Andrulian's Blog – all things music: Musings, Understanding theory, Software tools, revIews, Commentary

Creating sounds | Making music | supporting fellow musicians | reflections in time

Review of Penguin Party album by Sarah Schonert — August 30, 2018

Review of Penguin Party album by Sarah Schonert

This is a stunning album, it has a captivating sound from extremely well crafted and arranged songs.

There’s so many elements that come together. The vocals are beautiful, captivating with a great passion; piano playing, synth riffs and leads all have variation and movement with excellent processing. There’s great use of effects and background sounds too.

It’s very difficult to define a particular sound, it’s a contemporary sound with elements of pop and electronica. There’s often an ambience but also a contrasting edge of tension and great momentum.

Astound Me
Drumming pattern, bass and an intricate arp open the song that are given momentum by a reverse sounding riff and piano. The vocals are superb and really compliment the song. It’s superbly arranged, intricate layering and a great flow, there’s a haunting quality at times.

Tree with Feet
A momentum from synth riff and percussion, vocals and bass compliment and develop the sound. It’s edgy and uptempo but there’s also an underlying ambience.

Queen of Panels
Uptempo opening from drumming, strings give a contrast and piano riff adds a great element. Vocals are excellent again. Nice changes in feel.

Queen of Panels outro
Lush strings and piano, compliments the song really well.

Penguin Party
Glitchy 8 bit type of sound to open with sparse percussion and a riff / bassline, there’s a sitar type of sound too. Great evolution of the song, really well layered elements.

Listen Soak Repeat
A toy piano riff to open, it has a kind of lullaby quality. Percussion is sparse and vocals are spoken with excellent processing. There’s an ambience and an edge at times too.

I Can’t Think Straight
Great synth opening with background sound effects and vocals. The processing is superb on the vocals, a reverse effect with an ethereal feel. Superb arrangement again, piano riff gives an ambience and there are great changes of feel too.

Glacier Dive
Reflective qualities to the opening with synth lead, piano chords and drumming. The synth lead has a kind of experimental feel.

Irrelevant
Vocals and struck percussion sounds to open, there’s an ambience given momentum by the drumming pattern. There’s a contrasting flow and edginess to the song from an excellent riff and strings.

NonCrystalline
A sense of urgency from percussion and piano riff to open, the vocals also have a sense of urgency. Nice contrast with the shimmery trem riff which gives a change in feel.

Overdriving Headlights
Pulsing, shimmery riff and floaty vocal effects to open, bass is subtle and piano riff compliments the sound really well. It’s an ambience with an edge.

You Still Awake
Uptempo drumming to open with picked string riff, lovely vocals again. It’s has an ambience with contrasting edge of tension.

Get Thee to a Nunnery
Pulsing trem riff and processed percussion to open accompanied by bass which gives a subtle movement. The vocals are captivating and piano gives a great momentum, building a tension to a final release.

The Bells
Bell type sounds to open, a subtle opening contrasted by a heavier, louder piano chord. Vocals are superb again, subtle processing and a great passion. It’s a delicate song with an edge.

ATC P2 PRO power amp additions make listening life more enjoyable for all at AIR Studios Mastering — August 27, 2018

ATC P2 PRO power amp additions make listening life more enjoyable for all at AIR Studios Mastering

ATC

“We felt it was worth exploring some Class A/B amp options, but, having tried several, we weren’t impressed… until we came across the ATC P2 PROs. Now there’s a more musical bottom end, and this extra dimension has made things more enjoyable to listen to.”

– AIR Studios Mastering engineer John Webber, 2018

LONDON, UK: specialist British loudspeaker drive unit and complete sound reproduction system manufacturer ATC is proud to announce that AIR Studios Mastering (UK) — a division of the world-famous AIR Studios started by Beatles-producing genius George Martin and specialising in analogue and digital mastering — has literally and figuratively amplified its full-range, ‘no expense spared’ speaker monitoring system, thanks to two ATC P2 PRO Dual Mono Power Amplifier additions…

According to AIR Studios Mastering’s wisely-worded website: Professional audio mastering is the last part of the sound production process where recordings are given a final gloss. Our role is to bring multiple songs together within a project, creating consistency across different formats and ensuring greatest possible impact when played on different systems. Using a full-range speaker monitoring system in an acoustically treated room, our experienced ear will polish your music for release. It’s a creative and technical process. No two tracks are the same; each track is treated individually, and this requires ever-changing and well-maintained solutions to ensure the best results. All of which is made possible at AIR Studios Mastering.

Making all that perfectly possible at AIR Studios Mastering comes courtesy of a killer combination of top-tier creative technical talent with three pairs of experienced ears between them. The triumvirate in question are Ray Staff, one of the most accomplished mastering engineers in the world with hit after hit spanning all genres of music to his notable name since starting out at London’s legendary Trident Studios in 1970, and award-winning mastering engineer John Webber, who confirms, “Cicely Balston joined us last year, having previously worked for Gearbox Records; the three of us work as a team, sometimes on a shift basis.” Being based at AIR Studios Mastering means working with some of the best solutions money can buy. But not always… as the case can, on occasion, be.

Being part of (the dearly departed) George Martin’s studio legacy clearly comes with some serious fringe benefits. Beautifully built, the “…one fully-kitted mastering suite…” in which John Webber now spends most of his time — now that Ray Staff “…comes in occasionally on a freelance/consultation basis…” — boasts a full-range, ‘no-expense spared’ monitoring system. Said system was developed in surroundings akin to Lockheed’s secretive ‘Skunk Works’ advanced aircraft facility with a purchase price skyrocketing towards a lofty six-figure sum! “The TAD Reference One’s dual-concentric driver was partly developed here at AIR, and they were very kindly gifted to us by Pioneer when the room was conceived,” clarifies their principal practitioner.

Pioneer’s kindness notwithstanding, there is routinely room for improvement in most mastering studio setups — even one as well specced as AIR Studios’. “Originally Class-D amps were chosen for our speakers, but we always felt they were a little hard-sounding and lacking in musicality,” maintains John Webber. “We felt it was worth exploring some Class A/B amp options, but, having tried several, we weren’t impressed… until we came across the ATC P2 PROs.”

Perhaps this is hardly surprising since the P2 PRO power amp is a true dual mono design delivering 300W of continuous power simultaneously from both channels to drive the most challenging loudspeaker loads with ATC’s signature virtues of wide bandwidth and ultra-low distortion. “The TADs are potentially a tough load with dual 10-inch bass drivers to control, and then there’s the passive crossover network and 4-ohm impedance to consider,” continues John Webber. “They’re designed to be very responsive and linear, so, speculatively, we were looking for something that provided a balance between fast, focused, and sweet.”

So sweet it is that those two P2 PRO power amp additions at AIR Studios Mastering proved to be a perfect pairing. “The sound is still quite lively and true, but now there’s a more musical bottom end, and this extra dimension has made things more enjoyable to listen to,” trumpets John Webber. “Two P2 PROs in a bi-amped configuration certainly sound different to just using one and took a little time getting used to, but I have always found brutally honest and revealing monitors to be best for my work because there’s little in the way of flattery going on and I generally find that masters translate better in the outside world.”

While original soundtrack albums for vinyl, CD, and download by Jed Jurzel (Alien Covenant) and Clint Mansell (Loving Vincent) alongside “…a ten-LP boxset of Ornette Coleman’s Atlantic-era releases and reissues for George Michael, Sisters Of Mercy, and various others…” have already been benefitting from P2 PRO-amplified mastering by John Webber, his brutal honesty shines forth in his closing comments: “If I was to describe the ‘sound’ of the amps in general, I would say they’re balanced, open, and uninhibited. We’re achieving a naturally unveiled soundstage, clean top end, and extended — but never over-egged — extension at the bottom end. I feel like P2 PROs provide excellent value for money… for us, they definitely came out on top when compared with similarly priced competitors.”

The British-built P2 PRO Dual Mono Power Amplifier carries a UK RRP of £3,021.00 GBP (plus VAT). For more in-depth info, please visit the dedicated product webpage

For availability and pricing internationally, please visit the ATC website to find a distributor for your region.

For availability, and pricing in the United States, please contact Brad Lunde at Transaudio Group

About ATC (www.atcloudspeakers.co.uk/professional)
ATC (Acoustic Transducer Company) is a specialist British manufacturer of loudspeaker drive units and complete sound reproduction systems, including all associated electronic equipment. All such systems and components are designed and built in-house to achieve levels of performance far in excess of the industry norm by adopting a thoroughly professional engineering approach to the issues of basic design, materials science, and production technology. Formed in 1974 to manufacture custom drive units for the professional sound industry, ATC’s groundbreaking ‘Soft Dome’ mid driver technology was originally developed in 1976 and is still featured in the company’s current SCM25A Pro, SCM45A Pro, SCM50ASL Pro, SCM100ASL Pro, SCM110ASL Pro, SCM150ASL Pro, SCM200ASL Pro, and top-of-the-range SCM300ASL Pro three-way active professional series loudspeakers. Constantly improved, it is still unique in innovation, and remains the only midrange device capable of delivering ultimate performance; flatteringly, it has been widely copied — without success. Similarly, the ‘Super Linear’ technology found in ATC’s professional series bass drive units is equally unique — not only in its ability to accurately reproduce piano, but also the precise manner in which male voices are articulated. All drive units in ATC active professional monitors are powered by their own ATC-designed amplifier, optimised for the relevant bandwidth, and all amplifiers — working substantially in Class A — feature even-order-filtered active crossovers that are individually aligned and phase-corrected to ensure unmatched stereo imaging.

© 2018 ATC Loudspeaker Technology Ltd

Review of Eventide and Newfangled Audio’s updated 1.5 Elevate Bundle : (Elevate – Multiband Mastering Dynamics plugin; Equivocate – Auditory EQ plugin; also includes two new plugins) — August 17, 2018

Review of Eventide and Newfangled Audio’s updated 1.5 Elevate Bundle : (Elevate – Multiband Mastering Dynamics plugin; Equivocate – Auditory EQ plugin; also includes two new plugins)

Newfangled speaker
Introduction
Newfangled Audio and Eventide have recently updated the Elevate bundle to 1.5 which brings two new plugins – Saturate and Punctuate as well as feature improvements to Elevate and Equivocate.

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated product webpage.

Elevate Bundle 1.5 (comprising the Elevate, EQuivocate, Punctuate, and Saturate AAX/AU/VST plug-ins for Mac OS X 10.7+ and Windows 7+) is available through Eventide and authorised dealers at a promo price of $139.00 USD through to September 5, 2018 (rising thereafter to a regular price of $199.00 USD). Owners of EQuivocate can upgrade to Elevate Bundle 1.5 for $99.00 USD through to September 5, 2018 (rising thereafter to a regular price of $149.00 USD). Owners of Elevate can upgrade to Elevate Bundle 1.5 for free at anytime.

Equivocate
Equivocate

EQuivocate is the ideal EQ for naturally changing the tone of any sound, so it is perfect for mixing and mastering applications. As EQuivocate uses filters that are modelled on the human ear, each of its 26 bands tickles a different part of the inner ear, making any combination of settings sound as natural as ‘humanly’ possible. Combining this with a linear-phase filter shape that reduces pre-echo makes EQuivocate an EQ with a difference that can clearly be heard.

Use EQuivocate’s Match EQ feature to make the sound of your track match or complement the audio signal streamed to its sidechain. You can also use it to make a final master match the tone of a reference track, or help fit a sound into a dense mix. Unlike other match EQ plug-ins, EQuivocate provides a transparent match without trying to model imperceptible differences which can cause a match EQ to sound unnatural. Feed your favorite song or individual track into it and instantly morph your tone to match.

EQuivocate in use

The 1.5 update brings a new RANGE feature, allowing users to scale or invert the total dB range for the EQ in order to change the total amount of EQ applied after setting the individual bands. This also allows users to scale the range of the MATCH EQ before and after it has been set. Additionally, each band benefits from enable buttons to easily turn bands on and off for better workflow with improvements implemented elsewhere also assisting.

There are only minor changes to the GUI so the layout remains largely the same. The top section has presets, load/save options, new check for update button and a drop down offering 3 different colour schemes. Underneath is an ‘active’ button which switches the effect on and off.

The input vu meter is on the left and output vu meter on the right of the display, both showing peak and rms levels. On the output is an ‘auto’ button. This option automatically compensates for any volume changes caused by any boosts or cuts to eq meaning no changes to volume level.

The main part of the display highlights how this plugin works differently to many other EQs because it is based on the ‘Mel’ scale which are preset values based on the critical bands of human hearing. Although they are fixed in terms of frequency, you have a lot of flexibility because you can skew the weighting of the centre frequency, use any number from 1 up to 26 bands and solo individual bands. Any changes you make triggers the custom mode which enables you to add and remove bands and draw EQ curves. The display shows the chosen number of bands at the bottom with EQ cuts and boosts above. You can select to show input and/or output monitoring for a visual representation of the changes you have made.

The match EQ is a cool feature, you load an audio file into the side chain and EQuivocate listens to the source and matches levels. There’s a scaling option which also features negative values that allow you to invert an EQ profile and new RANGE feature as outlined above.

EQuivocate comes with 69 presets to get you started. These are excellent in their own right and can of course be tweaked to meet your requirements or you can start from scratch. I’m really impressed by how easy and flexible EQuivocate is to use. It handles mixing tasks such as taming low end, adding guitar presence, adding a bass presence or more extreme filtering; equally it can handle mastering tasks such as tightening and brightening. I really like how you can use EQuivocate quite subtly on individual tracks which adds up to a big change to the overall sound or use it for specific filtering effects such as producing a lo-fi sound.

EQuivocate compliments Elevate really well. Both plugins have been developed with the same principles of operation. EQuivocate can easily handle your EQ tasks and Elevate will definitely improve the quality of you finished song / mix.

Elevate
elevate

Elevate is the most advanced mastering plug-in ever created. This unique multi-band limiter, human ear EQ, and powerful audio maximizer will increase the loudness of a mix while maintaining or improving its dynamic perception. It uses intelligent, adaptive technology that responds in real time to music, creating not only the loudest but also the best-sounding master.

Essentially the 1.5 update adds true peak limiting, preventing final masters from clipping during reproduction and ensuring compatibility with all broadcast standards.

Developed by Newfangled Audio, Elevate maintains subtle dynamics and improves the tonal balance of a mix. The adaptive limiter analyzes 26 frequency bands and alters the gain, speed, and transients for each band in real time. This results in a transparent, natural sound — no matter how hard it is pushed.

Elevate like EQuivocate utilizes 26 critical filter bands modeled on the human ear. Each of the bands are spaced to give maximum control over how sound hits the eardrum. Draw curves, solo bands, and manipulate the transient attack for each individual band to bring out instruments such as kick or snare drums.

Elevate uses artificial intelligence algorithms to make it easy to get the best sounds, but users can still get under the hood to access as much precise control as deemed necessary. This includes control over tonal balance and transients inside the final limiting stage. Adaptive algorithms reduce audible artifacts while additional controls provide maximum flexibility with professional results.

Elevate in use

As with the EQuivocate plugin, the GUI has a clean modern look and is easy to use and navigate.

The top section has presets, load/save options, new check for update button and a drop down offering 3 colour schemes. Underneath is an ‘active’ button which switches the effect on and off. There’s also a very handy ‘gain lock’ option, useful when switching presets so you don’t get large volume or value changes. The match level is also useful to boost the dry signal when the plugin is inactive to compare the processed and unprocessed sound with the same amount of gain.

If you’re familiar with EQuivocate, the display will look very similar with the input vu meter on the left and output vu meter on the right of the display, both showing peak and rms levels. On the output is an ‘auto’ button. This option automatically compensates for any volume changes and it is sometimes useful to switch into manual mode so you can hear the changes to your audio.

The three options at the top – input/output, gain reduction and filter bank determine what is shown in the main display. The lower part of the display contains controls for the main parameters and associated sub-modules.

Selecting ‘main parameters’ displays the filter bank, limiter, transient and spectral clipper options. The limiter can use up to 26 bands. These are based on the ‘Mel’ scale which are the critical hearing bands. The gain control lets you set the amount of gain and the speed control acts as a sort of combined attack/release control. These both have adaptive options which means the limiter will act on each individual band. The value for adaptive gain determines how far (in dB) bands can differ from each other. The value for adaptive speed will adapt the setting for each filter band individually reducing artifacts. The ceiling control is the maximum output.

For more control over how the limiter works, there are filter bank, limiter/EQ and transient sub modules. The number of bands chosen for the limiter will determine the number of EQ bands in the filter bank sub-module. When you choose the number of bands, Elevate automatically places them on the Mel scale between the minimum and maximum values. Although they are fixed in terms of frequency, you have a lot of flexibility because you can skew the weighting of the centre frequency, solo individual bands and add or remove bands. Any changes you make triggers the custom mode and if you change the number of bands the limiter setting will be automatically updated.

The limiter/EQ sub-module allows you to adjust the gain for each frequency band and see the relative gain reduction being applied. You can adjust individual bands or draw EQ curves. This will be familiar if you’ve used the EQuivocate EQ plugin.

The transient emphasis can be adjusted from 0% to 100% and the adaptive control enables the transient shaper to work on each individual band. Clicking on the transient sub-module enables greater manual control over each band.

The spectral clipper is designed to clip the fast transients which pass through the transient emphasis section but also allows you to add up to 12dB of distortion based gain. Elevate applies this according to the shape curve shown on the clipper sub-module.

Elevate comes with 55 presets to get you started. Some of these are excellent in their own right but are more useful as a starting point to tweak to your own requirements or you can start from scratch.

Elevate is a fantastic plugin, it has an extremely impressive sound and despite the internal complexities is easy to get to grips with. When I started using Elevate I wasn’t sure if it would suit my ambient / downtempo style of music because some of the presets produced a very loud resulting sound. This just highlights why you can’t rely on presets, spending a little time to get to grips with Elevate, I quickly found a more suitable preset that I tweaked to meet my requirements. I’ve since been using a setting of 10 bands, adjusting the EQ and transients to suit the particular sound of the song. I also pay particular attention to the settings of the clipper because this can produce anywhere between a soft and rather aggressive sound. I use Elevate to master pretty much everything which shows how impressive the results are.

Another excellent feature of the 1.5 update is that the clipper and transient emphasis modules in Elevate are now also available as separate plugins so that you can apply these effects to specific tracks

Saturate

saturate

Saturate is a spectral clipper plug-in, useful for mixing or mastering. As such, it adds up to 24dB of drive with a variable CLIPPER SHAPE parameter that moves from a pleasant soft curve to full hard clipping. Unique spectral processing maintains the tonal balance of the distorted signal, no matter how hard it is pushed. Saturate automatically compensates output level based on the DRIVE control or, alternatively, allows this to be controlled manually.

Punctuate

punctuate

Punctuate is a transient emphasis plugin also useful for mixing or mastering. Musically speaking, it offers up to 26 auditory bands of TRANSIENT EMPHASIS or suppression while its unique ADAPTIVE TRANSIENT and ADAPTIVE LENGTH controls allow algorithms to tailor each band’s transient shaper to what the listener’s ear wants to hear. Helpfully, customizable parameters for each band also allow users to tweak the result, if needed.

Launch of the Latest Cities and Memory Project – Sounds of Italy — August 13, 2018

Launch of the Latest Cities and Memory Project – Sounds of Italy

The latest Cities and Memory project launches today, 13th August, featuring dozens of recomposed and re-imagined sounds everywhere from the Dolomites in the North to the beaches of Sicily in the South.

You can explore the sounds on an interactive sound map on the Cities and Memory website. I can’t embed the map here unfortunately, just a screenshot:

C&M_Italy

There are an excellent range of styles, some of my favourites so far are ‘The Imagination of Mythology’, an evolving drone / soundscape with just an edge of distortion and distant voices; ‘Blue Summer Dream’ has a strong theme of bells and water with contrasting distorted / bitcrushed sounds that add an excellent tension; ‘Deliverence’ is an atmospheric, haunting soundscape with subtle movement and great build and release of tension; ‘Prosecco Festival Pause’ is an excellent glitchy, cut-up, tape loop type of sound. There are still many more to discover.

My entry is a re-imagining of a crowd recording from an Inter Milan vs Lazio football match at the iconic San Siro Stadium.

I’ve made extensive use of the joggle sampler in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3. This is a sampler with a speed control (-400% to 400%) that I’ve assigned to a midi controller to start / stop several instances of the sampler and adjust the playback speed.

I created three live recordings using parts of the recording in the joggle sampler, grain cloud sampler and groove slicer in Hollyhock 3 as well as in Palindrome VST by Glitchmachines that are processed with a number of Eventide effects – Mangled Verb, Blackhole, Octavox, Ultratap, H3000 Factory Delay, H949 Dual Harmoniser.

I’ve used the start of the original recording layered against orchestration and bass (Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions by Spitfire Audio) with the three live recordings substituted for the original recording to create the track.