Tag Archives for " recording "

GEAR REVIEW: DiGiGrid IOX

By Bill Evans / December 17, 2015

BY DARTH FADER

If you look at it from the surface, the DiGiGrid IOX from Waves and DiGiCo is a 12-input, 6-output audio interface designed for use with your DAW. When you look closer you’ll learn that the IOX is a gateway into Waves’ SoundGrid audio network, which is capable of some awesome audio file sharing and processing functions. It’d be difficult to speak accurately about the IOX without also discussing the SoundGrid network so if it seems that we are skipping around like an Ewok on a Speeder Bike that’s because, well… we are.

 

SoundGrid Background 

SoundGrid is a collaboration between Waves and DiGiCo; Waves does the software and DiGiCo does the hardware. SoundGrid Studio is a networking platform that enables compatible audio interfaces to communicate with multiple computers. The network also allows your DAW to offload plugin processing to a SoundGrid DSP server, providing low-latency monitoring, realtime processing, and integration with a variety of DAW software.

The most basic SoundGrid network requires a SoundGrid-compatible I/O, which connects to your computer using a standard Ethernet cable. Other components of a SoundGrid network include the SoundGrid Studio Application, SoundGrid ASIO/Core Audio Driver, StudioRack software and the eMotion ST Mixer (we’ll discuss those in a moment). If you’d like to have two computers connected to a SoundGrid network simultaneously, you’ll need a network switch. All of the features of SoundGrid (including sync and word clock) can be used by any of the computers connected to the network. Waves sent SPL/L2P the DiGiGrid IOX audio interface so that we could set up a basic SoundGrid network in the Death Star studio.

 

IOX

The DiGIGrid IOX is built into a hefty single space rack chassis. At the center of its front panel are an illuminated power switch and a multicolor network status indicator. To the left of these are four ¼-inch TRS headphone jacks each with its own volume control. The right side of the panel has LED meters for the 12 inputs: orange indicates that phantom power is on; green indicates signal present; red indicates clipping. Waves thoughtfully provides the ability to calibrate the clip indicator to turn on at 0, -1, -2 or -3 dB, leaving you the option to have a bit of headroom when you see red. The IOX is rather heavy so make sure your rack is up to the task. It also runs a bit on the hot side so we’d recommend you leave an open space above and below the unit when rack mounting.

The IOX’s rear panel has 12 balanced mic/line inputs, each featuring a locking Combo jack input. The preamps provide up to 59.5 dB of gain and 48VDC phantom power, and are controlled using SoundGrid Studio. Six analog outputs are fed via balanced TRS jacks. Also on the rear panel are two SoundGrid ports, word clock I/O, a power connector and a reset switch (which we never needed). As of right now the IOX can run at sample rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz. According to Waves, sample rates of 176.4 and 192 kHz will be supported in the future.

 

On The ‘Net

Using the DiGiGrid IOX requires the SoundGrid installer for Mac or PC, downloaded from the Waves website free of charge with registration of the IOX. The IOX installer includes the ASIO/Core Audio driver, the SoundGrid Studio application, StudioRack, and eMotionST. Let’s look at these one at a time:

•The ASIO/Core Audio Driver enables your DAW software to connect to the IOX.

There are no MME or WDM drivers for SoundGrid so you can’t use it for non-ASIO programs running under Windows. We had no issues running the IOX with various versions of Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Reason on our MacPro.

SoundGrid Studio manages SoundGrid components including interfaces, DSP servers, and computers. This is where the network is configured — even if it’s a modest network consisting of a single interface and computer. You need this application to patch audio streams between your computer and DAW software, and to control the interface’s inputs and outputs.

StudioRack is a plug-in “chainer” that acts like a manager for plug-ins. StudioRack is inserted in a DAW channel and hosts as many as eight plug-ins. These plug-in ‘chains’ can be archived so if you like a particular combination of compressor, EQ and limiter plug-in for processing (for example) a vocal, you can store and recall the chain as well as the parameters of each individual plug-in for the chain.

eMotion ST is a software mixer with extremely low-latency monitoring (0.8 mS) and plug-in processing. Taking advantage of eMotion ST requires either a DiGiGrid interface with a built-in DSP server, or the addition of a SoundGrid DSP server to the network, which moves the processing grunt work from your computer into the server. The IOX functions as an interface only, and does not provide the ability to perform DSP but a DSP server could be added to the network at any time.

After downloading the installer, getting the IOX up and running in the Death Star Studio was fairly simple. You’ll need to visit the Patch page in the SoundGrid Studio application to make sure that the interface is recognized and to enable communication between the computer and the IOX.

Screenshot 1 shows the SoundGrid Studio inventory page. In the left column you’ll see the IOX, and it’s identified as the master clock, 44.1 kHz (blue lettering indicates all is well). The middle column lists the computer as a Software I/O device. Our network did not feature a DSP server so that column is empty. For that reason, the Mixer tab at the top (which would appear to the left of where it says “Patch”) is disabled.

IOX_Screen3

Screen 2 shows the Patch page where we have enabled routing between the Core Audio streams and the IOX. Notice how Core Audio Streams 1 and 2 are assigned to the IOX’s analog outputs 1 and 2 and also to Phones 1L and 1R. This allows us to route the main outputs from the DAW simultaneously to a pair of monitors and a pair of headphones for a quick-n-dirty “control room mix to cue” for a lead vocal overdub. The phones can also be patched from other Core Audio streams to create discrete headphone mixes using different streams from the computer. This needs to be done only once. Setups may be saved and recalled so if you wanted to have one patch for routing multiple headphone mixes you can save and recall it when necessary.

IOX_Screen2

Screen 3 shows the I/O control screen, accessed by double-clicking the IOX graphic in screen 1. To control a channel, click on its box. In this case we are controlling Input 1 (highlighted in orange). Coarse input gain is set to 37.5 dB, fine gain to 3.5 dB, and the meter is showing that we had a peak of -29.9. The orange lights in the lower right corners of inputs 5, 6, 7 and 8 indicate that phantom power has been turned on for those channels. Clicking on a line output will show the meter for that channel.

IOX_Screen3

It would be useful if we could see meters for input and output channels simultaneously ‘though you can always see the headphone output meters. Inputs and outputs can be named, and all of this information can be saved. It’s not as intuitive for an old timer like me to use the computer to control input gain, but it does offer a lot of convenience. For example I could store a setup to record drum tracks where all gain and phantom settings have been archived. It’s also in step with the concept of putting the IOX in the studio where it offers several advantages:

•The preamps are closer to the microphones which is always a good thing

•The IOX requires no additional gear to act as a four-mix headphone station — eliminating a piece of gear that you’d otherwise need to purchase. While we are on the topic of headphones, the IOX’s headphone amps flex a fair amount of muscle, easily running a pair of vintage AKG K240s to very loud levels (these were given to me by the Emperor when I built his first broadcast studio) — a notable feat given the difficulty that most headphone amps have driving these low-impedance ‘cans. You should see me try to fit them underneath my helmet… Keep in mind that the IOX does not provide control over output level so you will need a means for controlling monitor volume.

We used the IOX over a period of months on a variety of sessions, placing it both in the control room and in the studio. For tracks where I played a nalargon and also had to engineer, I could place the IOX next to me, connect it to my laptop and run I/O levels quite easily. The preamps don’t provide tons of gain but they certainly had enough to make quiet recordings of the nalargon. When I tried a session recording a Traz and then an old-style acoustic guitar using an RCA 74B ribbon mic, the IOX’s preamps were quiet enough not to add any noise, but even when set for maximum gain I could have used another 8 or 10 dB of gain to make the recording level a bit more healthy. Perhaps more importantly, the character of that microphone came through in all its old-school glory.

On a traditional trap kit for the new Figrin Da’n solo record (you heard it here first) we used a variety of microphones: Sennheiser e602 II for kick, Shure SM57 on snare, Audix D2s for toms, Shure PGA181s for overheads, beyerdynamic CK703/CV720 for hat, and a Bock U195 for the room The drum recordings sounded great. The kick drum was solid with an extended low end, cymbals were clear without being aggressive, and the toms sounded like toms. Though we did not have a SoundGrid server on the network, latency was not an issue even when overdubbing to a click.  The IOX and SoundGrid Studio application both proved to be very stable: we never experienced a crash or hang up when using them.

The DiGiGrid IOX is a very powerful recording interface, not only because it provides good sound and convenience but also because it offers the possibility of expansion. Additional inputs can be added to the network, and a SoundGrid server can be incorporated when you find your CPU needs help handling plug-in DSP. Headphone routing is thoughtfully implemented, offering the ability to send a quick “identical to the control room L/R mix” as well as discrete cue mixes to each of the four ‘phones outputs. If your future includes multiple workstations, you can attach additional computers to the network, and they can share audio files as well as the network DSP resources. Combined with the IOX’s I/O capabilities, those features make the IOX a powerful tool.

Darth Fader is recovering after working on dialogue replacement for Episode VII.

Continue reading >
Share

Courtney Love, Jenga and a Hangover

By Robert Scovill / August 20, 2015

Image by Amanda Farah (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Robert Scovill

 

Okay, so normally this not my M.O. I don’t usually take this tack toward subject matter or even people with regard to blogs or posting. Meaning: I don’t regularly feel compelled to call someone out. Now, I’m not totally above the temptation. I’ve—from time to time—called out my share of network news anchors and politicians and even rebuked a few energetic Facebook posters.

 

With regard to the Net, we’ve all had lapses in judgment – you know, the hangover moment where you wake up the next morning and think “Nooo! I wish hadn’t done that”.

 

It requires so much discipline to avoid the temptation to act impulsively when we have our finger resting on the proverbial trigger of the loaded six-shooter known as the Internet. Hell, for all I know, I may be guilty of doing that right now … although I must confess, I’ve had the makings of this blog floating around in my noggin for weeks now, trying to mentally compile it into something meaningful and then of course rationalizing it’s publication.

 

So, while this post is not really impulsive by definition, it is probably no less fraught with peril. But after considerable thought, I think the risk just might be worth it because when it comes to the type of behavior on I’m going to describe, where on the surface it can easily look warranted and even at times comical, but underneath is really reckless, impulsive, bullying or even possibly misogynistic, it feels like some context is needed. Especially so when it has such negative ramifications on our profession; i.e. professional audio. When it does, I feel compelled to chime in

 

So buckle up, here we go. By now, I’m sure that many of you have heard about the recording efforts of self-proclaimed recordist J.M. Ladd and the events that followed his recent efforts. According to what I can gather on the Internet, Ladd was hired through a local venue to record a Courtney Love performance at the venue. At the conclusion of the event, apparently Ladd submitted an invoice for his efforts but was subsequently not paid for services rendered.

 

Ladd, apparently was very upset that “the venue representative” — and please remember this part — “the venue representative” — did not pay him for services rendered. So, in turn Ladd, instead of keeping his grievance with the person who hired him, decided to exact damages on whom? Courtney Love, NOT “the venue representative” with whom the original deal was struck.

 

And so the certain hangover is set in motion. He decides to seek payment in the form of retribution by releasing, for the entire world to hear, Courtney’s raw vocal and guitar performance to the world. All in a petty and misguided effort at some sort of revenge or vengeance for not being paid for his efforts. What ensued was the predictable viral sh#tstorm.

 

Now here is where, honestly, it gets really fascinating to me, especially from the  sociological context. I’ll save the integrity slant for the big finish.

 

Let me start by asking; how many people in the world would characterize  Courtney Love as a polished and skilled vocalist? I’m pretty certain she’s well aware of who she is and what she is trying to get across in her shows and her performances and it’s certainly not about polish, it’s about attitude. I mean, what did Ladd think he was going to “expose” exactly? Conversely, does anyone think Courtney is “embarrassed” by this recording? I don’t see her as someone who lacks confidence or conversely is trying to sell herself as something she is not. She knows what she is, and frankly to her credit she OWNS it. Something sorely missing from a LOT of music that even dares to call itself “rock” these days.

 

I mean if you find yourself thinking her vocal performance is “awful” I ask you, what exactly prompted you to listen to it and by what measure are you judging it? Hopefully you’re not using the American Idol or The Voice benchmark. Would you judge Johnny Rotten by the same standard? Neil Young? Bob Dylan? Heaven forbid a vocalist as revered as say a Robert Plant? Are you looking through the prism of whether her work is credible by how in-pitch her vocal is or how well-executed her guitar playing is?  If so, you’re missing the point in my opinion and just my guess here … In the end she could give a rat’s ass and honestly has no time for you anyway.

 

Frankly IMO a little Courtney Love is the shot in the arm rock music needs at times like these compared to shiny vocalists who can execute all of the vocal aerobics in the world, perfectly in pitch but never offer an emotionally or lyrically meaningful moment during any of it. Anyone who would listen to Courtney’s style of music with that kind of expectation is never going to “get it” anyway and frankly the joke is on them. “Just keep walking folks, nothing for you to see here.”

 

Okay, since we’re halfway down the rabbit hole anyway, I’ll ask for little more grace (or rope around my neck) to allow me to continue on with my own personal context on this. Here it goes; I’m of the opinion that Rock – when it’s right in the head – has never been about pretty, perfect vocals, guitars and drums. It’s about attitude and contrast. When it’s at its most potent and effective is when it’s spewing raw emotion all over whomever is within spewing distance.

 

I had the pleasure – yep you heard me right, the pleasure — of seeing Hole when they were just breaking and on the rise at a small venue here in AZ. Honestly, in all my years of attending shows, I’ve rarely been at show that felt so urgent. I was totally engaged and really uncomfortable all at the same time during a show. At times the tension and anticipation was thick enough to cut with a knife. It was a show that was emotional, and real, and at the same time beautifully walked the razors edge of possibly collapsing into chaos at any second and taking the crowd right down with it. At times I thought I was going to crawl right out of my skin. The performance was about anything but perfect musicianship or performance. What it was about was THAT VERY MOMENT IN TIME. I walked out soaked in sweat and feeling like “Whew! Okay, yeah, rock is alive and well. Carry on please.”

 

And that is the part that Mr. Ladd has no chance of ever understanding, let alone respecting. To him someone else’s art and effort was worth trashing for a few self-serving dollars to account for his couple of hours of work. If he did respect it, he simply would not have done what he did.

 

Courtney is certainly not the first vocalist to be subjected to this kind of behavior by someone with the keys to the hard drive. Some of you who are old enough may remember a similar incident with Linda McCartney some years back. Of course there are the more recent public vocal revelations of Britney Spears, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and most recently Mariah Carrey.

 

Ya know here’s the thing, and given what I do for a living it’s the primary reason this type of thing bothers me so much and why it resulted in this blog. For those of us who work in the live sound and live recording field and are privileged enough to be considered professionals – and it IS a profession by the way — we understand and embrace that there is a bond of unwritten trust that exists between artist and mixer. And the bond is especially strong between the artist and the recordist. The artist leans VERY heavily on that bond and trust. There’s a kind of marriage of two sentiments; “Dude, don’t embarrass me” in direct unison to “Dude, I’ve got your back”. It is part of what allows the artist to be emotionally free and fearless during a performance.

 

For the live mixer, it can at times result in an act of nobility which means that even if the vocalist is having a tough night, you do what you can to protect them—even if the quality of your mix, and YOUR reputation, takes the hit for it.

 

For the live recordist it means, you respect and honor the fact that you have access to recordings that could possibly show the artist in a very bad light if maliciously presented to the public, especially if presented out of context. Yep, you heard it here first folks, NOBODY is great every single night or on every single take.  There is an expectation by the artist that you will HONOR that access because of just that fact.

 

What Mr. Ladd, along with all the other unscrupulous, self-serving morons who felt compelled to publicly release these out-of-context vocal performances did, was unwittingly kick away half of the Jenga blocks that represent the complex bond of trust between all artists and all recordist and mixers. All they accomplished in the end was to destabilize the stack of intricately connected blocks that represent the level of trust between artist and staff from that day forward.

 

One could easily say their actions were selfish and self-serving, but in the end what did those actions actually accomplish? It certainly wasn’t any possibility of financial restitution. Was it some sort of sadistic satisfaction or peace of mind? Really? REALLY? How vapid, shallow or spiteful do you have to be to get satisfaction from doing something like this?

 

No, I would submit to you that all that Ladd—and all those who would subscribe to his methods—accomplished in their actions was to put a price, an absolute dollar value, on their own integrity. They were willing to wistfully trade it away for … yeah, wait for it …  the amount of the unpaid invoice. What was it? 200.00? 500.00? 1000.00? Was it worth it Mr. Ladd? Getting many calls to record anyone lately? Whatever the figure, Mr. Ladd has also ensured that all of us who do this kind of work for a living will be paying just a little bit of that invoice for some time to come.

 

So, before you’re tempted to think “Well, if the person who hired him would have just paid the invoice, none of this would have never happened” ask yourself this: What is YOUR reputation and integrity worth? No, seriously, what is it worth in dollars and cents? Try to put an actual dollar figure on it and whatever figure you land on, simply disregard it because Mr. Ladd just settled the issue for you with the dollar figure at the bottom of his now infamous unpaid invoice. Well played Mr. J.M. Ladd, I, and the rest of the pro audio industry thank you sir.

 

Yeah, not so much …

Continue reading >
Share

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.

Continue reading >
Share
Page 1 of 2