Love your audio platform? Say it with VIDEO.
But it’s not just an exercise in synesthasia: this is the name of “The Really Big ‘WHAT THE #%&@ ARE YOU DOING WITH AURIA’ Video Contest“, which they’re putting on in conjunction with a host of co-sponsors — AKG, Apogee, and JBL Professional.
This is worth sharpening your video skills for: the contest is offering up first, second, and third prizes with a total value of $11,000.
To compete, users are invited to submit a video up to 4 minutes in length showing how they use Auria and how it is changing the way they work.
The first place winner will receive a pair of JBL LSR6328Ps, an Apogee Quartet for iOS, an AKG C414 XLS, an AKG C1000S, and AKG K712 headphones, with a total value of over $7,000.
The contest has officially begun, and all submissions must be received by November 22, 2013. Visit here to enter and for the full rules.
Entries will focus on how the contestant is using Auria, whether as an artist, producer, or engineer. They can be shot with smartphones or other simple cameras and edited with consumer editing apps, and the judges will include Grammy Award winning composer/producer/engineer David Kahne and elite producer/engineer Bob Bullock.
Submissions that have the most interesting and engaging content, in the opinion of the judges, will be moved into the final round, where the winners will be chosen by registered visitors to the video contest website.
Auria Device Requirements:
* Compatible with iPad
* Requires iOS 5.0 or later
* 292 MB
Auria 1.140 is $49.99 USD, available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Music category.
Another Thunderbolt is headed our way.
The development means that Apogee’s Symphony I/O will be able to work in tandem with the extremely high speed and bandwidth of Intel’s ThunderBolt technology.
MSRP will be $995.
Here are more details, as supplied by Apogee:
Symphony 64 | ThunderBridge connects Apogee’s flagship audio interface, Symphony I/O, to any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac for true Thunderbolt compatibility and performance. Capable of up to 64 channels of input and output at sample rates up to 192kHz, Symphony 64 | ThunderBridge delivers impressive channel counts at unprecedented speeds for a latency and hassle free recording experience. Symphony 64 | ThunderBridge will also connect Apogee’s X-Symphony equipped AD-16X, DA-16X and Rosetta Series converters to Thunderbolt Macs for legacy compatibility. Existing users of these devices will simply need to update to the most current software/firmware available on Apogee’s website before connecting to ThunderBridge.
Symphony 64 | ThunderBridge Highlights
• Connects up to 64 channels of Apogee I/O to any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac
• Operates at sample rates from 44.1-192 kHz
• Compatible with Symphony I/O and X-Symphony-equipped Rosetta 800, 200, AD16X and DA16X.
• Latency = 1.8 ms at 96kHz/32 buffer
• 2 Thunderbolt ports for connecting additional devices
• 2 PC-32 ports for connection to Apogee interfaces
• 1 Word Clock Out
• DC Input – 12V DC 30W (power supply included)
• Status LED to indicate whether or not the device has been configured properly
• Audio Interfaces: Apogee Symphony I/O X-Symphony-equipped Rosetta Series or X Series interface
• Computer: Thunderbolt-enabled Mac computer, including MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac
• Thunderbolt cables
• Mac OS: 10.7 or later
• Power: DC Power supply included
It appears that Apogee Electronics’ flagship has simultaneously become more approachable and more affordable.
The company announced that Symphony I/O, the company’s flagship audio interface, is now available in select configurations with significant price reductions.
According to Apogee, higher production volumes of their professional multi-channel recording interface have allowed them to achieve lower manufacturing costs. Meanwhile, the line has been simplified to provide customers with “clear, scalable choices.”
The updated pricing and configurations are available now. Here’s how Apogee explains it:
”Symphony I/O is now offered in four configurations with the ability to expand using one of the five available I/O Modules. Configurations include; Symphony I/O 2×6, Symphony I/O 8×8, Symphony I/O 16×16, Symphony I/O 8×8+8MP. These four configurations offer the perfect starting point when purchasing Symphony I/O. With each configuration, customers have the ability to easily expand with up to fourteen possible combinations maxing out at 32×32 Analog I/O in a single Symphony I/O.
Symphony I/O’s new pricing structure offers exceptional savings to Symphony I/O customers looking to expand their configuration. The 16×16 Analog I/O Module receives a price reduction from $3495 to $2995 and the 8 Mic Preamp Module from $1995 to $1495. At $1495, the 8 Mic Preamp Module delivers a $186.88 cost per channel creating unprecedented value for a professional recording interface.
New Configurations and Pricing
• Symphony 2×6 Configuration
Symphony I/O Chassis + 2×6 Analog I/O Module Price: $1995
• Symphony 8×8 Configuration
Symphony I/O Chassis + 8×8 Analog I/O Module Price: $2995
• Symphony 16×16 Configuration
Symphony I/O Chassis + 16×16 Analog I/O Module Price: $3995
• Symphony 8×8 + 8 Mic Preamps Configuration
Symphony I/O Chassis + 8×8 Analog I/O Module + 8 Mic Preamp Module Price: $4490
Available I/O Modules
• 2×6 Analog I/O + 8×8 Optical + AES I/O (only available in configuration)
• 8 Analog I/O + 8 AES/Optical I/O Module – $1995
• 16×16 Analog I/O Module – $2995
• 16 Analog IN + 16 Optical OUT – $1995
• 16 Analog OUT + 16 Optical IN – $1995 • 8 Mic Preamp – $1495”
Featuring 4 inputs and 8 outputs of Apogee’s AD/DA conversion technology as well as 4 mic preamps, Quartet ($1,295) bridges the gap between Apogee’s 2-channel Duet and the 8-channel Ensemble.
Quartet is equipped with 4 combination input connectors (XLR and 1/4”) for connecting microphones, guitars and keyboards or your favorite external mic preamps, compressors and EQs. Quartet also includes 8 channels of digital input via 2 optical connections (ADAT/SMUX) for connecting an additional analog-to-digital converter such as Apogee’s Ensemble.
Click for more details.
The Quartet’s Features & Specs include:
- 4 Analog Inputs: Combination line (balanced +20dBu max), Mic/Instrument (+20dBu/+14dBu max)
- 4 Microphone preamps with up to 75dB of gain
- 8 Digital Inputs: ADAT/SMUX Input, 2 Toslink connectors, 44.1kHz to 96kHz
- 8 Analog Outputs: 6 Balanced line outputs, +20 dBu maximum output level, 1 Independent 1/4” stereo headphone output
- MIDI I/O (USB-A type connector)
- Word clock output
- USB 2.0 High-speed Mac audio interface
- A/D and D/A conversion: 24 bit/192kHz
- 2 top panel high resolution OLED displays
- Controller knob
- 6 touchpads for direct selection of inputs and outputs
- 3 assignable touchpads to control:
- Mute Outputs
- Dim Outputs
- Sum to Mono
- Clear Meters
- Engage Speaker Set (allows monitoring of up to 3 pairs of speakers
- Quartet works with any Core Audio compatible application including: Logic, Pro Tools 9 and 10, Final Cut. Ableton Live
- Available September 2012
Check out this video for a look/listen…
SOHO, MANHATTAN/WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: Inside the floated rooms of New York City’s recording studios, research is always taking place. After the clients have left for the night, gearheads often turn their attention to mic checks of a different kind.
This intersection of art, aesthetics, and science was in full effect last week at Downtown Studios. There, Studio A was the site of a four-way modern tribute microphone comparison arranged by Audio Power Tools, which was marking the debut of their demo-focused Williamsburg retail operation with a night of high-level critical listening.
But don’t call it a shooutout! The eye-popping array of elite large diaphragm condenser mics — a Telefunken ELA M 251E, Bock 241, Telefunken U47, and Wunder CM7 – were assembled in peace. The first two mics honor the legendary ELA M 250/501 mics produced in 1959 by AKG for Telefunken GMBH, while the latter pair put their spin on the famed Neumann U47 – both of which enjoy epic reputations in the vocal mic realm.
“A ‘demonstration’ is probably the most non-combative word,” says APT co-owner Dan Physics. “The idea was not to beat up on any of the brands, but to compare the merits of each brand that was present, and showcase the character of each microphone in contrast to others considered in the same strata.”
For the demonstration, Downtown Studios Chief Engineer Zach Hancock invited Atlantic
Records artist Ryan Star to record one song, using combinations of the two mics simultaneously on Star and vocalist Dallin Applebaum. Meanwhile, a Royer 122 active ribbon mic was placed on acoustic guitarist Daniel Tirer’s instrument for good measure.
In Studio A’s spacious live room, and in the vocal booth, Star and Applebaum each faced different combinations of the two mics, mounted one directly over the other on boom stands. Capsules were almost touching grill-top to grill-top, and sharing the same pop filter. In this way, each microphone’s diaphragm was at an equal proximity to the source material being recorded.
From there, each mic was patched to tie lines via 25′ mic cables, with patch cables of equal length used on the patch bay side. Hancock and Downtown assistant Chris Sciafani took care to make sure the cardioid polar pattern was selected on each mic, and that roll off filtering was not engaged on the mics that offered it.
While a pristine signal path was desirable, APT co-owner Blue Wilding emphasizes that a nod to real-world, practical usage was employed in the decisions throughout the night. As a result, the mic preamps in Downtown’s classic Neve 8014 console were chosen as the next stage.
“The Neve preamps are not as clinical as the GML’s in the A-room,” Zach Hancock says, “which for critical listening is a relevant concern, but there’s a comfort in the familiarity and musicality of the Neves. There are a few ways to get signal routed from the console’s mic pre to the rig: In this case it made the most sense to bypass the large fader and go to disk via the insert-send. The mic pre on the two 47′s was set to the same setting, and the two 251′s got the same setting as well. So each mic got patched in to a 1084, and then patched directly to Pro Tools recording at 24-bit 192k, via an Avid HD I/O converter.”
Star and his bandmates did three takes of the song, a powerful and achingly beautiful duet so new that it’s as-yet unnamed. Rather than declare a “winner”, or color preconceived notions with any value judgments, APT is inviting anyone interested in the outcome to email them directly, arrange to hear the files for themselves, and come to their own conclusions.
“We prefer not to plant seeds in the listener’s mind, in comparisons like this,” Wilding explains. “Detail, clarity and character of each mic are what the listener should be looking for.”
For Audio Power Tools, the demonstration was a microcosm of their hands-on approach. Originally founded by Wilding in 2010 as a rep service for select high-end audio brands, APT transitioned last month into a retail operation handling gear from Burl, BAE, Chandler, Dangerous, Telefunken, Wunder, Bock, Tonelux, Unity Audio, Apogee, Bricasti, Manley, Retro Instruments, and more. Visitors to their Williamsburg demo room (dubbed “The APT”) can call ahead to have custom chains assembled, or have demo gear delivered directly to their studio for onsite auditioning.
“Our credo is ‘demo-based shopping for working professionals,’” says Wilding. “Every person using this gear to make a living needs to hear it before they buy it. It’s the only way. Every purchase is a delicate balance of necessary function and personal taste. Like jeans…you gotta try ‘em on and see how they hug you.
“Unfortunately, a lot of this gear is not available to try in NYC, and when it is, it’s often not demo’d in ideal conditions. So with our demo room, we’ve created an atmosphere that we feel is in tune with the NYC user base.”
Even for seasoned hands like Zach Hancock, the enhanced critical listening experience had an extra measure of sonic satisfaction. “I’ve never had the opportunity to hear the two preeminent U47 and 251 replicas go head-to-head,” he said. “The reward came in the ability to directly compare apples to apples.”
– David Weiss
Drawing upon the experience of developing Apogee’s new flagship audio interface, Symphony I/O, Apogee engineers have rebuilt the highly portable Duet USB audio interface to achieve a difference they say you can hear.
From the mic preamps to the AD/DA converters, the new Duet 2 (MSRP: $595) offers “the best of everything Apogee,” allowing you to capture your audio with even more clarity and dimension than the original Duet.
More specifically, the Duet 2′s two mic preamps feature a new design, all new components and click-free transitions as the gain increases and decreases throughout the range of 0-75dB.
“This feature allows you to dial in the perfect level while delivering ultra-low noise and smooth, crisp detail. Most importantly, the Duet 2 mic preamps are optimized for any sound source, so no matter what you are recording you’ll capture every detail.”
The Duet 2 AD/DA converters are also an all-new design, reportedly delivering “the purest recordings and best listening experience possible. This totally new design takes the personal studio to the next level with state-of-the-art components and next-generation conversion.”
New to Duet 2 is a full color OLED display. This high resolution screen is the main control center for Duet 2, delivering visual feedback for multiple functions including metering, numeric value for input and output levels, input grouping, and phase, muting, phantom power and Soft Limit indication. With this display you know the status of any input and output at any given moment without having to refer to Maestro or your recording software.
Duet 2 also introduces configurable touch pads. The 2 touch pads, located on either side of the encoder knob, allow you to quickly access output functions such as “Mute Outputs,” “Dim Outputs,” “Sum to Mono” or “Toggle Headphone Source.” Each are assignable using a drop-down menu within Apogee’s new Maestro 2. This feature allows you to select the function you want and access it directly from Duet 2 without having to look at software.
And finally, Duet 2’s new breakout cable is “greatly streamlined” with 2 combination mic/instrument connectors (XLR and 1/4”) built into a single connector and 2 balanced 1/4” connectors for speakers.
Duet 2 has also been integrated into the completely redesigned Maestro 2 software as well. This full version update features a new look and familiar single window, multiple tab interface for quick access to all device and system settings.
Matt McCorkle of EqualSonics.com brings you a day in the life of a New York City recording engineer.
The Mission: A String Tracking Session At Tainted Blue Studio NYC
Producer Andrew Koss, owner of Tainted Blue Studio, requested my services tracking string overdubs for Maxine Linehan‘s version of the Leslie Gore hit “You Don’t Own Me” for her new album release, dropping near the end of this year. The session called for overdubbing a string trio on to pre-existing tracks.
Tainted Blue Studio is an amazing facility for tracking strings, with its all wood live room and tasty microphone collection. It’s a playground for engineers, producers and musicians alike.
String recording can be a tricky and challenging process. The goal is to capture the instruments in their purest form, highlighting each instrument’s sonic range while avoiding the masking of individual instruments. To ensure that the players sound good in the room together, you can “acoustically mix” just by moving a couple of chairs and players around in the physical room.
Patience and listening to various microphone placements are key to a good recording. If you’re unsure about how your microphone placement will sound, listen to it! Poor string recordings come from microphone phase cancellation at certain frequencies and ugly reflections from various surfaces. I enjoy the challenge string recordings bring, as the approach for this type of recording is much different than any other instrument.
Once at the studio, I began examining the tracks in Pro Tools listening for how to blend these string overdubs together. Then I approached the producer, Andrew Koss, inquiring into the type of sound he was looking to capture with today’s string tracking. “Intimate and warm,” was the answer.
My plan was to mike the instruments individually, to get the warmth. To get the intimacy, I planned to use an XY stereo configuration to capture the instruments playing together in their natural environment of the live room.
The Quest for Intimacy
First, I positioned three seats equally apart from one another, in a semi-circle facing the glass in the live room. Next, I picked two AKG 414′s to be used in my XY stereo configuration. Also, I wanted to make sure that the cellist will be in the center of my XY stereo configuration, as to not throw off either side of the stereo spectrum later on in the mix.
Then I proceeded to make the angle at which the microphone capsules will be positioned to form the XY configuration. My focus here was to make sure that both the violin and the viola would be in the pickup zone of their respective 414, which were both set in cardioid polar pattern. My goal with the XY setup is to have the violin to the left, the cello in the center, and the viola to the right in the stereo spectrum.
The Quest for Warmth
Warmth! The second half of the producer’s request. This called for getting up close and personal with each instrument. I began with the cello, and chose a Royer 122 for this task, a phantom-powered ribbon microphone.
It’s strange because when I was first learning audio the golden rule was “Never apply phantom power to ribbon microphones!” This is because applying 48 volts to a ribbon microphone will normally blow up the ribbon element. But, what am I doing today? Applying phantom power to ribbon microphones!
There are exceptions to rules and the Royer 122 is one of those exceptions. This ribbon microphone has an amazing tone and accepts phantom power to enable a much higher output gain.
I listened to the cellist play her instrument for a few minutes. After listening carefully to the way this particular cello acts and responds to her bowing, I grabbed my mic and went to work.
I positioned the Royer just above the bridge of the cello pointing near the body and the F Hole. This was to capture the bowing of the strings and body of the cello. However, I had a problem with this microphone placement – not enough low end was going to be captured. I remedied this with a large capsule dynamic Audix D6 microphone. (What a mouthful!) I directed this microphone towards the body of the cello pointed around the F Hole. These two microphones together will produce a full-bodied cello while capturing the players’ nuances.
Next up for treatment, the viola. This instrument sits between the cello and the violin in the sonic spectrum. Listening for a microphone placement, too close to the body will produce too much low end that will compete with the cello for sonic space. Too far away from the body will make the instrument sound thin. The viola can be a tricky placement as you want to make sure it doesn’t compete with either the cello or the violin.
I choose a Royer 122 for this instrument as well. I had the violist play some of the chorus for me as I leaned over the instrument to have a listen, and sure enough found my spot for the microphone placement! I positioned the microphone over the viola about 15 inches, encompassing the instrument in the microphones entire pickup pattern. The Royer 122 is a slim, elongated microphone so I was able to position it parallel with the viola to get a warm, natural sound. Along the way, I was primarily focused on picking up the strings and body of this instrument.
Finally… the violin. I took the same approach with the violin that I had with the viola. However, I opted for a switch in microphones, choosing to go with a Neumann U87. I like the voicing of this microphone as it tends to be nice and pleasant on the violin, bringing its high-mid frequency nuances to life. This microphone choice also helps out the stereo panorama later in the mix, as it will provide a different texture from the Royers when the close mics are mixed together with the 414′s in their XY stereo configuration.
Hear “You Don’t Own Me” and witness the behind the scenes video (complete with string session footage) right here:
Did You Double Check?
After wrapping up my microphone placements, I made sure that all my stands were tight, the cables were looking neat and secure, and the artists were comfortable. My assistant, Michael Thurber, was finished getting every artist their own cue mixer and cans – this was so each player could personalize their own cue mixes while tracking. With one quick glance around the live room to make sure all was well, we headed to the control room.
What do You Know of Signal Flow?
In the control room I went to the patchbay to start my signal flow. First up to get piped through some TT cables were the 414′s into an Avalon 2022, a stereo pre-amp. These two play very nice together, as they produce a nice smooth top end that is very appealing for strings. The 414′s as drum overheads coupled with the Avalon 2022 is simply amazing as well!
The two Royer 122s and the Neumann U87 were sent through a Grace 801 unit – I was very confident in my microphone placement and was not looking for much coloration on the pre-amp side of my signal flow.
Lastly, I patched up the Audix D6 through a vintage Neve 1073 pre-amp to pump it full of low-mid silkiness to give the cello a smooth and rich body. After my pre-amp patching I patched the line level signals straight into the studio’s Apogee converters, which are directly linked to Pro Tools HD. We were ready to set pre-amp gain levels!
How Healthy Are Your Levels?
I kindly asked each player to give me a range of expressions on their instrument, adjusting the close microphone pre-amp’s gain accordingly. After I was satisfied with my close microphones’ pre-amp levels, I had them play together as a trio. I then set the gain levels on the Avalon 2022 for the 414′s XY stereo configuration.
With the pre-amp gain levels set, I panned my channels corresponding to the string players’ placement in the live room and then made some quick monitoring level adjustments.
Time to begin tracking!
The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For!
The producer, who also created this amazing string arrangement, started speaking with the musicians prepping them for various parts in the song.
We took a pass from start to finish. After some kinks were worked out and the musicians felt comfortable, we started taking full passes at the song, layering. Layered a few passes of the string section on top of each other to get a nice, full sound. After the initial layering we went on to add accent tracks of various expressions throughout the track, with the trio still playing together.
The producer had some final parts for each instrument to add depth and nuance to the string section. To accomplish this we had each player take individual passes in various parts of the song. (This was the only time each instrument was playing solo.)
The Final Touches
My assistant went to begin breaking down the live room, waiting for the capacitors in the condenser microphones to dissipate their 48 volts. If one were to disconnect the microphone cable immediately after turning off phantom power, damage could occur to the condenser microphone. This is extremely important, and forgetting this is a sure way to get fired on your first assisting gig! Wait a few minutes, to be safe, if you are not sure of how long your particular condenser microphone takes to discharge its capacitors.
While the live room breakdown was being completed, I began to listen back to the recorded tracks in order to start making a quick, rough mix. Then printed the rough mix, labeled our session, backed up our file and gathered our notes.
The arrangement was beautiful and the string tracks came out wonderfully. For the main, accent and individual passes the mixer will have plenty of choices on which microphone tracks to use. They could use the XY stereo configuration, just the close microphones, or a mixture of both depending on what sound they are trying to achieve at that particular moment in the mix.
It was a successful tracking session at Tainted Blue Studio. It’s always a pleasure to track great musicians, in a great room, with great a big selection of audio toys.
As the owner and operator of his own mobile recording studio, Matt McCorkle of EqualSonics.com is capable of bringing professional audio to anyone, anywhere, anytime. His expertise involves acoustic instrumental recordings, vocal productions, live tracking sessions, electronic music production and mixing. Whether in the studio or out in the field, Matt’s goal is simple: To create new music and sounds with passionate artists. To contact Matt please visit EqualSonics.com.
NYC-based audio engineer/mixer Matt McCorkle announced that he has officially launched Equal Sonics, a full-service audio and music production provider for both studio and mobile situations.
“We encourage people to embrace the recording and mixing process,” McCorkle says. “Our mobile recording studio is the bridge between high-end recording rooms and the home recording studio scene. We saw a need for high-quality audio anywhere, not just in recording facilities.
“We created our mobile studio around the latest cutting edge digital platforms, while still retaining a high-quality front-end with professional microphones and pre-amps. Equal Sonics is here to provide exceptional quality with recordings and service for your productions, no matter how big or small. Whether you’re cutting a record, mixing a voice-over, capturing a live performance or recording rain in the wilderness, the business of getting it completed can often be confusing. Equal Sonics encourages clients to start where all productions should: pre-production.”
Equal Sonics’ mobile recording studio is a full-feature recording and mixing platform, equipped with an Apogee digital clocking and converter system, and a front-end made up of API, Grace Design, Audient, Avedis Audio, and Shadow Hills pre-amps. AKG, Shure, Sennheiser, Heil, and Neumann microphones are all available, along with an 8-channel cue system for custom headphone mixes.
The company is available for clients in NYC, nationally and globally.
HARLEM, MANHATTAN: Who are the lighthouse keepers for New York City’s brilliant musical beacon? The giant of jazz known as Wynton Marsalis surely stands as one such sentry, an adventurist and nine-time GRAMMY winner radiating original sound experiences from our musical epicenter out to the world.
The master capped off 2010 with the release of Vitoria Suite, an epic 12-part sound voyage recorded over three days in June, 2009 with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and a world-class roster of guests — including virtuoso flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía – at the Jesus Gundi Conservatory in Vitoria, Spain. A tribute to the city and its storied jazz festival headed by Inaki Anua, Vitoria Suite is a nonstop sonic odyssey – from its fiery takeoff to the dizzying climax, the opener “Mvt. I: Big 12” takes listeners to such a breathtaking place, one can only imagine what lies ahead.
Richness and musical dimensions of every color, shape and size define Vitoria Suite, a record that represents a true journey for the listener, musicians, and – naturally – its impassioned producer/engineer/mixer/editor. The latter is Jeff Jones (email@example.com), the self-proclaimed “Jedi Master” whose versatile discography includes Public Enemy, Talking Heads, Slick Rick, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones and scores more. The Jedi Master takes recording very, very seriously, as we shall soon see.
Motivated to match and build on the legendary recording contributions of Rudy Van Gelder, the Harlem-based Jones watched over every detail of Marsalis’ years-in-the-writing masterpiece, while allowing its warmth and excitement of discovery to come shining through. For Vitoria Suite’s mind-blowing meld of jazz, blues, Basque music, and flamenco, our talk with Jones confirmed that nothing less than an obsession with perfection would do.
You’ve said that you want to be the “Rudy Van Gelder of tomorrow”. That’s a bold statement. What do you mean by that?
I have been studying records and record-making — and film-making — since I was a kid. I always checked out articles, books, documentaries…anything I could get my hands on. When mixing I explore each style of music, learn its stylistic center and way of being recorded. Since I’ve been studying, apprenticing under Wynton Marsalis and veteran producer Todd Barkan I’ve gotten a deeper understanding about the center of jazz music.
If you study jazz, you have to study Rudy. He developed his own unique sound partly by taking control of the process from recording through mastering at a time when very few people did that sort of thing. He built his own studio and bought a lathe to cut masters. As a result his sonic vision was consistent because he did everything himself. I’ve taken on wearing all the hats now from recording through mastering. You have to do that to make the artistic vision consistent.
Dr. John called me the next Tom Dowd — both Tom and Rudy were inventors. You have to be a bit of a scientist to come up with new stuff when melding such deeply complex worlds as music and recording technology. Those two guy just did so many records that are now considered classics: It’s impossible to be a music listener and not hear their work. Their records have stood up to the test of time. That’s the kind of records I make also.
Nothing half-way about that philosophy! So how do you go about actually accomplishing your approach, in actually practice?
I’m looking to bridge the core elements of historic recordings with new techniques, used with today’s technology to make something new and unique.
Doing something that’s never been done before is really, really difficult. It requires a lot of shedding and a lot of thought. The questions I ask myself are, “Conceptually how do I bridge the gap from the old to the new? What was the old? What equipment? How was that equipment used then? Who manufactured that equipment and how was it built? What were the limitations? And how did they work around them? What were the mediums used? How do they differ from the mediums used today? What are the strengths and weaknesses of yesterday’s mediums and the same for today’s? In total how do I make something new with today’s tools, that is grounded in the history of all recorded mediums that existed before now?”
With such deep musical thinking, it’s little wonder that you and Wynton Marsalis would eventually work together. How did you and Wynton first meet, and what made you really connect as artist/producer?
I first met Wynton when I recorded him at a small Lower East Side benefit concert at the House of Tribes. I was asked to make the recording by the producers of the concert — I suggested we also bring video cameras. I had seen a short amateur clip from the previous year’s concert, and I knew the music would be outstanding.
I made an eight track recording and asked my friend Chuck Fishbein to bring his cameras. After the concert I spent the next five months editing, color-correcting, mixing and mastering to make an hour-long pilot which I hoped at the time would eventually become a television show. The audio from that recording was released on Blue Note and nominated for a GRAMMY and the video played on BET Jazz — you can find clips from that original concert on YouTube.
I think Wynton Marsalis and I pair well because we’re both all about making history and classic purists. He demands excellence from anyone that he works with, and he totally respects the art. My background has both classical and jazz in it — that also makes us a good match.
Fast forward to Vitoria Suite – the origins of this project are pretty interesting…
The head of the Vitoria Jazz Festival asked Wynton to write a piece of music for him, and Wynton ended up writing a twelve-movement piece that took him 10 years to complete. Wynton started the project long before I met him. The recording, editing and mixing process took a full year to complete.
Vitoria Suite was recorded in a music Conservatory theater in northern Spain. The Pro Tools recording equipment package came out of Madrid — I knew that we couldn’t record at 96/24 because the equipment supplier didn’t have enough AES inputs, so the master session was recorded at 48 kHz/24-bit.
My basic approach was to ultra mic everything. The reed players alternately picked up flutes and clarinets so they had double mics top and bottom. In some movements there was extra percussion and a flamenco dancer, plus the arrangement called for the band to add handclaps. I figured I would pick through the mics and use the best combinations in the mix.
Before the recording sessions I saw portions of this twelve-movement piece performed at a jazz festival in Canada, I realized there was no way to separate any of the band members acoustically. Wynton usually records without using headphones anyway, so I set up the risers on the stage to facilitate the normal live setup of the band. It’s a challenge to record so many instruments in an acoustically live room. I recorded 50 channels of individual microphones plus a live stereo reference mix simultaneously.
Why do a live mix? That seems like a stresfful undertaking on top of an already huge undertaking.
I like the energy of a live mix — it’s a kind of Holy Grail that you never get back at any other point during a project. The live mix serves as a template for doing the massive amount of editing needed on Wynton’s projects. I do all my editing on the two-track before editing the multitrack, and each of the 12 movements in Vitoria has at least 15 edits across a 50-track multitrack. There’s no such thing as isolation of the instruments because it’s all played in one room.
In some cases, takes were time-stretched to three different lengths to tempo match. All this kind of work is calculated first with the live mix before executing it with the multitrack. Then once the edit decisions are finalized, I use the edited live mix like a cookie-cutter to edit the multitrack.
That’s a meticulous method, but I can see how, ultimately, it would be the more efficient approach. When it came time to mix, where did you mix and on what system? What was your approach there? You indicated that Wynton had a lot of detailed communication with you on that phase as well.
I edited, mixed and mastered the record in my studio in a Harlem brownstone, in an area known as Manhattan Valley, where I use an Intel Mac Pro with four monitors and a combination of programs including Digital Performer, Pro Tools, and Peak. My signal path has analog summing through a Neve 8816, Apogee and Mytek A/D filters. My system is set up so that I monitor a 44/16 signal, no matter what the frequency rate of the master session. I’m a Mac Geek: I have four towers of different vintages and three laptops, and I use them all in conjunction depending on what’s needed at any given time.
Mostly, I started the mix process by doing a lot of listening. All kinds of records, all styles — even the Bose demo CD you get when you purchase one of their CD players. I like to stop mixing at times and listen to other artists’ records. It gives me a sense of perspective
I received 250 pages of music score for Vitoria Suite, where Wynton communicated with me in musical terms, bar numbers and musical sections. All my session markers were bar numbers or letters as related to the score — there is no other way to communicate about a piece of music which may be eight minutes long with no lyrics or singer, without working directly from the conductor score. Wynton and I communicate about the raw takes first in minutes and seconds based on the track time of the reference CDs. Then, after we assemble the master, our communication with musical score is in bar numbers, beats and so on.
Complex, but the attention to detail definitely shows in the final product. You said that while Wynton is bridging cultures, you are bridging the old and new technically speaking. Can you expand on those parallels?
Wynton is all about family, education, the art, hard work and integrity. He bridges cultures with that message at each show. He always combines other cultures and styles of music with American Jazz with the intent to bring people, their families, their tribes together. He bridged classical and Jazz early on, being the only cat in history to win GRAMMYS in both categories in one year. The first record I produced after “Live at the House of Tribes” was “Two Men with the Blues“. He and Willie Nelson bridged country and jazz on that one.
Since recording Vitoria which bridges flamenco and Jazz he has done shows overseas with the Berlin Philharmonic mixing classical and Jazz, to Havana, Cuba melding Afro-Cuban and Jazz. He is the Jazz ambassador of the United States.
The place where Wynton and I connect is that we are both willing to go “all the way” to make history. He instructs the musicians in his band to think of ways to play something that no one else has ever played….that, my friend, is a deep, deep statement! That is exactly the kind of recordings I have been looking to make: Recordings where not only are the musicians playing in ways that no one ever did before, but also where the recording is unique and timeless.
– David Weiss
Alto NYC Presents…An Evening of Real World Recording Featuring Vaughan Merrick, Adam Day & The New Apogee Symphony I/O System
This two-part event will take place between Mad Pan Studios and Alto NYC and will kick off at 6PM. Both studios are located in the same building — the group will meet at Alto NYC: 146 W 29th Street, Suite 4RW, between 6th and 7th Ave.
Then, the group will travel a few floors down to Alto NYC, where Merrick will connect the Apogee Symphony System to track overdubs in Logic.
Dot Bustelo of Apogee will be on hand to walk the group the through the many possible configurations and deep feature set of Symphony I/O.
Space will be limited, so please RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you there!