The portfolio of Sonnox offerings that are compatible with Avid’s AAX plugin format for Pro Tools 11 continues to grow.
In June, Sonnox released its Oxford Limiter plugin for the format. Now it’s joined by Oxford EQ, Dynamics, Inflator, and TransMod. All of the updated plugins benefit from the substantially improved AAX plug-in performance over prior versions, which includes time-saving capabilities such as offline bounce to disk, and complete sound parity when sharing sessions between DSP-accelerated and native-based Pro Tools systems.
According to Sonnox, additional AAX plugins will be forthcoming throughout 2013, as they continues to port their entire range to the new AAX format.
There’s one less limitation on Avid’s AAX format.
In other words, Sonnox announced it has launched the Oxford Limiter plugin for AAX. It is available in the Pro Tools HD-HDX + Native version for 295 Euro, or $382.41 at current exchange rates. The Native version of Oxford is 115 Euro, or $149.07.
“The demand for AAX plug-ins has been growing exponentially, as the Pro Tools HDX user base expands,” says Nathan Eames, Sonnox Sales & Marketing Manager, “Our design group continues to work diligently on developing 64-bit AAX versions for the forthcoming Pro Tools 11.”
Sonnox is commemorating the occasion with a 40% discount on their Enhance Collection throughout June. The Sonnox Enhance Collection contains three popular Oxford plug-ins – Limiter, Inflator and Transient Modulator – whose combined punch can greatly enhance any mix.
All three plug-ins are available in AAX format, as well as being compatible with TDM, RTAS, Audio Units and VST formats. See more about the Sonnox Enhance Collection here.
The world of everyone running Pro Tools|HDX, Pro Tools 10 and Pro Tools HD 10 just got a lot more dynamic.
Why, you ask? Because esteemed developer Sonnox has just announced the release of the AAX version of it’s widely respected Oxford Dynamics. A go-to suite in mixing as well as post, this plugin is based on algorithms from the Dynamics section of the legendary OXF-R3 digital mixing console.
There are six individual sections in the AAX DSP and Native versions: Compressor, Expander, Limiter, Gate, Sidechain EQ, and Warmth function. Both AAX DSP and AAX Native versions can be used as a surround buss compressor/limiter, which was previously only possible in the TDM version. The Dynamics also benefits from new meters.
Wait, it gets better! To commemorate the occasion, Sonnox is offering a 40% discount on the Oxford Dynamics March 31st. Visit Sonnox for more details, and to cash it in.
Partnerships can be a beautiful thing. In the audio sector, the pairing between Universal Audio and Sonnox is bearing fruit with today’s release of the Sonnox Oxford EQ plugin for the UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins platform.
The Sonnox Oxford EQ is available as part of the new UAD Software v6.3 release, and is available for $299 via UA’s Online Store.
UK-based audio software developer Sonnox is a new UAD Direct Development partner, best known for its range of innovative mixing and mastering plug-ins. The popular Sonnox Oxford EQ Plugin, newly optimized for UAD-2 DSP Accelerators and the Apollo audio interface, incorporates the exact equalization algorithms from the well-known Sony OXF-R3 mixing console, which is regarded as being among the best-sounding mixing desks of all time.
With four selectable EQ curves covering a wide array of styles, the versatile Oxford EQ’s novel coefficient generation and intelligent processing provide superior sound quality and myriad creative options.
Sonnox Oxford EQ Plug-In Features:
• 5-band fully parametric EQ incorporating exact algorithms from the legendary Sony OXF-R3 digital mixing console
• Variable HF & LF filters up to 36 dB/Octave
• Four different EQ types — from modern to “legacy” styles — in a single plug-in
• Fully de-cramped HF response
• A/B switches (automatable)
• Intuitive editable graphic display of all EQ/filter settings and adjustments
• Ultra-low noise and distortion
Pro Tools just got a little better.
Avid’s new AAX (Avid Audio eXtension) advanced plug-in format comes in two versions: AAX DSP plugins compatible exclusively with Pro Tools|HDX (TDM is not supported in Pro Tools|HDX); and, AAX Native plugins, compatible with any system running Pro Tools/Pro Tools HD 10 software.
“We’re delighted to be supporting the next generation of Pro Tools users with AAX and are very optimistic about the ProTools|HDX platform,” said Sonnox Managing Director Rod Densham. “The new AAX format will undoubtedly become an established plug-in standard, just as TDM has been. The Sonnox development team has doubled in size in recent months, and is working hard to port all our remaining plug-ins to AAX as soon as possible.”
The noted plugins developer Sonnox has announced the release of 64-bit versions of native Oxford Plug-ins.
Updates can be obtained from the Sonnox website starting at $23.00 per plug-in. The company will also be adding AAX native plug-ins for Pro Tools 10, free of charge to license holders of the new native versions.
Sonnox, previously known as Sony Oxford, is a company with quite the history in its critical role in the development of digital audio. The company is most commonly known for its conception of the popular OXF-R3 digital mixing console which was completely designed by the engineers in Oxford as well as the development of DSD format for SACDs – knowledge is power!
The super minds behind Sonnox have now taken into consideration the painstaking process of doing offline encoding/decoding and auditioning of an audio file from your favorite DAW. Now with the release of the Fraunhofer Pro-Codec Plug-In (originally announced in January), it is a snap to do realtime auditioning of encoding inside of your host DAW – Mix Engineers and Mastering Engineers rejoice!
The plug-in is available for download now for Mac OS X 10.5 or later, Windows XP and Windows 7 as RTAS, VST or AU for MSRP $495.
Here is what Sonnox has to say about their new plug-in:
The Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec Plug-In is designed for the real-time auditioning, encoding and decoding of audio signals using Fraunhofer codecs.
In the past it has not been possible to critically audition and then encode multiple formats in real time within a host DAW environment. The revolutionary Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec now makes this possible, and includes extensive monitoring tools and built-in encoding/decoding features.
Using this plug-in mix engineers may produce mixes optimised towards specific target codecs, thereby ensuring maximum fidelity. Similarly, Mastering engineers may audition in the final format and produce compensated masters for final encoding and distribution.
mp3, mp3 Surround, AAC-LC, HE-AAC, and HE-AAC v2
mp3-HD and HD-AAC (Lossless Codecs)
Ability to select up to five codecs for simultaneous export, in real time, to encoded files
Comprehensive auditioning with glitchless switching
Ability to audition the difference between input signal and codec output
AB auditioning in real time between codecs, or between codec and input signal
ABX mode for blind statistical testing
Graphical displays include:
High resolution display of the Input signal and Diff signal.
Indication of the audibility of audio removed by the encoding process
Bitstream levels and ability to compensate for overloads
Indication of filesize or datastream compression
Off-line encoding and decoding
Compatible with many digital audio workstation applications, such as:
Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Sequoia and Wavelab. (Mac and PC)”
Get an in-depth down low here:
Every month, Matt McCorkle of EqualSonics.com brings you a day in the life of a New York City recording engineer.
The Mission: Recording Voices In An Unconventional Recording Space
In October of last year I was contacted by Whitney Bryant of the Tuesdays at Four company, inquiring about mobile recording services. She heads an intergenerational class held on Tuesdays at 4pm inside the The Hallmark of Battery Park Senior Residence. The class’ mission is to promote healthy aging via means of movement, community and the arts.
Her concept was to record the members of her class, who vary in age from 18 to 101, as they answered broad life questions and shared their stories. The idea was to later arrange these monologues and dialogues in a sequence that tells a bigger story. “I Was I Am We Are” was the name for the project and the recording and the questions to which the participants would attempt to answer.
After communicating via e-mail about the process for recording and the eventual editing necessary to create the desired cohesive spoken word recording, it was time to meet the class and scope out the room in which I would be recording.
Analyzing The Hallmark
Whenever I have the opportunity to scope a location prior to recording, I take advantage of that to obtain a clear perspective of what I’m walking into so that I can troubleshoot ahead of time and maximize efficiency come recording time. Upon my initial arrival at The Hallmark, I met Whitney and she gave me a tour of the space. Quickly, I was able to get a good sense of what I was dealing with.
It was a large room with florescent lights. The lights sparked immediate concern due to the noise they often generate, however, even up close, the lights were relatively quiet. The central air, however, which came on periodically, was loud! I asked Whitney about this and she said the central air can be turned off for each room, easy enough.
I walked around the room whistling short bursts of air. This particular exercise helps me determine the acoustics of the room:
- I whistle one note and then listen to the decay on the echo, the timbre of my whistle and the sound of my whistle in the room.
- I whistle one a little lower in pitch, then listen.
- Finally I whistle a couple more pitches to know how the room responds to various frequencies.
The ceilings were about 13 feet high, high enough to avoid ugly reflections from bouncing around, so I was confident that the space wouldn’t be an issue. The great thing about this approach is that I always have my whistling with me!
Each resident will be speaking into the same mic, one at a time. Three groups of 8-10 people for one hour each.
My plan was to setup a cardioid condenser mic in the central-most part of the room. The room sounded clearest and most neutral in the center without the ugly reflections that were generated closer to the walls. I felt good about the location and confident that my setup would yield great results having been able to take this initial inventory of the space.
Arriving a few days after my initial scope out of the room, it was time to record. I setup Equal Sonics Mobile in a far corner away from the center of the room.
After booting up my hard drives, laptop and Pro Tools I was ready to go. I setup a Neumann U87 in the center of the room and switched the polar pattern to cardioid. I ran an XLR cable from the mic to the rig, tucking it under tables, to keep the area clear.
The last thing to do was to set up headphones beside the mic for each speaker to use. I ran a HearBack mixer to the center of the room and placed a pair of cans around it. If they wanted to use it, great. If not, I had control on the digital mixer so I could turn it off if not in use.
The first group arrived and it was time to begin. Whitney had the first individual step up to the microphone. I hit record. She asked them a question, and they responded. Some people had their responses to these questions well rehearsed, while others were not so prepared. There were some hangups for those who were not as prepared, such as stalling between words, not phrasing an answer in an understandable manner and unnecessary pauses.
Whitney was good about coaching her class through these small setbacks, but with my recorder running throughout anyway. I didn’t want to throw off the group’s flow with stopping and starting, nor miss the golden take. All the extra material recorded could quickly be taken out in the editing process. In its entirety, this vocal tracking session took three hours to capture everyone’s voice.
After the recording was complete it was time to enter the first phase of post-production: editing. I chopped up each vocal take to start with the answer of the question, leaving out Whitney’s questions. Then I chopped off the end of the vocal take before Whitney’s next question.
This left me just the answer to the question in its own audio region. I put fades of varying lengths on the start and end of each vocal take. Labeling each audio region with a few snippets of the answer for easy recall later when putting all these takes together.
Step 2: Editing
I met with Whitney and Jamie Yasgur a week later to cut, chop, splice and dice the three hours of audio into a cohesive and poetic hole. Armed with my laptop, a hard drive, a Pro Tools interface and active monitors for listening we got to work editing.
She had created and typed out a story-line of how she wanted the vocals placed which was a helpful guide, sort of her post production, pre-production. On my end, as I mentioned, I had already organized the answers and labeled all my regions which made it easy to find all the necessary pieces with the help of Pro Tools’ region display. After some crafty arranging and well-placed fades we were working our way to a powerful finished product.
There were two spots in the recording that Whitney had asked for a special effect. She wanted one of the phrases to start out while others started to wrap themselves around the first one. Essentially layered on top of one another, to create a chaotic moment in the recording.
I copied numerous vocal takes of various lengths and placed them on top of the original. I then panned each of the takes around the panorama spectrum, while EQ-ing each take to give it a bit of distinctive depth.
This created a mesh of vocals, seemingly coming from every direction. A sort of dreamy disorientation of space and time. After the final vocal take from this chaotic moment was finished, the track resolved back to the original singular spoken word.
Once the entire vocal recording was laid out, syllables were clarified by chopping up the words into each syllable and moving them closer or further apart to create a more natural flow. Next, breaths were reduced in volume or taken out, long pauses were shortened, and the final fades were placed.
It was now time to sweeten the sound. I put a Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor on the track with about 4-5 dB of gain reduction. I set the attack and release to both be relatively slow to get a nice smooth, flowing sound.
After the compression I added a bit of EQ to add some brilliance in the top end, around 10 kHz, and cut some sub frequencies out of the bottom end of the spectrum, at 60 kHz.
Once the EQ was sitting nicely, the Oxford Inflator from Sonnox was added to the equation. This is a great plug-in to use to create some warmth on a track. Using the curve control slider, which varies from negative fifty to positive fifty, you can flavor the warmth on your track. Negative fifty is very dark, positive fifty is very bright. Because this was a spoken word piece I wanted a more neutral warmth; I stuck with positive ten on the curve control slider.
Now that the tone was established, I wanted to add some depth to the recording. This was achieved by loading a reverb plug-in on an aux track and mixing the vocals with it slightly.
The effect created some slight space around the vocals, while refraining from drowning them in a sea of echos. Finally, I used the infamous Waves L3 to boost the overall level of the track and glue together the vocals with the reverb.
The track was recorded, edited, pieced together and mixed. I burnt the .WAV files on a few CDs for Whitney and was on my way.
It was a great tracking and mixing session, but there’s a surprise that came my way a few months later with this project: Whitney contacted me yet again to ask if there was any way I could turn this vocal recording into a dance track.
Check out the next installment of Psyched On Sonics where we will continue this story!
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 specialties 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.
LONG ISLAND CITY, QUEENS: Scratch below the surface of any of today’s independent masring engineers, and most likely you’ll find a team player there. There are a lot of one-person shops dotting the NYC landscape, but these individual practitioners weren’t always flying solo.
Case in point: James Cruz, founder and sole proprietor of Zeitgiest Sound Studios in Long Island City. In another dimension – circa 2004 – Cruz was a young addition to a mastering dream team operating within the dearly departed Sony Studios. His collaborators there were some of the heaviest hitters – then and now – in the industry: Vic Anesini, Vlado Meller, Joseph M. Palmaccio, Darcy Proper, and Mark Wilder. The late, great technical genius Dave Smith, VP of Sony Music Engineering, oversaw it all.
Change being the constant that it is, in 2007, Sony Studios closed to make way for something else deemed more useful. The All Stars are now scattered across the planet, but Cruz, a longtime resident of Astoria, made it just across the river to Long Island City to found scenic Zeitgeist. Since settling in, his credits have included the last three Calle 13 albums (winners of a total of seven Latin GRAMMYS and two GRAMMYS), Mary Mary, Cee Lo, Three-6 Mafia, Natasha Bedingfield, and more.
Here, Cruz cues us in on many things mastering – why he stays in the box, how artists can make the most of their session, and the beauty of being your own boss.
Tell us about the “signal path” that got you into mastering.
Ha! If you want me to start at the top…Just about out of college I sent resumes all over town — I wanted to be a record or mix engineer. Troy Germano at the Hit Factory called me for an interview and hired me as a GA (General Assistant) in the mastering department. At the time I had never heard of mastering and knew nothing about it, but he said to give it a try and eventually I can move over to “the other side.”
This was at the time The Hit Factory was at its peak: The engineering staff consisted of Herb Powers, Tom Coyne, Chris Gehringer and Roger Talkov. At the time Roger was one of the few people in New York with a new workstation called Sonic Solutions, and he was betting on it being “the future of the business.” Roger needed to move on, I decided that I would learn the system, and I was literally learning trial-by-fire style doing sessions for Celine Dion and Jim Steinman two days later.
Soon after that Tom went over to Sterling Sound so I picked up the computer, put it in his room and said “mine.” I was doing Toni Braxton sessions with LA Reid the next week. All while still making coffee and running the library. Then I learned how to cut records from Herbie – one of the best vinyl cutters ever and learned my EQ chops from Gehringer. It was a pretty special time. I liked it so much that here I am 20 years later. I never went to “the other side.”
That sounds a little like how I got started writing about pro audio! Your mastering career led you to a nice distinction – one of the final group that made up Sony Mastering: What do you feel was special about the people that were there? And the facility, for that matter, at the time that it got shut down in 2007?
Sony was amazing. The Hit Factory was great for many reasons but Sony was amazing. It was one of the most underappreciated and under-used facilities ever. Never again will there be a place like it: You could walk in with nothing, book a production room, record, mix, master and duplicate your album. Then you could go down the hall and shoot and edit your video and do artwork, and even do a live broadcast from the soundstage.
Another thing about it was the technical staff. By far the best in the business. I could ask them for the most bizarre setups you could think of and it would be done in 30 minutes, without ever having to rent gear. The mic locker was epic.
Then there were the engineers. Of course everyone knows the juggernaut that is Vlado Meller, but on top of that was Mark Wilder, a pair of golden ears if there ever was one, and Vic Anesini who did fantastic work. It was a place where we all worked on making each other better and it was always great to have these guys to give an opinion on an EQ or compressor setting. I feel like The Hit Factory was a long training session and Sony is really where I came into myself as an engineer.
I always wondered why it was so quiet every time I was at Sony. After that, why did you decide to go solo and set up Zeitgeist, rather than joining another mastering facility?
Honestly, Sony shut down and I had no interest in working for someone else anymore. I couldn’t really see myself at Sterling or Masterdisk so I didn’t even pursue it. I figured I had already worked in two of the best spots ever and now it was time to do my own thing. I also like the idea of being completely responsible for myself and not having to answer to anyone.
So how would you describe what you’ve created in Zeitgeist – what were your objectives for the room? How did you set it up?
The most important thing for me was the vibe. Even though I’ve worked in these amazing studios, all the rooms always felt very cold and sterile – there’s really only so much you can do with a black couch and lava lamps. So first and foremost I wanted sunlight.
I also went in the complete opposite direction of the “modern mastering room” and went back to what it was originally intended to be, and that’s the best-sounding living room stereo in the world. So I did just that: I built a giant living room with tons of comfort and a front window that’s 20’ long by 8 ½’ high — I barely even need to use electric lighting anymore.
Zeitgeist is the Comfort Zone. You also mentioned to me that you master virtually 100% in the box. Why is it that?
Pristine signal flow — mastering rule Number One. When I started everything was on tape. It came in on ½” (sometimes DAT) and ended up on lacquer and/or UMatic. There was always a physical medium so there was always multiple pieces of gear, a bunch of feet of wire, patch bays etc…
Even though everything was as high quality as possible, it always imparted a sound. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad. Along the way I noticed everything started to go all-digital — started with DAT then recordable CD. So I started to back off on the analog gear. I didn’t want to convert to analog, go through a bunch of stuff, then have to go back to digital. Eventually it went to all WAV files so I found no reason to ever leave the box.
I’m using very high quality mastering grade plug-ins and my signal flow is as short as possible. Do I miss analog stuff? Yes. Very much. I would much prefer to turn a knob then adjust a trackball! There are definitely some advantages to doing it this way, though, besides the signal flow. It allows me to work much faster, which benefits the client in the end. I also have a lot more flexibility than I ever had with analog stuff.
There’s always a tradeoff, in either direction. How is your workstation configured?
My workstation is the Sequoia by Magix and my main EQ is the Orange Linear Phase by Algorithmix. I can’t live without them. It runs on Windows XP and the computer was custom built by Sony’s computer genius Jim Yates.
It’s a powerhouse of a system and extremely stable. It’s so over-engineered I have seen no reason to update it yet, to be very honest. My next batch of plug-ins will probably be the Sonnox Oxford stuff – it’s not new but it is some great-sounding stuff. Universal Audio is also doing some very cool stuff with all their emulations.
Turning around to what’s coming into your system, what would you say are the trends you’re seeing in terms of the recording techniques and audio quality of the music you’re getting? How are projects evolving, and how is that affecting the way you approach your job?
Let me start here, and this is as diplomatic as possible: owning Pro Tools doesn’t make you a recording engineer, in the same way that owning a frying pan doesn’t make you a chef. That being said there are more and more projects being done in smaller project studios and fewer people are actually involved in the process. There is actually a very good article in a current magazine about the engineer becoming a loner, where in the days of the larger studios there were always other people around to give opinions and push you to be better.
That’s a major change that’s affecting the way things are done. As far as audio quality, it’s always been hit or miss. There have always been bad engineers and great engineers. As technology gets cheaper there do seem to be more and more engineers though.
On that topic, you said that client education is something you’re a big proponent of. What’s an example of a correctable mistake you often hear on the projects you get – something that people could easily fix so that you can deliver a better master?
I love for new clients to call me before the session and ask as many questions as they want. I am a big believer in one-on-one communication with the client. It benefits everybody.
The biggest mistakes I get are too much compression/limiting – see “level wars” discussions in every audio publication and message board written in the last 10 years — and the tops and tails of the tracks not being right. If your mix engineer is adding a limiter on the two-mix just to make it loud, tell him to remove it before sending it to mastering. Your mastering engineer should be able to make your track loud without wrecking all the wonderful dynamic range that makes music connect on an emotional level.
It’s also helpful to leave a second or two of air before your song. Don’t start your WAV right on the music, let it breathe a bit. Your mastering person can trim it for you. And lastly, that applies to the end of the track too: Leave some air at the end so your mastering engineer has some room to work, especially when sequencing an album. The worst, and costly, mistake is not being prepared. Call your engineer before the session and get in detail the way that things should be done, if you have any questions.
That’s some super-solid advice! Things are pretty competitive here in the NYC mastering scene, right? How are things evolving for you and your competition?
I think the smaller guys are making a pretty serious play. To be very honest, and I mean this with the utmost of respect, I don’t really see how the giant muti-room places can survive with that business model much longer. The overhead is just too high. As budgets continue to shrink and the web continues to shut down labels it’s going to be the boutique studios that will be able to keep up.
On another tip, who are some music innovators that have inspired you – be they engineers, artists, business people, chefs…?
Wow. Good one — there are so many. In no particular order: Jimmy Page, Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Pete Townsend, Geoff Emerick, George Martin, Brendan O’ Brien, Jim Thirwell, Jon Brion, Joe Strummer, The Talking Heads and XTC. Just to name a few.
That’s a heady mix! Finally, when you sit down to master a record – whether it’s an indie artist or major label hit – what’s the big payoff?
I love doing an attended session and playing the before-and-after for a client and seeing their face light up. That’s a lot of fun for me. When everything is complete, the client sits down and listens to the complete product, and says “YES!” that makes me very happy.
File under “What a Feeeeeeeling!” Anything else to add?
I need a vacation. It’s been way too long.
NAMM News: Sonnox and Fraunhofer Co-Develop Solution to Streamline Mastering for Online Distribution
A collaboration between the creators of the MP3, Germany-based Fraunhofer IIS, and plug-in designer/manufacturer Sonnox Ltd., has resulted in a new plug-in the companies expect “to revolutionize the way audio is mastered for online distribution.”
The new Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec plug-in is a mastering solution that makes it possible for the first time to precisely audition codecs in real time. This breaks away from the current time-consuming cycle of having to encode the mix to mp3/AAC, preview it, tweak it and then go back and re-render. The entire process can now be accomplished ‘on the fly,’ freeing the engineer to focus on producing a compensated, optimized mix.
The Pro-Codec plug-in enables mix and mastering engineers to audition up to five codecs in real time within a DAW environment, produce an optimized mix and batch encode to multiple formats simultaneously.
All major codecs, including mp3, mp3 Surround, AAC-LC and HE-AAC are supported, as are lossless codecs such as mp3 HD and HD-AAC.
Sonnox has developed an intuitive FFT display to illustrate the input signal, output difference signal and a unique graphical indication of the audibility of codec-induced noise. Bit-stream integrity meters reveal potential decode overloads. Instant A-B auditioning enables engineers to glitchlessly switch between codecs. A ‘blind listening mode’ (ABX) augments codec comparisons.
The Pro-Codec plug-in is compatible with all popular DAWs — Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar, Sequoia and Wavelab. Both Mac and Windows are supported.
The Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec plug-in will be introduced at this week’s NAMM Show, (Sonnox Booth # 6278), and will be available shortly thereafter at a price of $499.
For more information on Sonnox Oxford plug-ins please visit: http://www.sonnoxplugins.com