Yay!!! We did it!!

So, to anyone who’s been following our exploits with the webcasting shows on Thursday nights, last night’s broadcast was a first for us in that we managed to incorporate not one but two live interviews via Skype!

We were joined in the Scan studios by Kevin Bent, MD of Adam UK, distributors of some of the finest monitors in the world and we had hatched a plot to interview the founder of the company, Herr Klaus Heinz, at his offices in Germany.

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When Kev arrived he suggested we try and get one of his many endorsees to do a Skype interview as well, and after a couple of attempts he managed to get hold of one of the UK’s foremost producers Roska, whose credits include Jessie J amongst others..

Roska agreed to call into the offices of Rinse FM and conduct a Skype interview on his mobile phone.

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Later, after some in-depth discussion of room treatments by our own resident Autobot, we then hooked up with Klaus for some very informative views on the industry and his products.

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If you didn’t manage to catch it, check it out on our You Tube channel along with all our other archives……

Alto TourMax SXM112A PA Stage Monitor

Alto TourMax SXM112A PA Stage Monitor

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OK Groovers.

In keeping with our policy of knowing all about the kit that we keep in stock, I want a quick word about a much maligned piece of stage equipment, that for most artists, certainly singers, is the most important thing on the stage i.e. monitor speakers.

It’s amazing how many venues boast a sterling PA system with the very best of microphones and FOH desk, but then they fall down on the one thing the artist relies on more than anything, the monitor wedges.

For those that don’t know, the monitor mix for the singer usually carries the music they’ll be singing to, and the sound of their own voice, so that they can pitch the song correctly against the backing music. This is very difficult to do if the main mix is blasting out front, and for most singers wishing to stay in tune, it’s a must. Indeed some singers may ask for a certain instrument to be higher in the mix, and others such as drums to be lowered, so overall the monitor is a hugely important tool for live stage work.

Last Friday I was happy to be playing a show with my good friend, Grammy award winning solo guitarist Ed Gerhard from the USA. The venue was a small club in Chorley and Ed was using it as warm up before his shows at the Glastonbury festival this week.

The guy who runs the venue had recently purchased two of the Alto TourMax SXM112A PA Stage Monitors from us here at Scan Pro Audio.

The SXM112A’s cabinet is made of thick birch plywood, features a heavy-duty steel grill that’s built to last, and is covered in a rugged black textured finish that is scratch and dent resistant. Recessed handles makes the SXM112A easy and safe to move from rehearsal space to stage and back again while heavy-duty rubber feet ensure that it stays put no matter how much volume you pump through it.
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Superior Sound Quality
The SXM112A delivers a big sound with a high-performance 12-inch LF driver (2-inch voice coil), and an exacting 1-inch HF driver. What’s more, it utilizes a trapezoidal design which greatly decreases the resonance of the standing wave in the cabinet for a more true and exact sound reproduction.

Options
Alto have built in a modelling effects unit that changes the sonic characteristics of the SXM112A with the turn of a dial. Choose from 16 presets that maximize your sonic needs with options for vocalists, guitar players, pianists, drummers and sound engineers.

Plug It In, Turn It On
The SXM112A houses more than just great sound under the hood, it features a built-in Class D, 400W bi-amplified system (800W Peak). As a self-powered stage monitor, all you need to do is plug in your audio and power cables, turn it on, and you’re all set. No external amplifiers to set up or transport — it’s all built into the SXM112A.

The sound was clean and loud, and the monitors handled the volume perfectly, with no horrible ‘ear-splitting howls of feedback’ or indeed any problems at all across the whole evening.

If you own a portablePA, or if you’re thinking of buying one, pay particular attention to these monitors. They could well be the best investment you make.

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TECH INFORMATION

Power System: Continuous – 400 W ( 335 W LF + 65 W HF), Peak – 800 W (670 W LF + 130 W HF)

Maximum SPL @ 1m: 118 dB Continuous / 121 dB Peak 

Coverage ( HxV ): 70° H x 70° V Spherical horn 

Transducer Low: 12” Coax / 2” voice coil

Transducer High: 1” Neodymium Driver / 1” voice coil

Protection: Low – High analog limiter

Electronic Protections: Modeller with 16 Preset / Line Volume/ Clipping LED indicator / ground switch

Input  Level: Line +4 dB

Input Impedance: 30 kΩ Balanced / 15 kΩ Unbalanced

Input Connector: Combo Jack with XLR / TRS

External Control: Volume control / Power on with green LED/ clip limiter with red LED/ ground lift

Power Supply: AC – 220 / 240 V or AC – 110 / 120 Volt, with switching power mode.

Cabinet: Trapezoidal shape / multi-layer plywood / handle / black paint finishing

Dimensions (HxWxD): 313 mm x 393 mm x 513 mm

Net Weight: 26.12 lbs. / 11.85 kg

Dimensions (WxLxH): 313mm x 393mm x 513mm
Weight: 26.12 lb

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1

The Native Instruments Traktor Z1 is the ultimate, stick-it-in-yer-bag portable addon for Traktor users, both on PC and Mac, but also for Traktor DJ on iOS.

Fully compatible with all of the versions of Traktor, this unit is very similar to the Traktor S2 mixer section. Featuring the same faders and knobs as the S2 and S4, this really opens up the use of iOS Traktor App for iMac and iPhone (yes, it is even reported to work with iPhone too!)  “more than a bit of fun messing about” usage.  Not only does it give you a true stereo output and stereo headphone cue for iOS, it’s also an ultra-portable solution to anyone with its partner X1 or F1 controller for PC and Mac.

http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/traktor/dj-mixer/traktor-kontrol-z1/

You couldn't write it…………..

So, by way of an apology to all of you who tuned in to last night’s webcast, let me explain a little of what happened, however, please believe whatever you read here will never convey the trauma and frustration we experienced first hand……..disappointed

OK, we’d actually done 3 live webcasts up to last night, and each time we’re getting better.

You start off, just pleased that you’ve managed to get a whole show out live.

Then, you start getting a little bit clever.

Then, you start planning Hollywood style special FX and state of the art technological links, that would put NASA to shame.

But the reeeeeeally frustrating bit….

The reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally frustrating bit is…..

that we’d done it.

We weren’t overreaching ourselves.

We had worked out exactly what we could do, and how to do it.

Tom had spent all day tweaking and refining the thing, and it was working beautifully.

I mean beauuuuuuutifully!

We had a virtual TV stage.

We had a video wall.

We had super slinky titles and graphics.

We had a really good webcast.

With an hour to go, we were quietly excited and optimistic.

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And then,

With 2 minutes to go…..

Let me say that again.

WITH 2 MINUTES TO GO!!!!!!

Someone stood on the mains power cable, that powered all the computers, sound cards, monitors, in fact everything that we needed, everything we had worked on, ALL Toms effort’s gone.

To make matters worse, it was a simple mistake by our special guest.

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Our lovely, knowledgable, special guest presenter stood on our lead.

Don’t get us wrong.

This wasn’t even his fault!! HE was helping us by passing over a phone we thought hadn’t been switched off.

And we aren’t holding him to blame.

It was our fault that we hadn’t got a back up in place.

It was our fault we hadn’t Gaffered the mains leads to the floor.

It was our fault that we didn’t have a UPS unit.

And Chris felt terrible. Which we didn’t want him to.

BUT, after all that.

We never gave up.

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“Never ever ever give up!” He said.

And we didn’t.

We persevered.

Tom had 15 minutes to try and fix what had taken all day to set up.

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We had audio glitches. We had Periods of silence.

The PC was so spangled by the abrupt cut-off of life giving 240v, that it collapsed under the weight of our request for it to remember all the configurations of the day, and decided it would revert to being not much more complicated than a toaster, and refused to play ball at any level.

In the end we put out a webcast that was in two halves.

The first was an abortive attempt to push all the previous efforts together and force the thing to work.

It didn’t.

So we gave Tom a further 10 minutes to re-boot, start from scratch, and just get something to work.

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And so, set against the only picture background we had ( a Chinese village, from which ironically, some of the parts for the equipment were probably manufactured…) Chris managed to give a 40 minute demonstration of Bass Station 2.

So the moral of the Story:

 Back everything up, all the time! And Gaffa Tape your power leads to the floor……

Meanwhile,

We will be back.

Next week in fact.

And we’re booked throughout June and July, so watch this space for further details….

And above all…

Keep smiling   smile

                             

Best Thing I’ve ever used for recording Acoustic Guitars……..

GG 29_4_13 39 copyOK, within the pages of this blog, you’ll find many a piece dedicated to the best ways to mic up and record various instruments, and of course, my personal bug bear is miking up Acoustic Guitars.

Well, here’s some news for anyone wanting to do just that.

Y’see, the problem is guitarists.

It’d be relatively easy to record a guitar if it weren’t for them.

Swaying and shaking, grooving and stomping their feet, bless their little cotton socks, but it does mean they keep moving the guitar out of position/range of the microphones.

Well, we’ve found the ultimate solution.

And it’s a Doozy!!!

This is the Gordon Giltrap signature model of the Exploraudio H-Clamp.

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And it’s superb…….

H-clamp InstruMounts allow almost any microphone to be attached safely and securely to almost any stringed instrument. They can also be attached to other instruments and sound equipment or even to furniture, square profile columns or beams. The standard models are designed to fit individual ‘classes’ of instruments (such as guitars, cellos or basses) but a package is also available to cover the entire range.

The H-clamp is a novel development of the traditional design of instrument maker’s cramps, which are used during construction of the body to hold the panels together tightly while the glue sets. Adding a boom to the cramp allows almost any microphone (or other audio device or accessory that can be mounted on a microphone stand) to be attached securely without damaging the instrument or affecting its tonal quality. Aerospace-class materials and manufacturing techniques produce a light, rigid and robust mount for microphones up to at least 500g in weight.

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The Gordon Giltrap version is a limited edition and the first 10 come with an exclusive DVD featuring some of Gordons song’s.

The Giltrap Signature H-clamp, designed to fit all the instruments Gordon plays, from electric guitars and ukuleles to large Jumbo guitars, is ideal for both live performance and studio recording. Gordon uses his H-clamp (teamed with a Schoeps CCM 4 mic) for all his acoustic recordings, including his highly successful new album with Oliver Wakeman, Ravens & Lullabies.

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Every so often, a product comes along that makes me very happy.

This is one.

If you need to record Acoustic Guitars, get yourself one of these.

It’s gonna make your life so much easier.

Believe me.

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DAW Benchmarks 2013 – What gives you the best performance for audio applications?

It’s been a good year or so now since we’ve managed to do a proper group testing session here in office on the system side of things and with the launch of a new processor selection it often raises any number of questions regarding upgrading or even replacing older setups with the newer chipset solutions. With the launch of Intel’s new Haswell CPU’s over the weekend and rumors reaching us of AMD’s latest CPU’s getting a solid performance boost it looks to be the ideal time to carry out a round up.

During that time however the team over at DAWBench have updated and refined the basic test to allow for the performance heights that the new chips are reaching to be more easily measured. The new test doesn’t scale in quite the same fashion as the older version, so this time around it has required us to perform a full group retest to ensure everything is as accurate as possible on the chart, meaning that a number of older systems have dropped off the testing list due to the lack of available hardware or incompatibility with the newer testing environment.

The other change of note this time around is with the interface being used by us for the task itself. In the past we used an internal RME card up until the point where external interface solutions became more common place, where we retired it and moved onto the Firewire budget champ in the shape of M-Audio 1614FW for our comparative testing. Over the last few years however Firewire support has waned and so it now makes sense for us to move onto a more everyday solution and one that is within easy reach of the average user.

So with that in mind we welcome to the testing bench the USB based Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface which itself weighs in at under £200 and should give a fair indication of what can be achieved by anyone with a good basic interface. Of course if you have invested in a more premium solution these scores will most likely be even better in your final setup but we hope to give people here a general idea on what can be achieved on the average DAW setup.

So without further ado, on with the stats!

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System DAWBench Chart June 2013
System DAWBench Chart June 2013

You can click to expend the chart above and it gives us the testing results for the classic DAWBench RXC compressor test. The test puts a load on the CPU by letting us add compressor instances until the ASIO routine fails to cope and the audio breaks up.

The first thing to note is down the bottom of the chart and AMD’s inclusion on the list. It’s the first time in a few generations now where we’ve seen a AMD chip hold it’s own in the benchmarking round up and overall it has to be said as a entry level solution it could have some legs. Pulling roughly the same benchmark results as the first generation i7 solutions when dealing with audio means that it offers a solid platform to work on for a price point somewhere in the £230 region for the chip and board.

When doing the system math’s however for roughly 1/3rd more on the motherboard & CPU price you can have a i5 4670 Intel CPU and board which will give you roughly a 1/3rd more performance so the bang per buck in both setups is roughly the same at where we would choose to peg the entry level positions. It could however be argued that another £70 on what will likely be a £700 costing machine wouldn’t break the bank and could be a very worthwhile move in the long term as that 1/3rd more performance will more than likely come in handy further down the road and should be part of the consideration.

Looking further up the range we see the comparisons between the 4670K & 4770K CPU’s and their predecessors which were the chips of choice at their respective performance points in previous generations. The 4670K is another unlocked i5 solution offering 4 cores whilst the 4770K is the direct replacement for 3770K midrange champion offering up the same 4 cores +4 cores of hyperthreading that have been available in the previous generations.

For ease of comparison we  made sure to test the key chips at both stock settings and with a fairly average overclock applied so you can see how they scale with the extra clock speed boost being applied. Even through the CPU’s don’t appear to overclock quite as far this time around we do see a fairly level increase in performance at around the 5% – 7% across the board when examining like for like CPU’s meaning that whilst not major game changers they do offer a step up on the previous generation.

Regarding the chipset itself the big push this time by Intel has been the improvement of power saving features within the chipset and on the CPU itself. The inclusion of more C states which allow the PC to pretty much shut everything off when it conserves power is likely to be another major headache for audio system builders both pro and amateur alike so keep an eye on those and give them some consideration when tweaking up your rigs.

The CPU microarchitecture has also been worked upon and whilst a lot of the changes are a bit more technical than we’d want to go into on article focused on audio applications, the expansion to the AVX2 instruction set may yield us further improvements in performance if software developers can make use of the improvements implemented in the Haswell release further along the line. We don’t expect it to be a quick process as it doesn’t make sense to focus on instruction tuning until it is supported by both Intel and AMD but we expect that to happen over the course of the coming year and once it does software companies often start to make use of the features in major updates which could be a nice benefit to those adopting the platform.

Other benefits for adopters of the new platform include an increase of USB 3.0 ports available natively in the chipset (6 rather than the previous 4) and more Sata 6Gps ports which now total 6 natively over the previous generations 2 port solutions.

So where does that leave us? Not much different from before the launch of the new CPU’s with performance scaling with cost right up to the hexcore 3930K chips on a pretty reasonable cost to performance curve. The current highend extreme in the shape 3970X however continues to break that curve rather abruptly although this is something most users have come to expect and thankfully it is only the most demanding of users that will even need to consider that solution as the rest of the range offers a lot of performance which will satisfy the vast majority of current requirements.

The future promises us a new high end platform later in the year in the shape of IvyBridge extreme, although details and release dates are still very hazy we’re looking forward to getting to grips with those when they do eventually land. Right now through the Haswell solutions offer a great upgrade for any users  of the first generation i series CPU’s (the 4th generation 4770k offers twice the performance in benchmarking of a first generation i7 920) or earlier solutions and continue to dominate their respective price points in the performance stakes.

DAW Systems @ Scan

Universal Audio and Thursdays Webcast……

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Well, we did it again and had over twice as many concurrent viewers as last time!

A big thank you to Andy Bensley and Jonathon Burrows from Source Distribution.

441 of you joined us for the live webcast, and the quality of questions was again excellent, so thanks to all of you as well.

As I’ve said before, we’re committed to this, and we’re getting better and better.

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This Thursday, the6th of June will feature Chris Calcutt from Novation looking at the new Bass Station 2 among others, and we’re excited to tell you that we’ll be able to bring you some special offers on the night, only for the duration of the broadcast, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

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