooms nicely. You may notice certain kick
Web
www.krksys.com fast-moving environment, should a and -2dB for quarter-rooms. The power drums and percussive parts lacking the
manufacturer with a successful product switch is on the back panel too, but punch you might expect, which points to
sit back and relax, or continue to refine given the auto-standby feature were a slightly slow transient response.
and improve a design? not complaining. Last but not least, KRK Regardless, theres no denying that the
The tricky part is to introduce fits a rubber pad on the base of each Rokit 5s make for a very enjoyable and
improvements without detracting from cabinet to provide isolation. involving listening experience. MTF
Key Features the sound and features that customers
Class-A/B liked about the originals. KRKs Bass space MTF Verdict
amplifier
Proprietary
Generation 3 (G3) version of the Rokit 5 Given the enclosure dimensions, the
waveguide is said to represent a continuation in depth of the low frequencies is + HF & LF controls
optimised for + Auto-standby
the companys design philosophy. So impressive, with frequencies below
superior imaging + Impressive image depth
1-inch soft-
whats new? 40Hz clearly audible. Fans of the + No port-chuffing
dome tweeter The big news is probably the originals will also be pleased that the + Very enjoyable sound
HF/LF extended frequency response. Its within slightly enhanced upper bass response
adjustment
+3dB from 55Hz30kHz, but the quoted has been retained. - Slight upper bass tip-up
Lightweight, - L/R imaging could be sharper
glass-Aramid frequency range goes from 45Hz to a Consequently, some bass
composite staggering 34.5kHz. KRK says the sonic instruments can sound a bit tubby, and Great-sounding speakers for the
woofer money, with ample power and
signature remains much the same, but the Rokit 5s dont track more intricate
Front-firing port user-friendly features.
the response is flatter. Low-frequency low bass grooves as well as some more
XLR, 1/4-inch &
RCA connectivity adjustment has been added too, along
with a 5W increase in onboard power to
expensive monitors. Then again, we
found the 2dB and 4dB settings quite
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 115
MTF Reviews Audient iD22

Alternatives
Its surprising that not
many other manufacturers
offer similar products. The TC Electronic
Desktop Konnekt 6 (199) is a two-input, two-
output desktop FireWire audio interface with
a single TC Impact microphone preamp with
phantom power, two instrument inputs and the
M40 Studio Reverb. The SPL Crimson (412) is a
USB audio interface and monitor controller with
24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converter, two mic pres,
two Hi-Z instrument inputs, four line inputs,
two stereo source inputs, two headphone outs,

AUDIENT
outputs for two pairs of speakers,
Choice S/PDIF I/O, MIDI I/O, USB 2.0 connection and

9/10
9
9/10
switchable phantom power.

iD22 standalone preamp from a respected


UK manufacturer that retails for just

The Audient iD22 performs both as an audio interface and desktop over half the price of an iD22. The
standalone preamp was connected to
monitor controller plus far more besides. Huw Price gets iDd. the return of the iD22s second channel,
bypassing its preamp circuitry. So iD22

S
Details ince 1997, UK company The unit ships with a multi-region converters were used for both signals.
Price 449 Audient has developed a fine wall-wart power supply and a USB The iD22 produced less hiss and,
Contact KMR Audio reputation as a manufacturer cable. The manual and driver software once again, the high frequencies
020 8445 2446 of mixing consoles, are not included, but you can download sounded detailed but more refined. The
Web
www.audient.com
microphone preamps and monitor both from Audients website. At present bass was also marginally more solid
Minimum system controllers. Elements from each have the iD22 is compatible only with Macs and, while the differences between the
requirements been incorporated into the iD22, which running Snow Leopard and above, but two preamps were subtle, the iD22 just
Mac OSX 10.6.8 also features onboard digital converters Windows drivers are in development. had the edge.
operating up to 96kHz resolution as well The iD22 provides two inputs and six Dedicated monitor controllers such
as USB 2.0 connectivity. outputs but it can be expanded via the as the Mackie Big Knob and the SPL
Ultra-high-quality preamps arent optical input and output connectors MTC 2381 will have integral talkback
generally associated with audio that support both ADAT and S/PDIF. For microphones, individual level controls
interfaces, but the iD22 features two instance, you can add eight inputs via for different monitor speakers, instant
mic/line preamps that are identical to an eight-channel mic pre such as access to various features and easy
the ones found in Audients consoles Audients ASP008 or connect an connectivity for several analogue
and standalone preamps. Each channel outboard effect unit in stereo via S/PDIF. sources. The iD22 lacks a talkback mic,
provides 60dB gain, with switches for a second analogue stereo source can be
Key Features phantom power, -10dB pad, polarity Get converted connected only to the returns, and
2-in, 6-out high- and bass roll-off. Theres a discrete The quality of the iD22s digital certain key functions are accessible
performance JFET DI input, too. converters was obvious from the outset. only via the iD22s software controller.
24-bit/96kHz
AD/DA The iD22 feels solidly made and the We rigged up a system whereby we In its favour, the iD22 performs
converters all-metal construction makes it heavier could connect both our usual audio impressively as a mic pre and a digital
2 superb than you might expect given the interface and the iD22 to a single pair of interface. It does have some
Class-A mic
preamplifiers
relatively small amount of space it monitors and switch between them shortcomings as a monitor controller,
Discrete JFET takes up. Although the top panel is instantaneously by selecting different but these may be of less importance
instrument uncluttered there is no shortage of audio devices in System Preferences. depending on the way you work. MTF
input
features, but most of these are The iD22 had noticeably smoother
Fully balanced
insert points accessed via the controller software and more refined treble. Hats were less MTF Verdict
for integrating that owners must download from metallic and edgy, with the overall tone
outboard gear
Audients website. just a bit less brittle. The midrange had + Excellent-sounding preamps
High-current + Impressive digital converters
headphone a tad more body and the bass felt more + Robust build
amplifier fed by Take control evident and solid. Overall, wed say that + Pad, HPF and phase switching
independent + Digital interconnectivity
The hardware controls are restricted to the iD22 has classy converters that
DAC
those that need to be accessed quickly impart no obvious colouration or sonic + Headphone output
Low-latency
+ Professional three-in-one device
DSP mixer for and easily. The centre knob sets the signature which is exactly how digital
artist mixes monitor volume and other knobs set the converters should be. - No built-in talkback mic
Main and
alternative
onboard headphone output and The mic pres were even more - Mac-only at present
stereo outputs preamp gain levels. Beneath the main impressive. Rather than compare the - Limited analogue inputs
User-defined volume control there are two switches iD22 against some generic interface - Bit basic as a monitor controller
monitoring
functionality
that dim and cut the monitor signal. preamps, we decided that Audients A very high-quality two-channel
with hardware Three further switches can be assigned claims demanded a somewhat sterner mic pre, audio interface and
control to different functions according to user test. Using a high-quality Sowter monitor controller with plenty of
USB 2.0 class-
preference. The options include mono, transformer, we split the signals from features and few compromises.
compliant
connectivity speaker switching, talkback and cue
mix monitoring.
various microphones. One side fed an
iD22 preamp and the other fed a
9/10
116 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Sony Sound Forge Pro 11 Reviews MTF

Alternatives
Steinbergs WaveLab 8 comes
in two versions, the full version
costing 448 and Elements
costing just 82. Sound Forge
in its single version is similar to
the full version of WaveLab and shares many
of the same kinds of features. WaveLab is
dual-platform and has a speaker management
system thats useful for auditioning speakers.
On the other hand, it doesnt integrate directly
with something like SpectraLayers.

Sound Forge for mixing and mastering.


Anyone needing deep audio editing or
restoration would do well to consider
adding SpectraLayers to their setup.
For Sound Forge is used extensively in
PC
the broadcast world and now has a new
metering system that is CALM-

SONY compliant, meaning you can find the


maximum dynamic range for your audio

Sound Forge Pro 11


without exceeding industry limits, which
will surely please your clients.

Nectar points
Anyone working with sound will need a wave editor, and Sony has Sony has bundled iZotopes Nectar
Elements, a cut-down but still
upped the stakes with Sound Forge Pro 11. Hollin Jones digs in. extremely useful vocal-processing
plug-in that has some excellent presets

S
Details ound Forge is one of the most Sony has also released Sound Forge for singing, voiceover and other kinds of
Price Sound Forge mature wave-editing Pro for the Mac, and although it is a vocals. You also get some other great
Pro 11 257 applications for the Windows separate application written from the iZotope plug-ins, including a mastering
Audio Master Suite
package including platform, and now at version ground up, some of its concepts have suite derived from its Ozone family and
SpectraLayers 11, shows no signs of waning. Sure, filtered over to the much longer-running a restoration suite. Theres also a good
Pro 2 386
DAWs such as Cubase or Logic can edit Windows version. An example is the new selection of Sonys own tools and
Contact via website
audio, but specialised wave editors are Plug-in Chain interface, which provides plug-ins, and support for VST plugs, too.
Web www.sony
creativesoftware.com much better all-rounders, used not only a slick and effective way to load and Sound Forge Pro 11 is an
Minimum system for mastering, but also for radio and manage multiple plug-ins for accomplished wave editor with a ton of
requirements
podcast production, video work and nondestructive signal processing. features that enable you to work with
PC Windows Vista
sound design. Access their settings, rearrange them every aspect of audio, from restoration
Sound Forge Pro 11 is a modest and save presets and you will find this a through to mastering. The new tools
download and can also be ordered as a great new way of working with effects. and refinements improve workflow and
boxed copy. It must be registered online Another inherited feature is the make it more approachable but without
but setup is very simple and the system waveform overview bar, which sits at the cluttering things up. This and
requirements are low by modern top of the screen and lets you quickly SpectraLayers 2 will make a formidable
standards. The concept will be familiar navigate around your sound. Double- pairing if you want to get right inside
to many: an environment in which you click in the bar to centre your cursor in a any aspect of an audio file and achieve
can analyse, edit and generally mangle time range defined by the waveform polished results. MTF
or tweak audio in any way imaginable. display, or click and drag to audition
Theres also recording, batch-processing looping segments with customisable MTF Verdict
Key Features and a host of other tools for working pre-roll and loop duration times.
Audio recording with one or more tracks of audio. Lets + Very capable wave editor
+ Straightforward to use
and editing look at whats new in version 11. Layered up + Powerful tools
Waveform
overview bar
Sony simultaneously released + Nectar Elements
Multiple audio Going modeless SpectraLayers 2, its innovative app for + Seamless integration with
editing and Recording is now modeless, meaning working with sound on a spectral level. SpectraLayers 2
analysis tools + Open/save almost any file format
you can record and store multiple takes Now you can send files between the
Input buss FX + Video support
Multi-channel
with customisable pre- and post-roll, two apps seamlessly, without having to
recording, monitor unarmed channels while export first. For example, you can send - Mac users have a version, but its
editing and recording, and punch-and-roll record, sections of long files from Sound Forge much less fully featured
processing
dropping recording in at a specific point. to SpectraLayers for editing and then
Multiple bundled A capable and powerful wave editor
plug-ins You can also now use input buss effects send them back to have the changes thats adept at everything from
Plug-in chain to process sound as it is being recorded. updated in the original file, saving time recording and editing to sound
CALM metering The whole recording interface has been and CPU power. Send multiple files to design and mastering.
Red Book CD
burning
streamlined and improved, and is now
generally nicer to work with.
SpectraLayers to take advantage of its
unique editing capabilities, then back to
8/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 117
MTF Reviews Sample Logic Assault

SAMPLE LOGIC Alternatives

Assault
One of our favourite cinematic
percussion libraries is Native
Instruments Damage (299), which contains a
well-balanced collection of loops, processed
effects sounds and multisampled percussion
sounds. If youre more interested in the effects,

Sample Logics latest though, Assault is a good rival to what Damage


has to offer.

library is full to the brim


with explosive cinematic synced material. Its also worth noting
effects and transitions. that theres a useful Combo bank, which
presents the key sounds spread across
Mark Cousins takes it the keyboard. Although the Combos are
out on his ears... heavier on RAM usage, theyre a great
way of auditioning different effects
Details treatments without you having to wade
Price $299 through multiple instruments.
Contact via website
For PC
& Mac
Web Industrial logic
www.samplelogic.com
Compared to some of Sample Logics
other products, which tend to offer an
array of ambient, rhythmic and

O
ver the last ten years, effects-based sounds, Assault is clearly
Key Features
cinematic music has seen a focused on the one application. If youre
850+ multis and
instruments distinct shift away from the expect from a typical foley session looking for some powerful industrial
1GB sample traditional orchestral score, dumpsters, rifles, breaking glass and hits and extreme transition effects,
library instead placing greater emphasis on so on coupled with a collection of youll undoubtedly be impressed by the
Multi Script
textural sound design. Scores like Hans more traditional percussion sources. energy Assault has to offer. However, in
Macros
Multi-core effect Zimmers Man Of Steel soundtrack as These recordings have then been an ideal world it might have been
sequencer well as a wealth of action trailers that passed through Sample Logics unique beneficial to see a little more scope and
sound closer to dubstep than Debussy, sound-mangling process, often making versatility, especially given the strong
illustrate that cutting-edge sound the sounds even harder and more competition from the aforementioned
design is often the driving force behind aggressive than their original source, Damage library, possibly through a
contemporary cinematic music. which is an impressive feat in itself! greater range of multisampled
Echoing these musical developments, instrumental sources.
therefore, Sample Logics range of Powerful impact Overall, though, Sample Logic
sample libraries have placed an To help navigate the library, the continues to shine as one of the most
emphasis on sound design, often using instruments are divided into categories imaginative sample developers in the
conventional sources such as guitars such as Impacts, Interrupters, Scrapes world of cinematic sound design.
or marching band brass in unusual and Sweeps, and theres also a bank of Balanced correctly, the sounds deliver
and creative ways. instruments that deploy some all the crunch, ear candy and power
interesting tempo-synced rhythm youd expect in a contemporary trailer
Sonic assault effects using Assaults built-in a quality that can elude some of the
Assault is Sample Logics latest offering, arpeggiator. While the library is an more polite solutions on the market.
this time exploring a range of powerful excellent source of high-impact Equally, theres plenty of scope beyond
cinematic impacts and transition industrial sounds, it possibly misses cinematic production, especially if
effects. The library includes more than out when it comes to more subtle heavy, grinding industrial sounds are a
850 instruments and multis, which is an effects or more traditional percussive feature of your music. MTF
impressive count considering its sounds. Native Instruments Damage,
relatively modest installation size (1GB for example, manages to include both
MTF Verdict
using Kontakts lossless compression). the aforementioned industrial effects
In theory, the product sits neatly combined with some delicately + Explosive cinematic effects
between the world of foley-like effects, multisampled percussion sources, + Contemporary sound
+ Powerful sound engine
which might be used by a dubbing which increases the scope of the library.
engineer or sound designer to enhance As with Cinematic Guitars II, Assault - Slightly one-dimensional
more explosive onscreen action, and shares the powerful feature set found in - Disappointingly few traditional
the world of music and soundtrack Sample Logics current scripting system. percussion effects
production, where the same powerful Theres plenty of deep functionality that
Sample Logics Assault places a
hits, scrapes and transitions can be lets you further manipulate and twist distinct emphasis on explosive
used to great musical effect. the samples, both at instrument level cinematic effects. What Assault
Not surprisingly, Assaults range of and also across multis. In particular, the lacks in subtlety it more than
aggressive industrial sounds have all Triggers are well worth closer makes up for in powerful, ear-
crunching hits and transitions.

8/10
been sourced from recordings made by inspection, working as a form of
veteran sound effects guru Rick Allen. performance-based effects system,
The list of sources is largely what youd which sounds great on the tempo-

118 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors Reviews MTF

Alternatives
There are plenty of
good alternatives to Virtual Buss Compressors
from the likes of Waves and Universal
Audio, but if you want a good, versatile buss
For PC compressor the Vertigo VSC-2 ($299) is well
& Mac worth a look. Obviously, you miss out on the
three-in-one approach taken by Slate Digital,
but the VCA design is similar to the sound of
the FG-RED.
Choice

9/10
9
9/10
output of the FG-RED, these
compressors do more than just control
gain. More importantly, though, the
Virtual Buss Compressors dont need to
be pushed hard to produce results,

SLATE DIGITAL
often delivering the right amount of
audio magic when theyre applying

Virtual Buss
around 23dB of gain reduction.

Rack em up
The addition of the Rack option, which

Compressors
includes all three plug-ins in a single
GUI, certainly adds to the possibilities
offered by Virtual Buss Compressors.
Whether youre simply A/Bing the

Slates new plug-in models three of some of the most sought-after different styles of compression or
chaining together compressors to
buss compressors in the business. Mark Cousins gets squashed. achieve a unique hybrid buss
compression, the Rack certainly comes

T
Details he allure of a good dose of buss clearly reminiscent of the Focusrite Red into good use. As with all of the plug-ins,
Price $249 compression is easy to compressor. The Reds design is theres a great collection of presets that
Contact via website understand, adding punch, interesting in essence, a clean and have been intelligently programmed to
Web www. controlling the overall dynamic transparent VCA compressor but with be useful production tools, but also
slatedigital.com
Minimum system
and bringing that important injection of some unique and interesting qualities demonstrate the possibilities offered by
requirements mix glue. Whether you use a thanks to a transformer on the output the compressors.
PC Windows 7 compressor across the main stereo section. Its also a worthy choice in that Evaluated alongside the Virtual
Mac OSX 10.6
buss or across subgroups, you soon few other examples of the Red exist in Console Collection and Virtual Tape
realise that its design and sound is software, with many developers Machines, Slate Digital seems to have
everything. Its no surprise, therefore, modelling endless remakes of SSL or assembled the perfect trio of analogue-
that a good buss compressor is a highly Urei-like compressors. like plug-ins for virtual mixing. Arguably,
revered piece of kit, something that all of the plug-ins (including VCC and
Slate Digital is well aware of, having Model behaviour VTM) are the missing link between the
painstakingly developed what the The other two plug-ins in Virtual Buss precision of in-the-box mixing and the
company thinks is the ultimate plug-in Compressors cover more typical more rock-and-roll approach of mixing
for buss compression tasks. Its been a ground. First up is FG-GREY, which through a large console with hardware
while coming, so is Virtual Buss appears to share a lot of similarities compressors. Although there are plenty
Compressors the last word in software- with the classic SSL-style buss of other dependable software-based
based buss compression? compressor, complete with its musical buss compressors out there, Virtual
auto-release and super-wide knee Buss Compressors arguably trumps
On the busses operation at low ratio settings. The final them all by providing three distinctly
Technically speaking, Virtual Buss piece of the puzzle is the FG-MU, which different models alongside the ability to
Compressors is actually a suite of four seems to copy some of the build hybrids with the Rack. MTF
plug-ins. The first three cover the characteristics of classic variable-mu
principal models FG-GREY, FG-RED compressors such as the Fairchild 670 MTF Verdict
and FG-MU while the final plug-in is a or Manley Vari Mu. As with the other
hybrid Rack of all three units in a single units, it isnt an exact replica, replacing + Three distinct buss compressors
+ Detailed non-linearity
interface. Its clear that none of the the six preset time constants of the 670,
Key Features + Added mix controls
models is officially endorsed or a for example, with fully variable attack + Great presets
3 analogue-
modelled buss licensed software replica (unlike many and release controls but retaining the
compressors of UAD and Waves plug-ins), but they unique 670 M/S compression mode. - Addictive
Precisely are clearly based on the sound and All of the models sound fantastic a
emulated circuit With some superbly detailed
paths operation of three classic hardware fact largely explained by the detail of the modelling across three classic buss
Tons of classic compressors, alluded to in all but name. modelling, especially in relation to the compressors, Slates Virtual Buss
presets used Arguably the most exciting plug-in to compressors non-linear behaviours. Compressors is hard to beat.
by top mix
engineers
our minds is the FG-RED compressor,
which, reading between the lines, is
Whether its the valve-like colours of the
FG-MU or the ability to add drive to the
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 119
MTF Reviews My Audio Design Grand MS

hefty 5kg motor assembly along with


the symmetrical field magnet, while the
tweeter is wired with 99.997%
diamond-silver conductors.
The crossover, which Tim told us
was voiced by a team of classical
musicians, engineers and a
psychologist, is made from top-grade
components and point-to-point
hand-wiring with silver solder. The
cabinet sports a bass-reflex port at the
bottom of the front baffle and employs
DRC (Damping Resonance Control)
technology along with MADs Standing
Wave Control to reduce unwanted
resonances and improve bass accuracy.
This is achieved by combining layers of
material of different densities and
properties. Our review samples the
first studio-bound pair made,
incidentally are finished in a durable
Excellence granite/stone-chip coating.

10/10 Grand master

MY AUDIO DESIGN
Good studio monitors are usually voiced
to give a detailed sound, giving great

Grand MS
insight into mixes and allowing the true
character of individual sounds to be
heard. However, sometimes, in an effort
to show explicit detail, monitors can pull
a mix apart without having the ability to
The Grand MS represents My Audio Designs initial foray into the reveal the complete musical picture.
pro-audio monitor market. John Pickford is all ears... This sort of presentation can become
tiring after a while, especially when

E
Details very once in a while we come highly regarded hi-fi speakers to its working on complex mixes.
Price 4,499 across a piece of equipment name, and now the company is entering The Grands completely avoid any
Contact MAD that sets a new standard in the pro-audio market. sort of listener fatigue, instead providing
020 8123 9789 terms of audio quality and My The fashion these days seems to be a huge soundstage with a panoramic
Web www.
Audio Designs Grand MS (Maestro for active monitor designs that feature stereo image that locates individual
madengland.com
Studio) monitors are firmly in that built-in power amplifiers; however, MAD sounds precisely within the mix. Depth
category. MAD is a British loudspeaker designer Timothy Jung has adopted a of image is also exceptional, offering a
company with an impressive range of more traditional approach for the three-dimensional sound that evades

The panoramic stereo image


locates individual sounds
precisely within the mix
passive Grand MS. For many years, all but the very best monitoring systems.
Key Features Tannoy was the king of studio Because the Grands are a coaxial
Symmetrical monitoring with the Dual Concentric design, they behave as a point source,
field 8-inch red-and-gold speakers, and rightly so. rather like old Tannoys and electrostatic
coaxial driver Like those classic Tannoy designs, MAD panel speakers. In many ways, the
Neodymium
tweeter
makes use of a coaxial drive unit, but Grands exhibit the best characteristics
Hand-wired rather than employing a horn tweeter, of both of those aforementioned
crossover with the Grands feature a neodymium designs, with superb coherence tonally
silver solder
tweeter centrally placed within a from top to bottom and outstanding
Tweeter wired
with 99.997% bespoke eight-inch symmetrical field dynamics that reveal the exact level of
diamond silver mid/bass driver. This unit incorporates a each note played. Whats more, they are
conductors
completely phase-coherent
Frequency
response
The Grand MS unique box construction combines something that cant be said of boxes
layers of materials in different densities to
48Hz20kHz that have several drivers located at
reduce and control unwanted resonance.
different points on the front baffle.

120 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


My Audio Design Grand MS Reviews MTF

While many monitors aspire to this delivering a smooth and extended top
Alternatives
level of performance, few manage to end that is as fast as any ribbon or
Unity Audios Boulder (4,300) is an active
avoid the rather cold, clinical nature electrostatic design, while remaining design featuring a dual coaxial midrange/
that often comes with detail retrieval. unforced and natural-sounding. tweeter unit along with two dedicated bass
drivers. They are powered by four bespoke
Instead, the Grands offer a big, open My Audio Design has created a truly 100W amplifiers and feature adjustable
sound that engages in a very musical special monitor with the Grand MS. midrange and treble controls.
way. Detail is there in spades, but never Many top-flight studios will want to
in a way that feels as if the information install them as midfield monitors, while
is being spat-out at you. Bass home and project-studio recordists MTF Verdict
performance is extraordinary, going as who insist on the ultimate in sound
+ Superb musical insight
low as you would expect from monitors quality will want them as their main + Excellent stereo imaging
+ Tuneful bass performance
+ Wonderful dynamics
In terms of accuracy, dynamics + Great build quality

and sheer musical insight they - Arguably not for lovers of


boom-box sounds
- Power amplifier required
are truly stellar performers The Grand MS is a brilliant
performer, delivering tonal
accuracy right across the
of this size and without any of the boom monitors. Perhaps their particular frequency range and with first-rate
that usually plagues box speakers; sonic charm may appeal more to those imaging capabilities that makes
there is no discernible box-overhang at who make their music with real creating a stereo picture easy. The
way that they offer an open window
all. The reflex port aids the lowest instruments rather than those involved into a mix is outstanding. Musical
frequencies, allowing the full weight of purely with electronica, but nobody insight like this is rare, even among
bass notes to be heard while remaining with a musical ear would be immune to monitoring systems that cost many
wonderfully tuneful. And, thankfully, no their charm, we feel. times the price of these
exceptional monitors.
unpleasant chuffing sounds can be In terms of tonal accuracy, dynamics
heard from the port. The silk-dome
tweeter is a real star performer,
and sheer musical insight they are truly
stellar performers. MTF
10/10

Magic A/B Another useful feature is


the A/B mode, in which you
can choose to slowly fade
Manufacturer Sample Magic between tracks from
02,000ms. However, we
Price 24.90
would ideally like to see an
Contact via website actual crossfader rather
Web www.samplemagic.com than just a fade-out and
fade-in so that you can

A
lthough referencing other simulate how the tracks
material is a great way to might sound being mixed
improve your mixing skills, it together in a DJ set. It
can be incredibly fiddly to would also be great to have
manage flicking between audio tracks, LP and HP filters to hone in
especially if youve got any processing on just the lows and highs,
on the master buss. but this can be done with a separate
In steps Magic A/B, the first plug-in individual sliders. Accurate plug-in. Finally, you can save all of your
from Sample Magic, which enables you peak and RMS meters ensure you have settings including the reference
to load up to nine reference audio files correctly matched the volumes of the tracks themselves into a preset for
and switch between them and the track tracks. The nicely laid-out user quick recall in another project.
that youre working on. The plug-in Key Features interface bares a striking resemblance Magic A/B is a plug-in that everyone
comes in VST, AU, RTAS and AAX Quickly to those from the iZotope stable (which could benefit from. Its a simple but
formats and is intended to be placed reference up to is no bad thing!), and once your incredibly useful idea thats easy to use
9 tracks against
last in the chain on the master buss your own reference track is selected, youre and well executed. MTF
after any processing, although you may Built-in peak and presented with a waveform view, which
want to put metering plug-ins after it so RMS meters gives you the ability to zoom in and loop MTF Verdict
Individual
you can compare frequency spectrums. volume sliders
any section. Its then simply a case of A simple but elegant solution for
After loading in your reference for each file clicking on the A and B buttons located referencing other tracks when
tracks (which can be in a variety of Zoom and loop on the right-hand side to switch working on your mix.
formats including MP3 and m4a), you
can balance the volumes using the
your reference
material
between your original mix and the new
reference track.
8/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 121
MTF Reviews Universal Audio Ocean Way Studios

Innovation Choice speaker element, as such, but it does

9/10
9
9/10
recognise that even the dry source will
be tonally modified in some way.

Taking the mic


Run in Re-Mic mode, the Ocean Way
Studios plug-in should be instantiated
as an insert effect, as the output is a
wholly modified version of the original
source. Start by selecting the Studio
and Source, with the Studio option
being switchable between the two live
rooms at Ocean Way, and the Source
defining some initial dispersal patterns
in relation to the source sitting within
the room. Although the Source list isnt
exhaustive, it offers a good range of
starting points, including drums, strings
and amplifier cabinets.
Once youve selected your Source
and Studio, you then go about choosing,
For PC positioning and levelling a series of
& Mac virtual microphones. In effect, therefore,
the Ocean Way Studios plug-in is

UNIVERSAL AUDIO
modifying both the dry source file,
largely through the colouration of the

Ocean Way Studios


microphones, and mimicking the
precise acoustic conditions present at
the three mic positions Near, Mid and
Far. If you want a relatively dry sound,
therefore, use just the Near mics
This UAD plug-in is a unique take on re-creating the sound and positioned right up against the source.
acoustics of a classic studio. Mark Cousins learns more. To add more ambience, either move the
Near mics away from the source or add

T
Details he aspirational nature of many technology. In short, it uses the same the Mid and Far mics into the equation.
Price $349 of Universal Audios plug-ins process used to capture the nuances of
Contact Source hasnt escaped our attention an audio device, but applied in the Making room
Distribution an almost endless list of context of a recording space, alongside As youd expect, the operation of the
020 8962 5080
Web www.uaudio.com desirable audio devices that wed love the cupboard of classic mics used to Ocean Way Studios plug-in feels
Minimum system to have permanently wired into our capture the source. intuitive and tangibly hands-on in
requirements studios (Neve equalizers, Fairchild Principally speaking, the Ocean Way other words, you actually feel like youre
PC Windows 7 (SP1),
compressors and Lexicon reverbs, to Studios plug-in works in two distinct standing in the live room positioning
UAD-2
Mac OSX 10.6.8, name just a few). But with the release ways. Theres a Re-Mic mode, offering a microphones rather than tweaking
UAD-2 of the Ocean Way Studios plug-in, this completely immersive solution to settings on a reverb plug-in. Although
aspirational quality takes on a whole

You feel like youre standing


new character. Now, its not just the
hardware wed expect to find in a

in the live room rather than


professional recording facility, but the
actual sound of music bouncing around
its live room. But can this plug-in really
Key Features
Acoustic
place you in the heart of Hollywoods
Ocean Way Studios, or is it just a novel
tweaking settings on a plug-in
emulations of
Ocean Ways twist on the age-old process of reverb?
Studio A and Ocean Ways sound, and a Reverb the acoustic of the studio isnt
Studio B
Dynamic Room
Making waves processing mode that is much closer to expansive, it definitely feels and sounds
Modeling On first encounter, the role and the use and operation of a traditional like a room thats empathetic to a range
Incorporates technology behind the Ocean Way reverb plug-in. of instruments, and assuming that your
sonic profiles
Studios plug-in isnt immediately In essence, the Re-Mic mode could source is relatively dry, a great way of
of vintage
microphones obvious is it just a convolution reverb, be compared to the concept of adding dimension and space to your
Includes mic like Altiverb 7, or is it an elaborate re-amping, whereby a source is fed to a recordings without them sounding
bleed and
mic-modelling tool that enables you to guitar amp in the studio and then noticeably reverberated.
proximity
effects re-colour an existing source recording? re-recorded, complete with colourations If you want to use Ocean Way
8 instrument/ In truth, Ocean Way Studios is far more of the speaker, new mic and, of course, Studios more like a traditional reverb
vocal source than either, being built on Universal the room itself. However, the Ocean Way plug-in, you also have the choice of
types
Audios Dynamic Room Modeling plug-in isnt trying to emulate the running it in Reverb mode. Used in this

122 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


Universal Audio Ocean Way Studios Reviews MTF

way, the plug-in removes all dry signals together a number of strands namely,
Alternatives
from the output, which negates some of virtual acoustics and mic modelling in
Looked at solely as a reverb unit, you could
the cleverer aspects of the modelling a dynamic, intuitive way. achieve comparable results to Ocean Way
but allows you to use the plug-in in a Of course, its hard not to draw some Studios using Audio Eases Altiverb 7. The
key advantage of Altiverb, of course, is its range of
traditional wet/dry capacity, potentially comparisons between Ocean Way impulse responses, covering everything from recording studios (including
running a number of signals out to the Studios and the aforementioned Hansa Studios and Cello Studio in LA) to cavernous cathedral acoustics
live room to inject a dose of ambience. Altiverb 7. Indeed, used statically in like Notre Dame. Although Altiverb includes two or three IRs per space,
its a much more static tool: simply choose the IR and process accordingly.
You can still colour the reverb with the Reverb mode, its conceivable that In truth, theres space for both plug-ins, but if youre mainly after studio
choice of mics, and change its theres little difference in the sonic profiles, Ocean Way Studios is arguably the better choice.
dimensions by moving them, which output between the two (its worth
makes it far more intuitive and musical pointing out that Altiverb doesnt have Nothing else comes close to this level of
than a traditional reverb plug-in. an IR file from Ocean Way). However, tangible acoustic control, and given the
once you start moving mics around or musicality of the rooms at Ocean Way
The Ocean way use it in Re-Mic mode, Ocean Way Studios, few will want to miss out on
Having had the input of Allan Sides (an Studios becomes a far more interesting what it has to offer. MTF
engineer whos spent plenty of time at tool, letting you tailor your acoustic
Ocean Way) and over three years of space in powerful and interesting ways. MTF Verdict
+ Perfect recording studio acoustic

OWS brings virtual acoustics + Models both dry and wet


components

and mic modelling together in


+ Detailed controls
+ A truly unique tool

a dynamic, intuitive way - Slightly limited range of spaces


- Relatively DSP-hungry

With detailed room modelling and


hands-on mic positioning, the
technical development, Ocean Way Ultimately, though, Ocean Way Ocean Way Studios plug-in is a
Studios more than meets its aim of Studios is a truly unique tool, something perfect tool for adding studio-like
recreating the sound and acoustics of a that can shape both the colour and spatiality to your recordings.
classic studio. Its also an ingenious way
of looking at signal processing, bringing
ambience of your recording in ways
almost impossible to achieve elsewhere.
9/10

HD-25 Aluminium detailed and the balance between


frequencies and sound reproduction
in general had a clarity that its
Manufacturer Sennheiser Key Features difficult to find comparison
Price 205.54 Aluminium
with. We used the headphones
construction for more than two hours
Contact HHB 020 8962 5000
Neodymium without removing them and
Web www.sennheiser.com ferrous magnet
during that time there was
system and
never any discomfort quite

T
aluminium/
he HD-25s have something of a copper voice the opposite in fact: it was hard
coils
mythical reputation among to take them off, as our ears
Lightweight and
professional DJs, being the comfortable became accustomed to the
audio connoisseurs Frequency memory foam-like satisfaction.
headphones of choice, and to celebrate response: The HD-25s are industry-standard
1622,000Hz
25 years since they were launched Detachable
for a reason, and that reason is more to
Sennheiser has released a new version, 2-metre cable do with the quality and texture of sound
albeit with a much more durable they reproduce rather than appearance
aluminium construction. or lifestyle-choice brand name. With
The cups and the hinge cover are this anniversary edition Sennheiser has
lathed from a single aluminium block proved that the HD-25s are serious
(which is surprisingly lightweight yet nuances of subtly sounds and contenders for the finest professional
tough), while the cups are scalable over enhancing the fidelity of even the most DJ headphones that money can buy. MTF
the arms to accommodate even the aggressive mixes.
largest of heads and are also rotatable During our tests we sampled a
for more slick single-ear monitoring. variety of music across a range of MTF Verdict
The noise-cancelling insulation is genres. The results were massively A dynamic set of headphones that
perfectly tailored for loud venues and Choice impressive across the board, with the improves on the iconic originals in

9/10
9
9/10
theres very little significant overspill low end having a distinct and rich terms of build, comfort and
all-important sound quality.
evident. Indeed, theyre equally as rumble on everything we played,
effective for quieter music-production
purposes as well, highlighting the
possibly due to the more substantial
and solid cups. Treble was also highly
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 123
MTF Reviews Fostex PM641

Our first impressions are of a very


open and airy sound quality combined
with unusually crisp imaging. Kick
drums and bass lines are tight, clear
and well controlled. We were
particularly impressed with the way in
which the 641s were able to track
dubby lines with no sense of boominess
or sluggishness. Best of all, though, we
couldnt detect any port-chuffing.
Due to the distribution of the drive
units over a wide surface area, you may
need to set the 641s closer together
than some other speakers to avoid
ending up with a stereo image thats too

FOSTEX wide. However, this will be less apparent

PM641
with the 641s in an upright position.
We had found the treble response of
the PM841 a tad strident, and the 641s
were just the same. We preferred the
sound with the treble cut engaged, but
The new PM641 aims to be the perfect blend of affordability and working very close to the PM641s does
excellent sound reproduction. Huw Price tests that claim. exaggerate the issue, and if you have
the space to set the speakers further

W
Details hen we first set up our the front baffle. If they need to be laid away from your seating position, it may
Price 398/pair review pair of Fostex on their sides, the left and right not be noticeable.
Contact SCV London PM641s, we experienced a arrangement will need to be reversed if
020 8418 1470
sense of dj vu we have the tweeters are to end up at ear height. In the detail
Web www.fostex.com
also had the pleasure of checking out By comparison with more expensive
the Fostex PM841s and at first glance Dividing lines monitors we did notice a slight lack of
Key Features these look the same. For the most part The inside of the speaker enclosure is detail in the midrange. Most of the time
LF driver: 6.5- they are, but there are some differences. divided into different sections for the youd be unaware of it, but little things,
inch Kevlar cone Theyre both three-way speakers woofer and the midrange driver to such as the ring of a snare drum, were
Midrange driver: with a four-inch midrange driver and a
4-inch Kevlar
one-inch tweeter, but, as the model

Better imaging and power


cone
HF driver: 3/4- designation indicates, the 641s bass
inch soft-dome driver is 6.5 rather than eight inches in
Frequency
response:
55Hz25kHz
diameter. Onboard power for the woofer
has dropped 10W to 50W, but both the
than you might expect from active
Output power:
LF 50W, mid 18W,
HF 18W
other drivers still get 18W each.
The 641s enclosure is slightly
monitors at this price point
smaller than the 841s, measuring 25 x
37 x 25.5cm (WHD). At 11.4kg theyre minimise unwanted interference very apparent over some speakers but
lighter, too, but youll still need sturdy between the drivers. The cones of the barely noticeable on the 641s. Even so,
speaker stands. The cabinets are woofer and midrange drivers have a the 641s deliver better transparency,
front-ported, with rounded edges at the textured surface and are both made imaging and power than you might
opening of the tubes. from highly rigid and elastic papered expect from active monitors at this
Alternatives Kevlar. This material was designed by price point. They also sound far more
If youre looking Bit on the side Fostex engineers to reproduce any type refined and classy than most and we
specifically for a
three-way monitor
An integral channel divider provides of input source. The tweeter is a soft- thoroughly enjoyed our time working
in this price range, overlapped frequency crossover points dome type with a diaphragm made from with them. MTF
it must be said that to maintain smooth transitions UFLC (Urethane Film Laminated Cloth).
there arent many
others to choose between the drive units. Unlike typical There are no controls or switches on MTF Verdict
from. In fact, we three-way hi-fi speakers, the 641s the front baffle. At the rear youll find an
could find only one midrange and HF drivers are arranged IEC socket with accompanying power + Solidly made
other option. The + Ample power
Prodipe Pro 6 Aktiv symmetrically to minimise height and switch and three-step level
+ Clear sound quality
(249/pair) is a 90W diffraction. Consequently, pairs are adjustments for high frequencies
(bi-amped) monitor
+ Tweakable frequency response
with two 1-inch silk-
supplied with right/left designations, (around 10kHz) at +1/0/-1dB and
dome tweeter and but this may be slightly misleading. frequencies at +3/0/-3dB (around - Power switch/volume at rear
a 6.5-inch woofer It all depends on whether your 60Hz). There are two input sockets for - Slightly strident treble
(30W), XLR/TRS/RCA
inputs, level control working environment dictates whether XLR and TRS jack connectors. The XLR The Fostex PM641 offers
and HF adjustment. the speakers are used upright or on socket operates at an input level of impressive sound quality and
their sides. When placed in the upright +4dB and the TRS jack operates at power. Excellent value for money.
position, the 641s should be set up with
the tweeters on the outside edges of
-10dB. Both have input impedance
rated at 20K ohms or more.
8/10
124 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
Steinberg Nuendo 6 Reviews MTF

Alternatives
Adobe Audition CS6 is around
330 and is designed to tie in
with the companys other pro
apps, specifically, Premiere. Its
arguably not as elegant as Nuendo and lacks
its depth, but if your needs are more modest
its worth a look. DAWs can be press-ganged
into doing some of the things Nuendo can do,
though again they lack the specialised tools
and forensic focus on post-specific tasks.

space, so natural changes in loudness


and timbre are reproduced without the
need for EQ or volume automation.
Whats more, you can upmix stereo or

STEINBERG Choice mono audio to sound great on complex

9/10
9
9/10
surround systems, and downmix to

Nuendo 6
make sure the reverse is also true.
For PC
& Mac
Making connections
There are many other new features, too,
Audio post-production brings its own set of challenges, but can in keeping with Cubase 7. Memzap lets
you assign key commands for jumping
Nuendo 6 do the business? Hollin Jones finds out. around a project, even switching
between zoom levels. The VST Connect

N
Details uendo is Steinbergs flagship tools built-in. These can be configured SE system allows real-time, sample-
Price Nuendo 6 audio post-production tool to display various loudness standard accurate collaboration over the internet,
(boxed only) 1,388. and shares much of its DNA scales for you to compare your material and the Remote Control Editor makes
Update from Nuendo with Cubase, although its to. Theres also a Loudness track that setting up controller hardware simple.
5 (download and
boxed) 203 focus is more on audiovisual work than can be inserted into a project and Under the hood, the new ASIO Guard
Contact via website traditional music recording. The two displays a loudness curve over time, technology helps to prevent dropouts,
Web applications are closely linked and have making it easier to account for scenes and as a sweetener you get 1.5GB of pro
www.steinberg.net much in common at a technological that are too loud or too quiet. ADR audio effects samples for post.
Minimum system
requirements
level, so its not surprising to see a new (Automated Dialogue Replacement) is Nuendo is an extremely powerful
PC Window 7 version of Nuendo that has many of the another post-specific process and environment for working with audio and
Mac OSX 10.7 new features of Cubase 7. something that is required on most focuses particularly on post and video
films and many TV projects. Nuendo 6 sync work. As we found in Cubase, the
Old meets new has a new tool called the ADR Taker new features are excellent for speeding
One of the most significant new System which is a really efficient new up workflow and managing larger
features is the MixConsole, a total way of marking out scenes for dialogue projects and feel like a generational
redesign of the mixer that makes overdubbing, giving performers a step forward. You dont get all of
working with high track counts much count-in and capturing their speech. Cubases features, but the more
easier. Its very customisable, with Theres a clever routing system that lets music-centric ones (like scoring) can be
advanced viewing and channel-linking you add specific kinds of sounds like added via the NEK expansion (a shade
options. Drag-and-drop is supported location sound or music to the mix to over 200). With its many new workflow
and theres a Full Screen mode so that help with the flow of a recording, and enhancements, superior surround
on a second monitor you can maximise you can import and export edit decision capabilities and advanced ADR tools,
the window. Each channel now has its lists and even add dialogue to the video Nuendo becomes an even more
own channel strip with filters, EQ, three display. This is all designed to minimise complete audio post solution. MTF
compressors and a limiter plus 150 or remove the need for external
presets. A Channel Settings window for hardware, and it works very well. MTF Verdict
each channel gathers the parameters In addition to a range of bundled
+ Improved workflow features
and sections you might need to view plug-ins, Nuendo 6 comes with the + New MixConsole is very powerful
and edit into a single location; this Voxengo CurveEQ, a 64-band EQ with + Advanced surround features
updates as you flip between tracks. advanced functionality such as the + Professional loudness metering
Key Features Plug-ins have a new, streamlined ability to analyse and extract the audio + Excellent ADR tools
New MixConsole + Improved remote control setup
browser complete with a search field, characteristics of one piece of audio
Anymix Pro
surround plug-in
which makes finding and loading them and transfer them to another. Surround - You may feel that for the price it
Integrated much quicker. Theres also Nuendo- is something that Nuendo is particularly should include the NEK expansion
loudness wide A/B of plug-in presets that makes talented at, and in v6 you get the Anymix
measurement A hugely powerful and flexible
comparing different treatments simple. Pro plug-in by IOSONO, a very advanced
ADR Taker solution for audio post-production.
System tool for working with sound in the Redesigned mixer, surround tools
Voxengo On the air surround environment. This includes and enhanced workflow will be of
CurveEQ Loudness metering is vital for projects distance-dependent loudness and EQ real benefit to professionals.
Sound effects
library
that are for broadcast, and Nuendo 6
has much improved loudness metering
settings that automatically adjust when
the signal is moved within the listening
9/10
FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 125
MTF Reviews DMG Audio EQuilibrium & Compassion

attack and release, making it easy to


determine where the compressor
starts to distort at wave level.
Flipping open the Advanced controls
reveals a compressor with a surprisingly
deep and versatile set of features. In
essence, each key control threshold,
ratio, attack and so on has an
additional set of parameters associated
with it. Within a few tweaks, therefore,
Compassion can be switched between
compression, expansion, upward
expansion, upward compression and
dynamic equalisation, alongside
support for processing in the M/S
domain. Because of the inherent
complexity, though, you need to have a
good handle on the techniques of
compression, especially given the
minimal number of presets that are
included with the plug-in.
For PC
& Mac
The right balance
DMG AUDIO Arguably one tool that really benefits
from DMG Audios precise and detailed

EQuilibrium
approach is that of EQ, and given the
sonic depths behind Compassion it was
Choice exciting to find out what EQuilibrium

9/10
9
9/10
& Compassion
had to offer. Intriguingly, the first time
we ran the plug-in it presented us with
a series of questions investigating our
preferred application (either working
across multiple mix channels, for
DMG Audio has created a set of next-generation processors that example, or centring on two-channel
dont hark back to the past. Mark Cousins checks them out. mastering tasks), as well as exploring
our preferences in respect to the GUI
and the use of M/S processing. At the

G
Details
iven the potential for large, and informative, offering levels of end of the process youre presented
Price 275
custom-designed GUIs and control and visual feedback few other with your idealised EQ, making it a
Contact via website
Web
an almost infinite number of plug-ins can match. great way of customising the plug-ins
www.dmgaudio.com parameters, its surprising to operation and appearance ahead of
Minimum system note how rare it is to find a plug-in Software squeeze your first encounter.
requirements
developer really exploiting the On first use, Compassion looks and To make an inevitable comparison,
PC Windows XP
Mac OSX 10.4 possibilities offered by computer-based feels much like any other software- EQuilibrium takes a similar approach to
signal processing. Despite a raft of based compressor. The principal FabFilters Pro-Q, employing a large
major plug-in developers chasing the
Key Features
Fully
allure of modelling past glories, there is
a dedicated group of audio pros pushing These plug-ins offer levels of
control and visual feedback
configurable the boundaries of what can be achieved
compressor
topology in the virtual domain. One such team is
Compression
and expansion
Massively
DMG Audios Dave Gamble and
Krzysztof Oktalski, who have produced a few others can match
flexible EQ
series of plug-ins that attempt to
Adjustable CPU reinvent conventional signal processing parameters Threshold, Ratio, Attack spectral display and a series of nodes
usage tools such as compression and EQ and Release are familiar enough, to apply the equalisation. Unlike Pro-Q,
Completely for the modern age. although we were pleased to note the however, EQuilibrium also offers a
reconfigurable
interface The two plug-ins were looking at inclusion of a wet/dry control for series of band strips (which are much
RTAS/AU/VST here are DMGs EQuilibrium and parallel compression effects. Its deeper like a modular, knob-driven equaliser)
formats Compassion, which are available both qualities, however, are hinted at by the alongside a very informative collection
as a bundle and as single plug-ins. real-time waveform display, which of channel and master meters. Its also
Common to both tools is keen attention provides an immediate visual guide as worth noting the keyboard that floats
to detail, and a wealth of parameters to where and how the gain reduction is beneath the Analyser display this is
covering every angle. Despite their taking place. In particular, the an excellent means of positioning nips
apparent complexity, though, the clean red-and-green colour-coding enables and tucks in relation to specific
design of the GUIs is both approachable you to see the interaction between the musical pitches.

126 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


DMG Audio EQuilibrium & Compassion Reviews MTF

Within just a few minutes of using mind exploring the Advanced


Alternatives
EQuilibrium it felt like one of the most parameters, Compassion can be
As an example of an intuitive, visually driven
initiative and feature-rich equalisers tweaked into any variety of contemporary EQ, its inevitable to draw some
wed encountered since Brainworxs compression you can imagine, from the comparisons between FabFilters Pro-Q and
EQuilibrium. Both plug-ins share many important
bx_digital V2. In essence, you work soft variable-mu-like variety to key features such as the ability to work in the M/S domain and the
EQuilibrium by instantiating a series of hard-hitting FET squash. super-clean interface of the Pro-Q makes it a joy to use. When it comes
bands, adding a new node to the Where DMG Audios approach really to mastering applications, though, the almost scientific level of analysis
and detail in EQuilibrium gives it the edge over Pro-Q, especially given
Analyser display and a new band strip, pays dividends is with EQuilibrium, features such as keyboard mapping, which enables you to precisely
much like an additional channel strip in which is arguably one of the most position cuts and boosts in relation to musical frequencies.
a mix. Each band can be set to work informative and flexible software EQs
either with the stereo signal or one of weve had the pleasure to use. In sonic flexibility coupled with such a
the individual channels left, right, mid mastering applications thanks to its user-friendly interface, all of which
and side depending on whether youve informative metering, keyboard display make both Compassion and
picked stereo or M/S operation. Each and precise curve characteristics EQuilibrium powerful tools when placed
band can also be given its own curve EQuilibrium positively shines, offering in the right hands. MTF
setting, with curves directly modelled a degree of sonic and operational clarity
from classic equalisers such as the few others can match. However, with a MTF Verdict
infamous Pultec EQ. few simple setup adjustments,
+ Detailed sonic tools
EQuilibrium can operate just as well as + Impressive operational flexibility
All things equal a channel-based equaliser working + Informative metering
Both EQuilibrium and Compassion are across multiple instruments in your mix. + Clean and focused sound
highly versatile signal-processing tools
- Steep learning curve
with an incredible degree of depth and Tooled up - Editability rather than immediacy
detail in their implementation. While we Whether youre looking to move beyond
enjoyed the versatility of Compassion, the signal-processing tools offered in DMG Audios no-compromise
theres still a lot to be said for the your DAW or want to augment your approach is a real hit for those who
like sonic detail and flexibility, but it
immediacy of the analogue modelling plug-ins folder with a precise and
might challenge those who prefer a
compressor plug-ins, which tend to flexible set of mixing tools, wed one-button solution.
deliver great results with just a
modicum of tweaking. If youre feeling
wholeheartedly recommend DMG
Audios offerings. For the money, few 9/10
more adventurous, though, and dont other developers offer this degree of

Classic Tracks: The Real Stories


Behind 68 Seminal Recordings
Manufacturer Sample Magic recollections, facts, images and details
Choice on the technical setups involved. The

9/10
9
9/10
Price 26.90
420-page book comprises more than
Contact via website
350 colour and black-and-white
Web www.samplemagic.com photos, illustrations and track sheets.
Each track is given between four and

A
s the tracks we hear time and eight pages, with separate boxouts for
time again on the radio reach technical info helping to make the body
our ears in their polished, of the text more accessible. There are
finished state, it can be easy plenty of iconic artists here, starting
to forget that many hours of work by with Les Paul and taking in Miles Davis, have only eight tracks between them.
talented teams of people went into Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Overall, however, learning about the
their creation. And as some of the best The Who, Madonna, Nirvana, Depeche difficult births of famous tracks offers
works feel so natural when we listen to Mode, Michael Jackson and more. As an inspiring and comforting read for
Key Features
them, its also easy to assume that they you read through each tale of in- anyone in the business of writing or
Behind-the-
simply sprung into being as completed scenes info on 68
fighting, drink and drugs, engineering producing music. MTF
pieces. Classic Tracks is a new book classic tracks struggles and happy accidents, it
from Sample Magic that tells a different Covers the 1950s makes you realise just how varied the MTF Verdict
to present day
tale, looking at the stories behind 68 writing, production and mixing
Stories, Slightly lacking in modern-day
seminal recordings from the 1950s up processes can be.
anecdotes and tales but a fascinating read,
to the modern day. technical info Although not all of the stories make packed with behind-the-scenes
The book is written and compiled by 420 pages, plus for real page-turners, there are plenty stories and info charting the
350+ photos and struggles and successes of music,
New York Times best-selling author illustrations of surprising twists and amusing
Richard Buskin and contains interviews anecdotes. We would have liked to see a people and technology.

9/10
Written by
with the key producers and engineers author Richard few more modern-day tales to balance
Buskin
behind each recording along with artist things out, though the 90s and 2000s

FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 127


MTF Reviews Waves Manny Marroquin Signature Collection

Alternatives
Waves plug-in bundles tend to be unique
enough that the only things that measure up
are other Waves bundles. But that doesnt mean
there arent comparable products available.
Soundtoys Native Effects ($495) is a great
start, and includes the fabulous Decapitator
plug-in. Also check out the Slate Virtual
Console Collection ($199). Its cheaper than
Marroquin, if not quite as imaginative.

a chunky hardware feel, and they truly


shine when you combine several of
them on a single track.

For PC Back to basics


& Mac
WAVES
Given the ass-kicking nature of the EQ,
Triple D and Tone Shaper, it comes as a

Manny Marroquin
surprise that the other three plug-ins
dont really go anywhere. Take the
reverb: if you keep things subtle youve
got a high-quality verb here, but push it

Signature Collection
too hard and cracks start to appear in
the sound. Having said that, Marroquin
does include that phaser control, which
can give reverbs extra sparkle.
Four-time Grammy Award-winner Manny Marroquin brings his We were similarly unmoved by the
delay and the distortion units. While
unique sound and workflow to the masses. Rob Boffard plugs in. theyre perfectly functional and give
good results, we just cant help feeling

Y
Details ou get six plug-ins here, all put slick interface, and it gives good results that they dont live up to the promise of
Price $500 together by engineer Manny at times, particularly in the high end. the other units. When youve been blown
(intro price $299) Marroquin, and given his The closest thing we can compare it to away by your first date, it comes as a bit
Contact Sonic
Distribution
background Bruno Mars, is iZotope Ozones Harmonic Exciter of a let-down to find that the second
0845 500 2500 Rihanna, Alicia Keys its not surprising and thats certainly no bad thing. isnt quite as good.
Web www.waves.com that this offering is geared towards loud, However, its the latter that really There are other issues, too. While the
Minimum system punchy mixes. You get a reverb, an EQ, a took us by surprise. The Triple D is so presentation is great, the knobs are
requirements
PC Windows 7 delay and a distortion, but there are also named because of its three controls: slightly fiddly to use with a mouse. And
Mac OSX 10.6.8 two non-standard units: the Tone the DeBoxy, DeHarsher and DeEsser. We can someone please ask Waves to
Shaper and the Triple D. have to say that the DeBoxy, in rethink the download and licensing
What really blew us away, particular, rocks: it takes mixes which method? Having to use two separate
Key Features surprisingly, was the EQ. It works around are boxy and lack depth and enables downloaders to manage both license
6 plug-ins a rather nifty idea: each band cutoff you to slowly round them out and give and plug-in files is getting very old-hat.
Modelled EQ point is modelled on a different them a little more life. Along with the
cutoff points
RTAS, VST, AU &
Marroquin for me?
Despite its quirks, wed recommend the
If youre looking to put some
Audio Suite
Multiband Marroquin Series. Its one of the more
control enjoyable set of plug-ins weve tried,
oomph into your sound, this is and if youre looking to put some oomph
into your sound, its well worth looking
well worth looking at at. At under $300 for six quality plug-ins,
its good value for money, too. MTF

hardware unit for example, the low DeHarsher and DeEsser it makes for MTF Verdict
end draws its character from the Neve one mother of a package. While we + EQ is a beast
1073 and the Quad 8. Character is the might respectfully suggest that Waves + Tone Shaper and Triple D are
right word here: this idea could have got marketing department not let its enormous fun
+ Injects mixes with character
messy, but it works beautifully, collaborators enjoy too much free rein
producing an EQ that has punch and with names in the future, it doesnt alter - Fiddly knobs
colour in spades. We tested it on a the fact that this is an awesome, if - Clunky download system
bog-standard drum loop and it kicked it somewhat bewildering, plug-in.
Flashy, powerful and exciting, the
into the stratosphere. While it would There some other nifty surprises,
Marroquin Series is a solid addition
have been nice to have a graphic display, too, such as extra controls on each unit to the Waves stable even if it still
this is a seriously good piece of kit. a phaser on the reverb and an EQ on has a few wrinkles that need to be
The Tone Shaper and Triple D also the distortion, among others which ironed out.
impressed. The former is a multiband
parallel compressor presented via a
proved to be surprisingly helpful
gadgets. The plug-ins look ace, too, with
8/10
128 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS
NE
W
!

THE BEST ONLINE


RESOURCE FOR
GUITARISTS AND
BASS PLAYERS

www.guitar-bass.net
MTF On Your DVD

Although you cant beat the results of a pro


mastering engineer armed with thousands of
pounds worth of kit, its now easier than ever to get
great-sounding results in your own studio. With
that in mind, youll find plenty of pro mastering tips
and techniques on our DVD, including three hours
of tutorial videos, the latest demos and freeware,
and promotional videos showing a range of new kit
in action. Theres also over 600MB of royalty-free
samples for you to use in your tracks, plus project
files and screenshots to accompany the
workshops and walkthroughs.

MTF On the disc Three hours of pro video tuition

EQ, COMPRESSION & MORE IZOTOPE INSIGHT & SLATE DIGITAL FG-X MASTERING WITH LOGIC AND LIVE
01 The tutorial experts at Groove 3 have
02 Groove 3 also takes an in-depth look at
03 Producertech and producer FracTroniX
provided us with a whole range of videos that the complex level meters and Loudness demonstrate the art of tidying up and
look at balancing a track with EQ, smoothing History Graph in iZotopes Insight analyser fine-tuning a dubstep mix prior to mastering.
over dynamics with buss compression, suite, alongside examples on how to use Slate Theres also a tutorial from Rob Jones on the
increasing loudness with mastering limiters, Digitals FG-X compressor/limiter to mastering racks from the new Mastering In
and dithering down to 16-bit. transparently bring up the level of a track. The Box With Ableton Live course.

MASTERING WITH OZONE 5 LOOPMASTERS SAMPLES PRIME LOOPS SAMPLES


04 As part of Point Blank Music Schools
05 Loopmasters has provided a stack of
06 Weve also got a tasty selection of finely
regular Friday Forum, Ableton expert Anthony royalty-free samples to use in your tracks, with crafted loops and hits from Prime Loops,
Chapman explores iZotopes superb Ozone 5 loops from A Journey Into House, Atmospheric which have been taken from their recent
mastering suite, using an unmastered track Vinyl Breaks, Bass House & Garage Vol2, releases Art of Trap 2, Cinematic Moods 2,
by Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. Classic Synthology, Junkyard Percussion Vol2, Complextro Anthems, Epic Staccato Strings,
and Mediks Drum and Bass Surgery. Hip Hop Monarchy and The Sound Of Bar9.

130 | Mastering 2014 FOCUS


On Your DVD MTF

MTF Your Disc


MTF DVD34 Mastering 2014
For PC & Mac

MTF DVD 34
Mastering 2014
USING OUR
WORKSHOPS
COPYRIGHT ANTHEM PUBLISHING 2014
FAULTY DISC?

Weve got workshops Check www.musictechmag.co.uk for known issues


Return to: Anthem Publishing (disc returns),

covering a whole range of Suite 6, Piccadilly House, London Road,


Bath BA1 6PL, UK

mastering techniques in
Live, Logic, Cubase,
Reason and Pro Tools.
Where appropriate youll
find hi-res images,
project files and audio on
the disc so you can follow DEMOS &
along at home. Be sure to FREEWARE
copy the files to your To get the best results
computer before opening you sometimes have to
a project. look beyond your DAWs
built-in plug-ins and
AUDIO SAMPLES effects. Weve selected a
Youll find over 600MB of host of top software and
royalty-free samples and
loops from Loopmasters,
For PC & Mac freeware for you to try
out, including plug-ins
Prime Loops and from FabFilter, Flux,
MusicTech, including iZotope,
bumping house beats, MeldaProduction,
throbbing analogue Wavesfactory, Voxengo
synths, dark cinematic and Vladgsound.
FX, aggressive dubstep
basses and grooving live PROMOTIONAL
breaks. Each sample has Whether youre looking to
been finely crafted and get a new audio interface
offers an excellent or expand your plug-in
library with bespoke

MTF DVD 34
insight into pro
production techniques. mastering software,
weve rounded up a

Mastering 2014 collection of videos


showing the latest kit in
action. Youll find
high-end hardware from
Allen & Heath, AMS Neve,
COPYRIGHT ANTHEM PUBLISHING 2014 Genelec, Kush Audio
and more, plus mixing
FAULTY DISC? and mastering software
Check www.musictechmag.co.uk for known issues from Sonnox, Slate
Return to: Anthem Publishing (disc returns), Digital, iZotope and
Suite 6, Piccadilly House, London Road, Universal Audio.
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On the disc

YOUR DVD CONTENT FILES Download them to your hard drive and unzip them to endeavour to supply you with a replacement disc
ZIP FILES access the individual files (remembering to eject the DVD immediately. Please note that were unable to provide
To maximise the amount of content we can bring you on to prevent your computer from slowing down). technical support for the software on the MTF DVD
each DVD, the video, tutorial and samples files are please check our website at www.musictech.net for any
supplied compressed (zipped). Mac users should be WHAT IS ROYALTY-FREE? known problems.
able to decompress ZIP files simply by double-clicking on Any MTF DVD content marked royalty-free can be used
them; PC users may need to download a utility such as in your own original compositions (even commercial MISSING YOUR DISC?
WinZip (www.winzip.com). ones). You may not, however, resell these samples in any If your disc is missing, contact us at editorial@anthem-
other form. publishing.com with your full postal address and the
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The software tutorials that feature in each issue of MTF DEFECTIVE DISCS
are almost always accompanied by files and audio so you In the unlikely event that your disc is defective, please
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FOCUS Mastering 2014 | 131