Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: January 2012 (Page 1 of 3)

CTW NAMM Coverage: DiGiCo UB MADI USB-MADI Interface

This was one of those little gems I almost missed. I hadn’t heard of anything new at the DiGiCo booth, so I swung by to say, expecting to move on quickly. Then I got talking to the guys and asked if there was anything new. They dropped this little silver box in my hand and said, “This.” 

The UB MADI is a simple, single purpose product at it’s finest. It is just a bi-directional USB to MADI interface. Plug your MADI in and out lines into the unit, connect it to a USB port on your computer and you are ready to record and play back up to 48 tracks of uncompressed audio. That’s pretty much it.

What is clever about it is that it’s very small, bus powered and requires no configuration. Just plug it in, and it works. My initial question was, “Why use this instead of an RME MADIFace?” The answer was actually obvious after I thought about it. With a MADIFace, you need a PCI slot, either in a desktop or an Express34 slot. Few manufacturers are making Express34 slots anymore, and if you’re on the road, you don’t want to lug a desktop around. 

USB, however, is everywhere. The only real downside to the UB MADI is that you loose 8 channels of record/playback capability. With a MADIFace, you get all 56 available in DiGiCo’s MADI implementation. For most of us, most of the time, 48 channels is sufficient. They aslo worked hard to get latency down to an absolute minimum so you could presumably use this with Waves Soundgrid (at least, I’d like to try that…). 

They packed a dual-core, 500 MHz cpu with an FPGA derived from the SD7 into that litte box, so there is quite a lot of extra processing power available. It’s software updatable, so there could be additional functionality coming down the road.

It will be priced at about $1300, though I did not catch a ship date.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Behringer X32

I know, I know, it’s Behringer. Normally I don’t pay them much mind, but since their acquisition of Midas and Klark Teknik, they have been busy bees. We saw the Behringer X32 on day two of the show having heard about it from some friends on day one. Given the price point—$2,500 list—and the I/O count—32 channels, 16 busses—I felt I had to at least give it a look.

Honestly, I was surprised. On the surface, it looks pretty good. It has 25 motorized faders on the surface, each with individually backlit (with customizable colors per fader) LCDs.

There is a dedicated channel strip on the top left (where we’ve come used to seeing one) that features control for dynamic, EQ and sends. To save space, some of these controls are multi-function, but I found it fast to get around.

They included a 7″ LCD screen, that while not a touch screen, is very high resolution and easy to read. The software interface is clean and easy to follow and I never felt lost on it (unlike the A&H GLD). The setup options are very deep, and you can select from a handful of combinations of pre/post auxes plus groups depending on your needs. It’s not quite up to DiGiCo flexibility, but then I can only buy two input cards for the price of this mixer.

To make it faster to get to functions you might need to adjust regularly, they put a bank of four customizable encoders on the surface. You can assign a wide variety of parameters on the board to these encoders, and they have 12 banks worth of assigns. I need to play with it more to see exactly how this works, but at least initially, it looks pretty handy.

A few other things I was surprised to find on a mixer in this price range; two talk back busses, controls for headphones and a monitor wedge, scenes, and AES50 connectivity for attaching stage boxes with Cat5. Given that the Midas Pro series racks operate on AES50, it seems that you could use one of those for a stage box if you wanted to. Maybe… If not, they offer a 16×8 stage rack that is $699. The console has the ability to take in 48 channels via AES50, though you can only mix 32 of them at once. 

Other nice features include 6 mute groups and 8 DCAs; 8 virtual effects (all true stereo); a 6 channel matrix with full processing; and adjustable line delay on every input and output. Of course, you can connect it to Behringer’s personal mixing system as well. 

We did some math and realized that for under about $4,500 list, you could get a 32×16 mixer with 8 personal mixers. Let that sink in for a minute. That is an incredible price point.

Now, yes, it’s Behringer. And no, we didn’t hear it so I can’t comment on how it sounds. Yes, in the past, Behringer products have had a reputation for working for two years or so before quitting unexpectedly, and I don’t know if the association with Midas will change that. And yes, it’s Behringer; so I know you Avid, DiGiCo, Soundcraft, Midas, Yamaha et. al. jockeys aren’t interested. 

But we have to keep in mind that there are a lot of churches out there that really can’t afford even an LS9 (which is not well-loved anyway—and the X32 is far more feature rich). I’m not recommending you run out and buy an X32, even if you are a smaller church for whom this seems like a great option. However, I am saying this should be part of the discussion. Remember, you could buy 3 of these for the price of 1 LS9. And the feature set is far superior. Keep two in a closet for when the first one breaks. 

Will it sound like a Pro6? Probaby not. But it would have to sound absolutely terrible to be ruled out, considering the price point. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see where this goes. It’s not yet shipping, but I have heard spring/summer. 

Today’s post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA’s range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA’s miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Line6 M20d Digital Mixer

In my mind, the most innovative product that I saw at NAMM this year is the Line6 M20d mixer. While not a replacement for my SD8, it’s the first time I’ve seen any company take a new, blank slate approach to mixing in the digital age. The product is so unique and different that I won’t even attempt to cover all the features here. I will hit the highlights and recommend you spend some time on their website.

I like the M20d if for no other reason that it’s totally unique. Rather than the normal channel strip interface we’re used to (which was developed 50 years ago in the early analog area), they took a far more visual approach. To adjust the parameters of an input, rather than looking down to a scribble strip to identify the channel, you touch the icon representing what you want to adjust. That’s when it gets interesting.

A lot of churches have some very dedicated and hard-working volunteer sound guys (and gals) who are behind the board because they work at Verizon, and therefore know “tech.” The reality is, they have no idea what a high pass filter is, what Q means or how to adjust the attack time on a compressor. When the drummer says they want their kick to sound more punchy, they look for a knob labeled “punchy” and come up empty.

This is the market for which the M20d is deisgned. The folks at Line6 realized that in the digital age, a novice sound guy doesn’t need to know how to adjust EQ, comps, gates and effects; they just need to know what sound they want. So they developed an interface to reflect that. You want your bass more punch? Select the bass, hit Tweak and move the cursor to Punchy. Don’t like that? Move it around some and stop when it sounds good.

When you first plug a cable into the M20d, it autosenses that you’ve plugged something in and draws a mic icon on the stage. You move it around, and assign the icon representing what it is. That not only gives visual reference for the input, but also sets up the DSP appropriately for that input. A vocal input has a different DSP chain than the kick drum does, for example. Rather than start with a wide open field for everything, they narrow the range so control is better. Smart.

Adjusting monitors can be really confusing for novice engineers. Again, Line6 took a visual approach. Select the monitor you want to adjust and animated triangles appear around it. Now, turn the gain encoder for what you wish to be louder or softer and it draws an animated line from the source to the monitor. You get immediate visual feedback of what you are doing. I like this a lot.

The surface is pretty spartan, as you can see, with just a handful of buttons on the left, 12 encoders for the various functions of the 12 input channels, and a big master volume knob. You also get a mute selected button and a mute all just in case.

There is so much going on behind the scenes that it would be impossible to talk about it all in this overview post. However, I’ll mention one more. If you actually do know what you’re doing, they will give you access to all the processing for each channel. Select your channel, press Tweak then touch the graduation cap (I love this) to get to the full set of parameters, all of which are easily adjustable with the touch screen.

This is a very unique product and we’re going to spend some time with it later in the year once it’s officially available. Yes, it’s only 12×4, so it’s targeted to club bands and small churches. However, the guys at Line6 said this is just the beginning. They started small, and there is no reason they can’t make it bigger.

Price point is $2495 list and will be available in March.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Pivitec Personal Monitors

In case you hadn’t noticed, personal monitors are exploding. Well, that’s not true; the market for personal mixers is exploding. Aviom started it all back in the late ’90s (and hasn’t done anything since…), and we’ve seen many new players take the field in recent years. Roland has their M-48s; MyMix is doing well, we looked at the new Elite Core system at WFX, heck, even Behringer has a personal mixing system. And now we have Pivitec

The analog input module.

The team at Pivitec are the same guys who designed the original Aviom system. Apparently, they are not content to sit around doing nothing for 10 years, so they have taken a new approach to personal mixing. The system is based on the open AVB standard, so it should be fairly easy to convert from other protocols. Like every other system on the market, it’s based on an input module (a 16 channel analog in to start with), a distribution switch (in this case an 8-port POE managed switch), and a module for each musician.

Where they diverge is in the control surface. Instead of the standard box with a bunch of knobs (or a single knob), they are using an iPad app to control each mixer. The iPad has a few distinct advantages. First, it’s big and self-illuminated. That makes it easy to use on dark stages. Second, it’s just software. So changes are easy to make. 

The mixer module.

Each individual mixer has plenty of DSP inside to handle things like master EQ and individual channel EQ. They could even add compression and reverb if they want to. The system will initially ship with the ability to mix up to 32 channels, and the expect to be doing 64 channels by summer. They told us that mixing 128 channels is easy and they can probably go up to 400 or so. 

And this is where it gets interesting. While it might be possible to mix 400 channels, they also realize it may not be a good idea. They plan on listening carefully to their customers and rolling out features that make sense for the end user. We talked with them about coming up with a monitor engineer function, for example, and they thought that sounded like a great idea. As I said, the benefit of doing this in software is that it’s easy to make changes to the interface.

The switch.

It was a bit hard to tell from the tracks they had playing, but overall, the audio quality was good. The software is still in development so I’ll withhold judgement for now. They expect to ship in low quantity by March, with volume ramping up after that.

Pricing is not too bad; the input module will list for $999, the individual mixers are $795 and the switch will be in the $500 range. Of course, this doesn’t include the iPads, so you’ll have to consider that. Still, the ability to mix up to 64 channels for $1300 per mixer (plus input modules) isn’t too bad. 

The interface is pretty clean, and easy to use. Since it’s not officially out, we can’t yet give it the thumbs up or down, but it’s certainly a product to watch.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Mackie DL1608 iPad Mixer

This is a guest post by my good friend, Duke Dejong. He got hands on with the new Mackie mixer and here is his overview.

What makes the DL1608 so unique is the fact that outside of gain knobs, the mixer is entirely iPad based, with all of your mixing and processing control happening real time on either a docked or wirelessly connected iPad. 

Sporting 16 of their Onyx pre-amps (4 being combo mic/line inputs) with 24bit Cirrus Logic® AD/DA converters and a 4 band EQ, compression and gate for each input, this mixer has some possibilities as a great small room or portable solution, especially where possible FOH positions are less than ideal.  With the ability to connect 1 docked and 10 wireless iPads, up to 11 iPads within wireless reach can share the duties of mixing house and monitor sound. 

To add more fun from your iPad, the console includes 2 stereo channels from the iPad dock which can integrate audio from ANY app (can you say click or loop tracks?).  If playing music back isn’t what you need, a docked iPad can also record a stereo mix direct from the board.  Add total snapshot recall and custom channel presets and you have a powerful, compact, versatile mixer that can be controlled at your fingertips wherever you go in the room.  And did I mention the expected list price is only $995 (not including iPad)?  I’ll be very anxious to play with one of these once they ship, expected to begin in June.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Lectrosonics HH Handheld Transmitter

Lectrosonics is the wireless system of choice for broadcast and film production, but they are relatively unknown in the HOW market. That’s too bad, because they make some great products. My first really good wireless set was a Lectrosonics back when I owned my video company, and it was rock-solid and sounded great. 

Lectro makes some fantastic, feature-rich wireless products for installations as well. The Venue line of receivers packs 6 receivers into a single rack space. And while their bodypacks have been well respected, the handhelds have enjoyed a bit more lukewarm reception. With the new HH, that should change. 

Right away, you notice that it feels good in the hand; well-balanced and not too slippery. The mic capsule is the Shure/EV standard, so any other heads with that thread pitch and connections will work (can you say Heil?). The display is clear and bright, and the buttons are actually sized for human fingers. In fact, all the buttons are inside the battery compartment; no on-off switch outside to cause you grief. 

They added a few key features that I think are really smart. First off, they built a clever battery eject lever into the battery bay to make removing the cells a breeze. As I said, the buttons are actually easy to press, and if you look at the picture, those -10 and -20 indicators (the numbers are upside down so you can see them while speaking into it) make it easy to set the sensitivity of the mic. 

Finally, there is a little rubber button on the mic body that can be set up to do three things; 1) nothing, 2) audio mute or 3) talkback. The first two are self-explanatory, but the third is really cool. The Lectro R400a receivers have two audio outputs on them.  Pressing the talkback button (when it’s in that mode) sends the audio to the secondary output, meaning that could be routed to FOH, monitors or the musicians ears if it’s a worship leader or MD.

UPDATE: From my friend Karl Winkler who works at Lectrosonics, “the R400A receiver does have two outputs with independent level controls, but can not be used with the talk-back feature of the new HH transmitter. The Venue receiver is the one that can be used this way by selecting talkback in the “compatibility mode” setting.” My bad, I missed that. END UPDATE

Like all Lectrosonics 400 series products, it’s all digital with no companding so it’s going to sound fantastic. It will also work with 200 and 100 series receivers if you have any lying around. I didn’t get pricing, but from what I understand, it’s comparable to or a little less than Shure UHF-R. So it’s a premium product with some unique features. Oh, and they’re made right here in the USA in New Mexico, and speaking from experience, customer services is top-notch.

Today’s post is brought to you by the Roland R-1000. The R-1000 is a multi-channel recorder/player ideal for the V-Mixing System or any MADI equipped console or environment. Ideal for virtual sound checks, multi-channel recording, and playback.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Tascam Solid State Recorders

I am regularly asked for recommendations on how to record church services or sermons. Most people simply want to record to some kind of file, perhaps do a little editing or post processing, then upload to the web. While you could record straight to a laptop, that requires the laptop to be there at FOH, you need an interface, and you have to be confident the laptop won’t bug out on you. Sometimes you want the hardware reliability of a rack-mountable recorder that just works. Tascam is here to hook you up.

I found an entire rack full of recorders that record to solid state media (either Compact Flash, SD or both, depending on the model) or to CD, again, depending on the model. 

Going in photo order, the HD-R1 is the big dog of the group. It has balanced I/O, mic preamps with phantom power, RS232 control (I know, who cares…) and more importantly, Ethernet control! Assign it an IP address, put it on your network and you can control it with your browser. I want one already… You can record from 44.1 to 96 KHz in either 16 or 24 bit MP3 or PCM modes, and transfer files via Ethernet or USB. It will list for about $1,000.

The SS CDR200 is a combo CD Recorder/Solid State recorder. It is chock full of features both on the I/O side (balanced and unbalanced analog, AES, S/PDIF) and recording targets (Compact Flash, SD, USB, CD). It’s RS232 controllable (for you install guys), and it can be programmed with up to 20 instant start selections for firing off tracks or sound effects. It too costs about $1,000.

If you don’t need to record to CDs any more (and who really does…) the SS 200 offers pretty much the same feature set as the SS CDR200 without the CD bay. It lists for $599.

For those on a tight budget, the SS 100 offers the cuing and media options of the 200 without balanced or AES I/O. It has RCA jacks plus S/PDIF I/O on the back, though you also give up RS232 control. However, you do save $100 as list is $499.

So there you go. Four options for recording a two-track version of your service or sermon. 

CTW NAMM Coverage: Allen & Heath GLD Mixer

Following up on their successful iLive line, A&H have introduced the new GLD. Think of the GLD as the SC48 to Avid’s Profile. Whereas in the iLive, the DSP is done in the rack and the surface is an expensive keyboard, the GLD surface contains all the DSP and a small bit of I/O. With a simple Cat5 connection, additional I/O can be added. 

Now, I’ll say up front that I don’t really care for the UI of any of the A&H digital consoles. I’m not saying they’re bad, I just don’t really like them. They often don’t work the way I expect them to, and thus I find them cumbersome to use. But that’s me. A lot of people love them. 

The GLD is a little bit of a departure from the iLive, but not much. The “channel strip” is present and accounted for, though with slightly reduced functionality. You still get big, customizable colored scribble strips, and the 8.4″ screen is a touch screen.

The surface provides you with 20 freely assignable faders with 4 layers and a total of 80 channel strips. The desk will process 48 channels at any given time and has 30 busses and 20 mix outputs (I’m still trying to figure that spec out…).

There are a boat load of features for such a small footprint, and you can read all about it on their website. But here are a few things of note. First, the main audio rack has an Aviom compliant output on it, so if you want to use the GLD with an Aviom system, buy the distro along with some mixers and you’re done. No extra output card needed.

Speaking of cards, there is a card slot that will enable you to spit out Dante, MADI, EtherSound and A&H’s own ACE protocols. You can record two tracks to a USB stick right on the desk, and the touch screen lets you drag and drop channels into their fader positions. 

But perhaps the most interesting thing is the price. The surface lists for about $9,000; the 24×12 rack is $2,450 and the 8×4 rack is $1,100. So for under $13K street, you should be in a 48×24 I/O configuration with Aviom output. That’s not too bad. 

Like I said, I’m still not sold on their UI or workflow. But at this price/feature set, it has to be part of the discussion if you’re looking for a 48 channel digital console in the $10K range. If you like the way it works, it could be a great way to go.

CTW NAMM Coverage: Shure ULXD Digital Wireless

Last year we got a sneak peak at Axient, Shure’s new high-end wireless system. For those that can afford it, Axient is now shipping. I asked about pricing and was told, “Well, it’s really based on a system; the Spectrum Manager, ShowLink and then how many channels and transmitters do you want?” An acutal number never came up… I’ll keep digging.

But ULXD does have pricing, and it’s an interesting product. Unlike just about every other analog wireless system how there, the ULXD does not use companding. It transmits full-bandwidth audio from the mic (or guitar pack) to the receiver. It’s also encrypted, so if you are worried about someone stealing your bass line, worry no more. 

For RF hostile environments, the ULXD has some distinct advantages. First, it’s digital, so the signal will get there or it won’t. Interference should be less of an issue. It’s also very efficient; I’m told they can fit 14 channels of ULXD into a single DTV channel (6 MHz). That’s not bad. You can also use up to 60 channels per band (there are three bands available). Also good.

ULXD works with the Axient Spectrum Manager as well, so you could design a hybrid system with a couple of channels of Axient for your money channels, then use ULXD for everything else. It operates in the same frequency bands as UHF-R so existing paddles and antenna distros will work fine.

Finally, they are giving it the new LiOn battery system developed for Axient. With a variety of chargers (that are networkable), you get fast charging, no memory effect and up to 12 hours of battery life. I’m a huge fan of rechargeable batteries, and I’m glad to see manufacturers supporting that trend. 

Pricing should come in around $1,300-1,500 per channel and it’s available now. Also shipping is the UR5 and UR3 ENG wireless systems. 

CTW NAMM Coverage: DPA d:fine

Released only a few months ago, the d:fine has been a hugely popular headset mic. I talked with my friend Jarrod from DPA and he told me they were flying off the shelves. It makes sense; it’s a great mic. I’ve been recommending them to everyone because they are easy to use and they sound better than every other headset mic out there. 

The d:fine is a single ear headset, developed because many loved the sound of the 4066 and 4088, but didn’t like the dual-ear design. Apparently, there are some who are happy because there was a request for a dual-ear version of the d:fine. While it makes no sense to me, it’s now available if you really feel you need the dual-ear. The nice things is, the way the mic is designed, you can actually add the second ear holder to the existing mic. It connects easily so you could use the same mic in either configuration. Those Danes are always thinking.

Jarrod Renaud models the new super short boom.

Additionally, we got a look at the new super-short boom version that is due out in about six weeks. Developed primarily for theater, it’s nearly invisible from the front. Because the element is farther from the mouth, they are going to do a little bit of EQ in the mic to restore the lost HF content, but it should otherwise sound pretty much the same as the longer boom. 

Pricing on the short boom will be about the same as the long boom, and because of the modular design, you could purchase just the short boom and use it with your existing cable and earpiece. Thus, it would be really simple to build a kit that includes both ear pieces, both boom lengths and you’d be ready for anything. 

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