Archives for March 2003

AES Europe: DTS and Swedish Radio Present Live Demonstration of 96/24 5.1 Surround Sound for Digital Broadcast

On the opening day of the 114th AES Convention in Amsterdam, surround audio technology leader DTS is hosting a presentation addressing the latest developments in high-quality multi-channel audio for digital broadcast.

Those attending the presentation will be treated to the first-ever public broadcast of DTS 96/24 Digital Surround, via Swedish Radio’s 1.5 Mbps DVB multi-channel satellite transmission. The digital audio service has been operating in test mode since February, and has been enhanced to handle the high-resolution DTS signal for the AES demonstration.

The presentation at 12 noon tomorrow (Mar.22) will be introduced by leading sound recording engineer and producer Stuart Bruce, who will also deliver this year’s keynote address at the AES Convention.

Mr. Bruce is a leading proponent of multi-channel audio production, with almost 20-years’ experience in stereo recording. His credits include work with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Barry White and Bob Marley. He is based in his own production suite at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios.

The presentation will address all aspects of implementing high-quality multi-channel sound in the broadcast chain, including production, contribution and transmission issues.

Other participants in the presentation will include will Bosse Ternstrom and Lars Mossberg, senior engineers from Swedish Radio who have first-hand experience transmitting the first publicly available 96 KHz, 24-bit quality 5.1 broadcast service.

Swedish Radio’s DVB multi-channel test transmission service uses the DTS Coherent Acoustics compression/decompression algorithm. The free-to-air broadcast service is being transmitted across Europe using the Nordic and European beams of the Nordic Satellite AB (NSAB) Sirius 2 satellite (5 degrees East), on 12.245.34 MHz Vertical and 12.379.60 MHz Horizontal, respectively.

The test also includes terrestrial transmissions over DVB-T supplied by Teracom. SR’s transmission follows the inclusion by the DVB of DTS Digital Surround as part of its Digital Television specification.

DTS Web Site

Audio Engineering Society Executive Director Roger Furness Explains Why AES Amsterdam (Opening Saturday) Is a Key Event for Audio Professionals

The 114th AES Convention, the major annual European event of the Audio Engineering Society, opens Saturday March 22nd at Amsterdam’s RAI Convention Center, and runs until next Tuesday, March 25th.

As the only professional Convention devoted exclusively to audio technology, the AES shows in Europe and the U.S. (in the fall) are known as important gatherings for exhibitors, engineers, scientists and those from the recording, broadcasting and live sound worlds. In Amsterdam, AES is expecting a large attendance of audio professionals from all parts of Europe, as well as from Asia and the U.S.

In a question-and-answer session, AES executive director Roger Furness explains the key elements of this year’s European AES show.

Roger, why did the AES choose Amsterdam as this years location?

“The AES Conventions go to different places throughout Europe each year, in order to enable a larger geographic audience to take part. Amsterdam is easy to reach and it is an enjoyable and cosmopolitan metropolis. In the future we will be adding new cities in Europe.”

What makes the Exhibition floor at an AES Convention so important?

“There is no other place in the world where you can find all the important pro audio companies under one roof – the AES exhibition is all about audio. This means that not only the big names, but also smaller companies and developers have the opportunity to show their products on a level playing field. So people who go around the exhibit floor don’t miss a new product from a small company because it is overwhelmed by a huge multi-media presentation on the stand next door.”

During the last couple of years, the pro audio business has changed quite a bit. How does the AES react to this change?

“The AES Convention adapts from year to year to meet the wishes and needs of the attendees. This time, we have added two main new elements: Exhibitor Seminars and Tutorial Seminars. These open up the Technical Program to people who might feel that the traditional program of papers and workshops concentrates too much on academic and theoretical topics.”

How are the Exhibitors Seminars and the Tutorial Seminars different from the traditional program?

“Let’s start with the Exhibitor Seminars. Within the traditional Technical Program there was no place for product-related information. This is exactly what the Exhibitors Seminars offer because new products need much more explanation and are more complex than they used to be. Genelec, for example, is giving an Exhibitor Seminar about their new subwoofer technology. DVD-Audio and SACD authorities will be telling us how to make recordings in these new formats.”

So the Exhibitor Seminars are presentations of a new product or product-related technology?

“Yes, exactly. We offer the new Exhibitor Seminars in a quiet room away from the lively atmosphere of the exhibition as concentrated one-hour presentations. We have already had a strong response from the Exhibitors, showing that this brand-new part of our program will be well received!”

And how about the Tutorial Seminars?

“The Tutorial Seminars are lectures about the fundamentals of audio. They are intended both as starting tutorials, and as refresher courses for engineers who may be moving into a new field or just want to brush up their knowledge. People from all backgrounds in pro audio, from the motivated student to the seasoned sound engineer, are welcome to this new type of technical presentation.”

How many Tutorial Seminars does the Convention program offer?

“Knowledge is the basis for success, so we organized a complete series of Tutorial Seminars with, in total, 10 different topics. Lectures will be held every day in the morning and afternoon. The Seminars will be given by presenters who are experts in their field and are experienced in giving tutorials.”

Apart from the Exhibitor Seminars and the Tutorial Seminars – what do you feel is the most important event at the show?

“Well, don’t forget our traditional Technical Program. It is a good reflection of the state of developments in the industry and in new technology. This year’s program is the strongest we have ever offered in an European Convention! Due to some slight changes we now offer a diversified program with Papers, Posters and Workshops. We have also organized Technical Tours, an intensive Students program and a set of Historical Events and Social Events.”

“However, I really believe that the two new seminar formats we are introducing are very fundamental and important additions to our Conventions. The AES has always been the source of audio information – but now, not just at a very high level – but for every single visitor to the show. I look forward to seeing you in Amsterdam for a highly informative and exciting Convention.”

AES 114th Convention Web Site

Tejera Microsystems Offers Pro-Quality Studio Calibration Disk Simplified for Home Recording Studios

Tejera Microsystems Engineering has produced a Recording Studio Test CD that will be particularly useful in home recording and semi-pro project studio situations, where the expense of a full set of test equipment is hard to justify.

“Musicians with home studios, pro studios, and sound reinforcement engineers will find the Recording Studio Test CD an indispensable tool to assure the quality of the recording process,” says Albert Tejera, producer and engineer of the CD.

The disc plays on ordinary audio CD players. It functions as a powerful signal generator. In addition to the test tones you would expect to find, it also has spoken directions that walk you through all the tests. These verbal instructions guide you in calibrating and setting up your system, step by step.

“Many of the tests require only simple adjustments to your system,” explains Mr. Tejera. “These small changes can make a big difference in the quality of your recordings.”

The audio portion of Recording Studio Test CD consists of 79 audio tracks. 19 of these tracks introduce and describe, step by step, how to perform the tests. The tones on the remaining tracks let you identify speaker channels and speaker phasing; calibrate VU meters; test signal-to-noise performance; catch dropouts in digital audio workstations; tune monitors to the room; locate rattles; and test compressors, EQ’s and gates.

The new CD can be also used to set up PA systems, as well as home and car stereo systems. The Recording Studio Test CD brings together test features and ease of use previously unavailable at any price point.

Bonus material, included on the enhanced data portion of the disc, includes data files containing printable instructions, test measurement graph paper, and a glossary of audio terms.

Note: to access the enhanced data portion of this disc, you require a computer, Web browser and Adobe Acrobat reader software (free download).

The Recording Studio Test CD is available now, and may be purchased directly from Tejera Microsystems Engineering Web site. The regular price is $24.95 (US), but introductory pricing is currently in effect, just $14.95 (US).

Tejera Microsystems Engineering Web Site

Duracell Introduces LP1 Flat-Profile Battery Designed for Portable Audio Players

You know consumer electronics manufacturers are selling a lot of portable audio players when the battery makers jump on the bandwagon.

Duracell®, one of the leading battery manufacturers, and part of the enormous Gillette empire, has announced the LP1. The new battery will be the first-ever alkaline prismatic battery designed specifically for portable digital audio devices such as MP3 players.

The LP1 will be available later this year in North America, Europe and Asia. It will be packaged in blister cards containing two batteries. Duracell says there are more than 200 digital audio devices that can already be powered by LP1 batteries.

The LP1 has a flat profile to meet the shrinking size requirements of today’s ever-thinner audio devices. It measures 6.1 millimeters thick, and thus offers manufacturers a slim alkaline battery with long-lasting, dependable performance to design into these smaller and thinner audio devices.

“As digital audio technology continues to progress, Duracell will innovate with new portable power solutions,” says Mark Bertolami, Duracell’s vice president of business development and strategy.

Unlike rechargeable batteries that lose power even when they are not being used, Duracell says the LP1 provides consumers with “always ready” portable power for audio enjoyment anytime and anywhere.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of what’s in it for manufacturers of audio portables, Duracell points out that they can “design slim digital audio devices that run on primary power.”

The LP1 will be a lower-cost alternative to secondary batteries. Device manufacturers that wish to offer devices with interchangeable (i.e., primary and secondary) power solutions, the new battery provides a high-quality, primary battery option. The retail trade will benefit from ongoing battery sales as consumers replace their Duracell LP1 batteries over time.

Producer/Engineer James Guthrie Remixes Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for Surround — in Home Studio

Only a few albums in the history of popular music can be said to rival the success of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Artistically ambitious and blatantly appealing at the same time, Dark Side of the Moon remains a staple of the pop/rock recorded legacy, thirty years after its release.

The world will get to hear Dark Side of the Moon in new, high-resolution audio garb – a 5.1 surround remix due for release in April on multichannel SACD – for the first time later this week, at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City on March 20th.

The decision to remix the classic album for 5.1 is a landmark in the early history of surround audio. Highly-regarded producer and engineer James Guthrie, who has worked with Pink Floyd for more than two decades, was asked to handle the remix. Although he happily accepted the assignment, Mr. Guthrie says he had some concerns from the outset.

“This was a very difficult 5.1 mix,” comments Mr. Guthrie. “Not from a musical point of view, because the record really lends itself to a 3-dimensional treatment, but from the point of view that everyone knows the original mix so well. It is indelibly printed on our minds. We’ve had 30 years to live with it, and some people don’t want that image to be altered. Knowing that you are about to start work on something controversial can be unsettling.”

“The issues with 5.1 mixing all come down to one thing,” he continues. “Have you retained the emotional impact of the songs? All this technology is meaningless if you’ve turned the album into a video game.”

An unabashed analog fan, James Guthrie decided to get as many of the original tapes as possible and mix the entire project on 16-track Studer machines of the same vintage used on the original Abbey Road sessions. Fortunately, almost all of the source material was catalogued at Abbey Road and remained in good shape. The studio made copies for safekeeping and sent Guthrie the originals to work with.

“Nowadays most people work in digital audio workstations that have unlimited tracks. Back then you were constantly bouncing down tracks from one machine to another. We got our hands on all of the original tapes, giving us much more control over the mix. We did awaken a 30-year-old argument among band members, though. Roger and Nick liked the theatrical elements – the speaking voices primarily – louder and more intelligible, while Dave and Rick preferred that they be wetter and more mysterious. Since we had these parts on individual tracks, we were able to effect a compromise.”

“As this is a conceptual work, we agreed that I should complete the mix and then play to the individual band members for their input. That way they could experience everything in context.”

Mr. Guthrie’s studio, Das Boot, is located in his home in northern California. He designed it himself, and had it wired by Vertigo Recording Services. For this project he had two EMT 140 plates re-built to help recreate the reverb used on the original recording.

In designing his facility, James Guthrie paid particular attention to the monitoring system: “The most important equipment in my studio are the speakers. They’re your window to the outside world. Conversations about using analog versus digital are very much secondary to me. I’d rather work in a room that has some sub-par gear and great speakers than the other way around. That’s one of the frustrations I have with working in many commercial rooms. People just don’t put enough emphasis on monitoring. I’m like a fish out of water in that kind of situation.”

In order to faithfully reproduce the sound he created at Das Boot, Guthrie made sure that all band members auditioned his mixes through the same ATC monitor speakers that he created them on. “ATC speakers are simply fantastic. I can’t say enough about them. I have five of the SCM 150’s and a down-firing 15″ sub-woofer here at my place. The entire line – including the 9” model that ATC was kind enough to send down to Compass Point Studios in Nassau, where Roger was working on another project – has imaging unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. The dispersion characteristic is fantastic, and the phase coherency is fabulous.

“ATC speakers are so easy to mix on. The mid-range is instantly relatable – it’s so easy to equalize through them and know exactly where you are in the frequency spectrum. And there’s no hype to ATC speakers. Mix on them and you can go outside, play the mix on any system, and have no surprises.”

ATC Web Site

Pre-Order Dark Side of the Moon (BestBuy)