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Waves dbx 160 Plug In—Studio and Live

By Darth Fader / July 30, 2015

STUDIO

BY DARTH FADER

Back in the days when I was an Audio Padawan, every studio between here and Walin’or had dbx compressors in the control room. Some had the 165, others the 162 but the main one was the 160, which is now often referred to as the 160 VU to identify the presence of a VU meter, and distinguish it from the dbx 160x/160A/160XT (which are rather different animals).

Some of the semi-pro studios had the dbx 161. It looked like the 160 VU but had RCA jacks for the input and output and was (at the time) directed at the home hifi crowd, believe it or not. Sad to say those units didn’t see a lot of action and I’ll never understand why. They could crush overhead mics like no other compressor and cause pumping and breathing that would make Sith Alchemists jealous with rage. If you had a musician like Prozzen Fosky who simply could not play consistently, the 160 could flatten his takes like a Tima under Jabba The Hut’s rear end. Awesome.

Fast-forward to current times and those same dbx 160 VUs fetch 500 to a thousand bucks (Earth dollars) in good condition. Ahhh if only I could find a few at a Jawa flea market, but even the Jawa are hip to the market price. And of course when you buy something from a Jawa trader you never know if it might be an empty box filled with worthless rocks from Ord Cestus. There’s a rumor that Rayt has a stash of dbx 160s that he ‘liberated’ from an old analog studio on the StarForge Station but he won’t admit it (surprise surprise). That’s why it’s such good news that Waves — with the blessing of dbx — has issued the dbx 160 Compressor/Limiter plug-in.

Faithful to the original hardware dbx 160, the Waves dbx 160 plug-in has controls for Threshold, Compression and Output Gain. Threshold on the original was calibrated in milliVolts; the plug-in version’s Threshold control is scaled similarly. Two LEDs indicate compression status: amber means signal level is below threshold and red means signal level is above threshold. The compression knob is continuously variable from 1 to ∞ with marks at 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 20 and ∞ : 1 ratios. Ignore these markings and turn the knob until you like what you hear. Output gain can be used to “make up” the loss of level that normally occurs during compression (remember: compression is also known as ‘gain reduction’).

Waves has added several controls not present on the original 160 which can remain in view (or not) by pressing the Collapse button.: Input, Mix, and Noise plus a switch to high-pass the sidechain circuit at 90 Hz so that bass content does not cause the compressor to pump. When the 160 plug-in is inserted on a stereo track you’ll also see Comp Mode buttons for Stereo (controls are linked between channels), Duo (left and right controls are independent) and MS which — as is all the rage these days —applies an MS encoding matrix, enabling separate treatment of the mid and side signals in a stereo image. YMMV on this one.

In stereo mode, you have the option of monitoring the left or right channel or you can listen to them summed in mono. When using MS mode, you may monitor the mid or side signal. A rather clever feature that Waves has added to the dbx 160 plug-in is the ability to calibrate the VU meter using the trim screw underneath the meter — just like the original. In the case of the plug-in, the meter can be set so that 0 VU is equal to anywhere from 0 to 24 dBFS. I left it set to the factory default of 18 dBFS. Three switches below the meter switch it between showing input or output level, or gain reduction.

To evaluate how closely the Waves dbx 160 plug-in emulates the original hardware device I paid a visit to Boles Roor’s Studio. He has two vintage dbx 161 VUs (the unbalanced version). One of them was a little flaky but the other was in good stead, enabling me to compare the hardware with the plug-in.

If you have never heard the original dbx 160, I feel sorry for you. It’s nothing like the later generation 160x/160A/160XT. The 160 VU makes kicks and snares pop, and even the most inconsistent of bass tracks sit in a mix with consistency. The Waves dbx 160 plug-in does exactly the same.

I A/B’d the hardware unit with the plug-in on kick, snare, overhead, bass, synth bass, electric and acoustic guitar and vocal and it was impossible to tell the difference between them.

The plug-ins ability to model the transient attack of the original was very impressive, as heard on vocal tracks where it behaved just like the original on “c” and “s” sounds. When used on drum overheads, the Waves dbx 160 made cymbals absolutely explode; turning off the plug-in made the drums sound more boring than Puttie.

The High-Pass sidechain filter is a nice option if you’d like to tame the onset of compression on signals with a lot of low-frequency content. I preferred to leave the HP SC off for drums but found it useful for avoiding pumping on male vocals and some guitars.

A stereo Waves dbx 160 was nice for a bit of compression on the stereo mix bus but when you try this be careful not to squash the life out of the mix. Speaking of mix, the Mix control is a welcome addition, because if you want to add just a taste of the 160 sound but want a taste of aggressive compression, you can dial up the compression and use the Mix control to ‘parallel compress’ i.e. mix in as much or as little of the effect as you want with the ‘dry’ signal — something that you can’t do with the original without a lot of bussing and patching. I found that 20 to 30% on the stereo mix bus worked very well, giving the mix a bit of punch (sorry) without being obvious.

I supposed the Noise control is supposed to dial up some of the residual noise characteristic of the original 160 but I did not really detect any difference in the noise floor, even with the Noise control at maximum.

Waves has certainly achieved their goal with the dbx 160 plug-in: they have successfully modeled the sound of the original 160 VU without trying to “improve it” while adding a few convenience features. The bottom line is that it sounds like the hardware unit — but the plug-in will never require service.

www.waves.com

 

LIVE

By Erik Rogers

I cut my teeth on a Crest GT40, analogue console. I loved everything about that desk. I couldn’t imagine needing more than 8 aux sends back then and I didn’t know what a VCA was. To the right of my console was a rack full of outboard dynamic and effect units that were either inserted on a channel (or a group) or fed vix one of the precious 8 aux sends and returned to one or more channels on far right of the console. Back then a 40 channel console was effectively a 28 channel console after taking up stereo pairs for effects and playback. The aux returns on that desk were relatively useless and awkward so those knobs just held the setlist up.

A short 15 year fast forward and I have some pretty amazing tools at my disposal. My current FOH console is a Midas Pro6 with using 34 inputs, 16 aux sends and 16 matrix sends. The outboard rack has been replaced with a Waves Soundgrid Server with 32 send/return channels at 96k over Madi converted from a Klark Teknik DN9650 with another DN9650 converting AES50 to Dante for record and virtual soundcheck playback.

The on-board dynamics on the Midas Pro6 are fantastic. However, when I was afforded the opportunity to use the Soundgrid I embraced Waves whole heartedly and went about setting up my own digital outboard rack.

There’s the first mistake and I’m sure that everyone who has ever made the conversion from analogue to digital will admit (at least to themselves) in doing this… I inserted everything everywhere. “I can put a C6 on my bottom snare? FUCK YEAH, I can. Why not?” I spent more time figuring out what amazing widget I could plug-in to make everything perfect that I had almost forgotten what my purpose was. As a FOH engineer, my job is to reinforce the amazing sounds coming from the stage and translate them as transparently as possible to the audience. Toys are for playing; tools are for working. I quickly decided to use my plugins as the tools they were intended to be and my insert count has significantly diminished.

Let’s have a look at the current Apocalyptica input / output list with inserts:

1 Kick Dynamic – Audix D6 – Waves DBX160

2 Kick Condenser – Sennheiser e901 – Waves DBX160

3 Snare Top – Audix D2 – Waves Maxx Volume

4 Snare Bottom – Audix D2

5 Tom 1 (14”) – Sennheiser e604 – Waves DBX160

6 Tom 2 (16”) – Sennheiser e604 – Waves DBX160

7 Tom 3 (18”) – Sennheiser e604 – Waves DBX160

8 Tom 4 (22”) – Audix D6 – Waves DBX160

9 Roto Toms – ‘y’ cable of 2 Sennheiser e906 – Waves C6

10 OH SR – Shure KSM32

11 Ride 1 – Sennheiser e614

12 Ride 2 – Sennheiser e614

13 Hi Hat – Sennheiser e614

14 OH SL – Shure KSM32

15 Open

16 Open

17 Cello 1 (Perttu) Mic – DPA 4099

18 Cello 1 (Perttu) Amp – Radial JDX

19 Cello 1 (Perttu) Amp Mic – Sennheiser e906

20 Cello 2 (Eicca) Mic – DPA 4099

21 Cello 2 (Eicca) Amp – Radial JDX

22 Cello 2 (Eicca) Amp Mic – Sennheiser e906

23 Cello 3 (Paavo) Mic – DPA 4099

24 Cello 3 (Paavo) Dirty DI – Radial J48

25 Cello 3 (Perttu) SUB DI – Radial J48

26 Cello 3 (Perttu) Amp Mic – Audix i5

27 SR Vox – Shure SM58 – RF

28 Ctr Vox – Shure SM58 – RF

29 FRANKY PEREZ Vox – Telefunken M80 on Shure UHF-R Transmitter – WavesC6 – Waves Vitamin – Waves One Knob Driver

30 Spare Vocal – Shure SM58

31 Click

32 Intro

Aux 1 – Cello Verb – Send to Waves Renaissance Reverb

Aux 2 – Cello Delay – Send to Waves H-Delay

Aux 3 – Vocal Reverb – Send to Waves Renaissance Reverb

Aux 4 – Vocal Doubler – Send to Waves Doubler

Aux 5 – Kick Sub Group

Aux 6 – Snare Sub Group – WavesC6 inserted on group

Aux 7/8 – Cymbals Croup – WavesC6 inserted on group

Aux 9/10 – Perttu Cello Group – WavesC6 inserted on group

Aux 11/12 – Eicca Cello Group – WavesC6 inserted on group

Aux 13/14 – Paavo Cello Group – WavesC6 Side Chain inserted on group

Aux 15 – Vocal Delay – Sent to Midas on-board delay

Aux 16 – open …for now…

Matrix 1 – Left

Matrix 2 – Right

Matrix 3 – Sub

Matrix 4 – Front

Matrix 5 – Record L

Matrix 6 – Record R

Matrix 7 – House Feed

Matrix 8 – Smaart Listen

My favorite Waves discovery is, by far, the DBX160 plugin. How can I describe it? IT SOUNDS AND ACTS LIKE A DBX160. That’s it. It’s not magic. It’s not trickery. It’s the digital version of an industry favorite compressor. Before I actually checked out the preset library for it, I inserted the DBX160 on my kicks and set it to max input gain, heavy gain reduction and compression and voila… there’s the kick that I used to have back on the old Crest console. When I dug into the preset library I had to chuckle to myself that the kick drum preset in the plugin had the exact same settings that I instinctively put in place. Someone over at Waves had the analogue ancestor of this device and loved it for sure.

Another cool Waves discovery is the C6 Side Chain. The bass cello and the kick are always fighting for space in the subs. Now that I can side chain the LF band in the cello with the fundamental frequency of the kick they play nicely together and the subs are more manageable.

This blog is just the beginning. In the coming weeks I’ll be making some videos and posting them for demo of how these plugins are working in the mix. I’ll also go over the how and why I put microphones where I put them. For now… It’s time to go remake my patch to accommodate the support band, Art of Dying so they can use the Pro6 as well.

Many thanks to Duane Tabinksi at MidCoast Sound in Nashville for the gear and support, Bill “The Rev” Evans for the opportunity to share my experiences with you, Kyle Chirnside and Chris Malmgren at Midas for the late night / early morning phone calls and, of course, Apocalyptica for pretty much everything.

Cheers!

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Gear Review: Waves dbx 160 Plug-In

By Darth Fader / June 26, 2015

(ED. NOTE: Lord Fader looked at this new offering from Waves in a studio setting, for the live take, see Erik “E-Rock” Rogers’ review from a few weeks ago.)

Back in the days when I was an Audio Padawan, every studio between here and Walin’or had dbx compressors in the control room. Some had the 165, others the 162 but the main one was the 160, which is now often referred to as the 160 VU to identify the presence of a VU meter, and distinguish it from the dbx 160x/160A/160XT (which are rather different animals).

Some of the semi-pro studios had the dbx 161. It looked like the 160 VU but had RCA jacks for the input and output and was (at the time) directed at the home hifi crowd, believe it or not. Sad to say those units didn’t see a lot of action and I’ll never understand why. They could crush overhead mics like no other compressor and cause pumping and breathing that would make Sith Alchemists jealous with rage. If you had a musician like Prozzen Fosky who simply could not play consistently, the 160 could flatten his takes like a Tima under Jabba The Hut’s rear end. Awesome.

Fast-forward to current times and those same dbx 160 VUs fetch 500 to a thousand bucks (Earth dollars) in good condition. Ahhh if only I could find a few at a Jawa flea market, but even the Jawa are hip to the market price. And of course when you buy something from a Jawa trader you never know if it might be an empty box filled with worthless rocks from Ord Cestus. There’s a rumor that Rayt has a stash of dbx 160s that he ‘liberated’ from an old analog studio on the StarForge Station but he won’t admit it (surprise surprise). That’s why it’s such good news that Waves — with the blessing of dbx — has issued the dbx 160 Compressor/Limiter plug-in.

Faithful to the original hardware dbx 160, the Waves dbx 160 plug-in has controls for Threshold, Compression and Output Gain. Threshold on the original was calibrated in milliVolts; the plug-in version’s Threshold control is scaled similarly. Two LEDs indicate compression status: amber means signal level is below threshold and red means signal level is above threshold. The compression knob is continuously variable from 1 to ∞ with marks at 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 20 and ∞ : 1 ratios. Ignore these markings and turn the knob until you like what you hear. Output gain can be used to “make up” the loss of level that normally occurs during compression (remember: compression is also known as ‘gain reduction’).

Waves has added several controls not present on the original 160 which can remain in view (or not) by pressing the Collapse button.: Input, Mix, and Noise plus a switch to high-pass the sidechain circuit at 90 Hz so that bass content does not cause the compressor to pump. When the 160 plug-in is inserted on a stereo track you’ll also see Comp Mode buttons for Stereo (controls are linked between channels), Duo (left and right controls are independent) and MS which — as is all the rage these days —applies an MS encoding matrix, enabling separate treatment of the mid and side signals in a stereo image. YMMV on this one.

In stereo mode, you have the option of monitoring the left or right channel or you can listen to them summed in mono. When using MS mode, you may monitor the mid or side signal. A rather clever feature that Waves has added to the dbx 160 plug-in is the ability to calibrate the VU meter using the trim screw underneath the meter — just like the original. In the case of the plug-in, the meter can be set so that 0 VU is equal to anywhere from 0 to 24 dBFS. I left it set to the factory default of 18 dBFS. Three switches below the meter switch it between showing input or output level, or gain reduction.

To evaluate how closely the Waves dbx 160 plug-in emulates the original hardware device I paid a visit to Boles Roor’s Studio. He has two vintage dbx 161 VUs (the unbalanced version). One of them was a little flaky but the other was in good stead, enabling me to compare the hardware with the plug-in.

If you have never heard the original dbx 160, I feel sorry for you. It’s nothing like the later generation 160x/160A/160XT. The 160 VU makes kicks and snares pop, and even the most inconsistent of bass tracks sit in a mix with consistency. The Waves dbx 160 plug-in does exactly the same.

I A/B’d the hardware unit with the plug-in on kick, snare, overhead, bass, synth bass, electric and acoustic guitar and vocal and it was impossible to tell the difference between them.

The plug-ins ability to model the transient attack of the original was very impressive, as heard on vocal tracks where it behaved just like the original on “c” and “s” sounds. When used on drum overheads, the Waves dbx 160 made cymbals absolutely explode; turning off the plug-in made the drums sound more boring than Puttie.

The High-Pass sidechain filter is a nice option if you’d like to tame the onset of compression on signals with a lot of low-frequency content. I preferred to leave the HP SC off for drums but found it useful for avoiding pumping on male vocals and some guitars.

A stereo Waves dbx 160 was nice for a bit of compression on the stereo mix bus but when you try this be careful not to squash the life out of the mix. Speaking of mix, the Mix control is a welcome addition, because if you want to add just a taste of the 160 sound but want a taste of aggressive compression, you can dial up the compression and use the Mix control to ‘parallel compress’ i.e. mix in as much or as little of the effect as you want with the ‘dry’ signal — something that you can’t do with the original without a lot of bussing and patching. I found that 20 to 30% on the stereo mix bus worked very well, giving the mix a bit of punch (sorry) without being obvious.

I supposed the Noise control is supposed to dial up some of the residual noise characteristic of the original 160 but I did not really detect any difference in the noise floor, even with the Noise control at maximum.

Waves has certainly achieved their goal with the dbx 160 plug-in: they have successfully modeled the sound of the original 160 VU without trying to “improve it” while adding a few convenience features. The bottom line is that it sounds like the hardware unit — but the plug-in will never require service.

www.waves.com

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Automatic Delay Compensation Explained

By Darth Fader / June 4, 2015

Imagine that you are mixing a session, and all of your audio tracks are racing to the mix bus. When there are no plug-ins inserted on any of the audio tracks, they all reach the mix bus at the same time. It’s a multi-way tie.

Now imagine that you need a compressor plug-in on the lead vocal. We don’t realize it, but plugin processing takes a certain amount of time (usually milliseconds). So the lead vocal track now goes through the compressor plugin on its way to the mix bus. It loses the race because the compressor plugin postpones its arrival at the mix bus very slightly — so slightly that you might not even notice it.

Now lets say that in the same session you have a bass track. You decide that you’d like to duplicate the bass track so that you can process the duplicate with an amp simulator and mix it with the original. The original track has no plugins and the duplicate processed track has an amp simulation plugin on it. Who gets to the mix bus first? The original bass track. The duplicate is delayed while it is processed through the amp simulator plugin. If we add another plug in to the processed track (a compressor for example) then that track is delayed even more. When you mix it with the original bass track, you’ll hear phasing, or flanging or in severe cases you might hear flams (double-hits) on the attacks of the notes. How bad the issue is will depend upon the processing power required by the plugin, and how much power your computer provides. Some plugins require a lot of DSP and add more lateness or “latency” to the track.

Automatic Delay Compensation looks at a session and watches what plugins are on which tracks. It automatically delays ALL tracks in order to allow the ‘slowest’ track (the track with the most delay due to plugins) to catch up. If Automatic Delay Compensation is turned off, you will hear these timing issues. When turned on, Pro Tools usually does a pretty good job of making sure that all of the tracks reach the mix bus at the same time.

When we use the “hardware insert” i/o in the plugin menu, the audio track must make a trip from Pro Tools to the audio interface output (D/A conversion), into the external processor (let’s say it’s a hardware compressor), out of the external processor into the interface, then A/D conversion back into Pro Tools. That trip takes time** due to the D/A and A/D. We think that A/D and D/A conversions happen in real time but they don’t — they take a few milliseconds. Automatic Delay Compensation also calculates the timing for this type of plugin.

** note an analog processor does NOT add latency. It’s the D/A and A/D that produces latency.

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Living the Dream…

By Darth Fader / March 5, 2015

It was a Saturday, a day like any other day that we’d get up at 3:00 AM, fly across the country (with a connection of course) and then drive two hours to a gig. Then back home the next AM, a typical fly date/kamikaze mission. Except we didn’t realize that there was bad weather moving through the lower part of the country. When we arrived in Atlanta I had a message from the promoter asking me to call him ASAP. “You guys aren’t flying through Dallas, are you?” We weren’t. “That’s good because (insert name of National Co-Headliner Act here) is stuck in Dallas and is having trouble getting out. Let me know if you encounter any difficulty.” Little did we know what was in store.

We made it to Albuquerque and when I turned on my phone it blew up. 

Phone call from the Lead Singer/Guitar Player — who was traveling from another part of the country via different path, was stuck in Denver and it was not looking good for him to make the show. 

Hey I’m stuck herein Denver and I’m trying to re-book.

Phone call to travel agent:

Get him outta there ASAP.

Phone call to LSGP:

Travel agent is working on it.

We were somewhat short of a dozen because we had a sub for our regular drummer. The other singers were sick. To lose the LSGP would be problematic to say the least. 

Phone call to promoter:

One of our guys may not make it because he is stuck in Denver.

Comment from promoter: which guy?

Me: <Gulp, fingers crossed> the lead guitar player.

Phone call from our management:

NCHA is stuck in Dallas, and the airport is closed because they had a quarter-inch of snow. The promoter is freaking because the show is sold out. We’ll know in a short while if LSGP will make it. BTW: find out the condition of the roads out there. I’m hearing rumors that roads between the airport and venue are closed. 

Me:

OK

Phone call to promoter:

Are the roads closed?

No, our driver is there to pick you up.

Crew at baggage claim:

We have a missing bag. Of course we do. 

Great my day just became an hour longer. Truth be told, the folks in the baggage office filed the paperwork in 15 minutes.

Phone call from management:

Find out if there are any inbound flights from Denver this evening.

I run around the airport to the ticketing desk and find that yes there is an inbound flight from Denver due at 8:00 PM (we’re scheduled to go on at 8:30) and we’re an hour and a half from airport to venue. And that flight is sold out. Guess that won’t work.

Now it’s official: the lead singer is not making the gig.

Secondary singer begins having palpitations. We start the ride to the venue. The roads are slushy but certainly passable. 

Phone call from manager:

If the promoter wants, we’ll have to do the gig without him. 

Phone call to promoter:

LSGP will definitely not make the gig. We can still do this (we’ve done it before) so let us know how you’d like to proceed. 

Promoter:

Let me run it by the venue GM and get back to you.

An hour and a half later we arrive at the venue and it’s tense: the promoter asks us to go ahead with the show but can we start a bit earlier since NCHA is not performing. Of course we can.

My crew is on stage tweaking gear along with one of the guitar players, who will fill the part of LSGP. He’s programming his rig for the sounds he’ll need while I troll the ‘net searching for and printing lyrics to the songs that he’ll sing. Meanwhile it looks like — despite the announcement that NCHA is not appearing — the house will be packed. 

In the dressing room we scrape together a set list and cue the printed lyric sheets. The drummer who is subbing can sing so he’ll help out with backing vocals. The bass player will sing (for the first time ever) one of the group’s hits, and the second guitar player is working on parts he’s never played before. 

We hit at 7:40 PM and after the first song is very well received, the singer makes the announcement regarding the modified lineup. Crowd reaction is mixed but after another song or two they don’t seem to care. They’re going bananas like it’s Elvis returned to Earth or something. 

Meanwhile… 

LSGP has found a flight home from Denver. As I am about to take a deep breath after the show has ended, I learn that all of our flights home the next AM are canceled — which I suppose should not have been a big surprise given the fact that we were supposed to make a connection in Dallas. America Airlines, in their infinite wisdom (read: stupidity), have re-booked me, and not the remainder of the guys, from Dallas to home two days later. But they did not re-book me from Albuquerque to Dallas. Guess they though I’d walk. Buncha’s dumbasses.

Phone call to travel agent at 10:00 PM

Please do anything you can to get us out of here

We wait and wait, but nothing until we hear the words no one wants to hear.

Phone call from Travel Agent:

There’s nothing I can do now so we’ll have to revisit this tomorrow. 

I tell the promoter we will be staying an extra night so at least we can have hotel rooms and it’s no problem.

Email from Travel Agent at 9:00 AM

Nothing

Email to Travel Agent at 9:03 AM

We’ll fly to any airport within a couple of hours from home, rent cars and drive if necessary. 

Email from Travel Agent at 10:00 AM

Nothing

Email from Travel Agent at 2:50 PM

I have four seats on a red eye that leaves at midnight and gets you home at 6:00 AM.

There are six of us. Anyone got an antacid? Or perhaps a bottle of Jack?

Text from me to the band and crew:

Sit tight, we may have a shot.

Phone call from Travel Agent at 3:29 PM

I got another seat.

Thank you God.

Me in person to band and crew:

Mr. X does not have a seat but Travel Agent is working on it.

I arrange ground transportation from hotel to airport, figuring that we should be there early. Meanwhile Mr. X is awaiting delivery of his lost bag from yesterday.

Phone call from Travel Agent at 4:16 PM:

I got the seat for Mr. X

Thank you God

Text from Mr. X at 6:15 PM

My bag arrived.

We all depart from the hotel at 8:15 PM and reach the airport by 9:40 PM — plenty of time. When we check in, we learn that the inbound flight (our plane) was delayed and so our departure will be delayed, until approximately 1:00 AM. Ouch. I’m too old for this.

Right now we’re sitting at the gate waiting, amusing ourselves with sillyness, iPads, videos and snacks. Why oh why is there not establishment in this airport serving adult beverages? We still have 40 minutes before boarding. Stay tuned.

Reprise

We didn’t board the plane until 2:30 AM, probably took off around 3:00 AM, and landed around 7:45 AM. Sitting directly behind me was the proverbial kicking, screaming young child but thanks to Divine Intervention, she fell asleep after take off and made barely a peep until we landed.

Stressful? You bet. And we get to do it again next week.

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10 Sith-Worthy Products From the 2015 Winter NAMM Show

By Darth Fader / February 17, 2015

Moments after I got my TIE fighter back from the mechanic (he made some custom mods to the Twin Ion Engines), I jumped in and headed for Anaheim to visit the Winter NAMM Show. It was great to run into old friends like Palpatine and all those Rebel Rogues I don’t like to mention (…you thought I had no friends), but the real reason I went was to check out the gear. Of course there was plenty. Here are 10 highlights…

AKG announced their new DMS800 Wireless Microphone System. Designed for live sound, theater and touring applications the DMS800 is available with either the DHT800 handheld transmitter or the DPT800 body pack transmitter. Features include digital transmission with 512-bit encryption for secure operation, analog and digital audio outputs, optional network remote control and choice of microphone heads for the DHT800. 

http://www.akg.com/pro/p/dms800system

dbx jumped into the 500-Series pool with the introduction of five new modules. The dbx 560A Compressor/Limiter is a VCA-based compressor that features the same compression curves (OverEasy® and Hard Knee) as dbx’s 160A rack mount ‘comp, with controls for compression ratio, threshold and output gain. The 530 Parametric EQ is a 3-band parametric equalizer. All three bands have controls for bandwidth, and the high- and low-bands may be switched to shelf-type filters. Designed to rattle the rafters, the 510 employs dbx’s patented Subharmonic Synthesis to produce a new, waveform modeled bass note an octave below the bass in the original audio. Engineered for sonic transparency, the dbx 580 Mic Pre boasts low-noise preamp circuitry that provides up to 60dB of gain, and can accommodate mic or line-level signals. Its analog VU meter reminds me of my days at the Academy. If you have issues with sibilance, the dbx 520 de-esser can help reduce it, with a frequency range from 800 Hz to 8 kHz and attenuation ranging from 0 to 20 dB. 

http://dbxpro.com/en-US/product_families/500-series

Sennheiser rolled out their evolution wireless D1 system, a digital wireless system operating in the 2.4 GHz band that even Jar Jar can comprehend. The evolution D1 can automatically locate an optimum frequency, and automatically pair with a transmitter. Sennheiser offers a variety of transmitters including a handheld microphone with a choice of six capsules; instrument pack with response down to 20 Hz; headset mic with body pack, or lavalier mic with body pack. All versions incorporate aptX Live codec for secure transmission and intelligent channel backup to prevent interference from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. Onboard audio processing includes EQ, automatic gain control and de-esser. As many as 15 compatible channels of evolution D1 may be run simultaneously. 

http://en-us.sennheiser.com/d1

From Electro-Voice comes the EKX Series of portable loudspeakers. There are eight models in the EKX Series, four active (powered) and four passive. Active models include the EKX-12P (12-inch/two-way), EKX-15P (15-inch/two-way), EKX-15SP (15-inch subwoofer) and EKX-18P (18-inch sub). The passive models follow the same configurations and omit the “P” from the model number. All models incorporate E-V’s patented Signal Synchronized Transducers™ (SST) waveguide design for controlled and predictable coverage. Active models employ E-V’s single-knob user interface, Class-D amplification, QuickSmartDSP, intelligent Thermal Management for reliability, and are able to deliver maximum SPLs of 134 dB. 

http://www.electrovoice.com/ekx/

Looking like a control panel that would live on the bridge of the Millenium Falcon, the Qu-Pac from Allen & Heath is a super-compact digital mixer for live sound applications. Looking like someone chopped off the top of a Qu-Series mixer, the Qu-Pac’s front panel provides a combination of pushbutton and touch screen controls for accessing all console parameters. When used in conjunction with A&H’s Qu-Pad app the mixer can be remotely controlled via iPad. Around back you’ll find 16 XLR mic/line inputs (with AnaLOGIQ™ mic preamps), two stereo TRS inputs, and 12 XLR mix outputs. Qu-Pac’s I/O can be expanded by adding A&H’s AB168 remote box which would increase system capacity to 32 in/20 out(!). Qu-Pac also features 32×32 USB streaming, onboard stereo or multitrack recording via A&H’s Qu-Drive and a wide variety of built-in effects and processing. 

Qu-Pac

New mixing boards also came from Soundcraft, who uncloaked their 

Signature Series and Signature Series Multi-Track analog mixing consoles. 

Signature Series mixers come in 10-, 12-, 16- and 22-channel frames; the Signature Series Multi-Track models 12 MTK and 22 MTK feature 12 and 22 channels respectively. All consoles in the Signature Series employ Soundcraft’s Ghost microphone preamps with high-pass filter and 48-volt phantom power; Sapphyre Assymetric EQ, GB Series audio routing technology and onboard Lexicon Studio-grade effects including reverb, chorus and modulation as well as dbx limiters on the input channels. Signature Series mixing boards provide a 2×2 USB audio interface while the MTK versions provide 14×12 USB I/O (MTK 12) and 24×22 USB I/O (MTK 22). The Signature Series chassis are constructed using tour-grade construction, top-quality components and use an internal universal power supply.

http://www.soundcraft.com/products/mixing-consoles/signature-series

Audio-Technica wasn’t letting any grass grow under their feet, announcing several new products. Two new headphones join their successful line of cans: the ATH-R70x is the company’s first pair of professional open-back reference headphones which feature newly-designed drivers and acoustically transparent housings constructed from aluminum honeycomb mesh for accurate and natural open-back sound. The ATH-M70x is the newest member of A-T’s popular M-Series, boasting 45mm, large-aperture drivers tuned to accurately reproduce extreme low and high frequencies (5 to 40,000 Hz). Ninety-degree swiveling earpieces facilitate single-ear monitoring, and the ATH-M70x frame collapses for compact transport. http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/headphones/f39784ce643a82e6/index.html

Audio-Technica also showed off their System 10 Pro Wireless systems with several variations including Stompbox Digital Wireless intended for electric guitar and bass, System 10 PRO handheld vocal, System 10 Camera Mount, and System 10 Stack Mount. All System 10 wireless devices live in the license-free 2.4 GHz band with 24-bit/48 kHz digital  operation, easy setup, and three levels of diversity assurance: frequency, time, and space. The chassis are able to house two receiver units that may be operated locally or released from the chassis and mounted remotely (up to 328 feet away) via Ethernet cable. 

http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/wls_systems/b8c9b60d06ff6943/index.html

Shure introduced the MOTIV™ line of digital products designed to capture audio through direct connection to an iOS, Mac or PC device. Products include the MOTIV MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone, MOTIV MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone, MOTIV MV51 Digital Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, MOTIV MVi Digital Audio Interface, and the their newest iOS app, ShurePlus™ MOTIV Mobile Recording App. All of these devices incorporate various DSP modes to ensure that entry-level users can achieve great sound by specifying the program material while gain, EQ and compression are adjusted automatically. 

http://www.shure.com/americas/news-events/press-releases/shure-unveils-new-motiv-digital-product-line-and-ios-mobile-recording-app

Radial Engineering showed off their Decoder™ which facilitates creation of mid-side stereo recording. The Decoder is a microphone pre-amplifier and mid-side stereo matrix that replaces the need for a recording console. The Decoder can be used in the traditional two-microphone sum-difference method, where a bidirectional ‘side’ mic is duplicated and phase reversed on a second channel, then blended with the mono ‘mid’ mic for a spectacular stereo image. Since the Decoder has three built-in mic pres the ‘side’ signal can also be captured with stereo mics or even two different microphones. As an added feature, the Decoder may be set to line level to Reamp tracks and create mid-side imaging during the mix-down process. 

http://www.radialeng.com/pdfs/2015-namm-intercom.pdf

MOTU’s 112D is a Thunderbolt-equipped digital audio interface, router, format converter and mixer. Part of MOTU’s new series of high-end audio interfaces, the 112D is the flagship digital interface of the new line, providing 24 channels of AES/EBU, 24 channels of ADAT optical and 64 channels of MADI (AES10) for a total of 112 simultaneous digital I/O channels, all in a single rack space. Whether operated on its own or as a component of a MOTU AVB network system, the 112D shares the many powerful mixing, routing, networking and wireless control features found in MOTU’s award-winning AVB interface lineup. The 112D can serve as a digital audio hub, allowing you to unify your mixing console, audio workstation and other digital audio gear, and then link it all to an AVB audio network with sub-millisecond routing, hundreds of audio channels, standard Ethernet infrastructure and long, affordable cable runs. Onboard DSP enables console style mixing with 48 channels, 12 stereo busses, and 32-bit floating point effects processing, including modeled analog EQ, vintage compression and classic reverb. 

http://www.motu.com/newsitems/introducing-the-112d

OK, that made eleven. Whacha’ gona do? Slice me with a lightsaber?

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